Alix Klineman

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB

April Ross, Alix Klineman win biggest title of their young partnership

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April Ross and Alix Klineman notched the biggest title of their two-year beach volleyball partnership and consolidated their lead in U.S. Olympic qualifying on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman, in her third beach season since switching from indoor, won an FIVB World Tour Major Series event in Gstaad, Switzerland. Major events carry the most Olympic qualifying points of any tournament outside the world championships.

Ross and Klineman, who earned world champs silver a week ago, swept three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat 21-17, 21-13 in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Then on Sunday, they swept Swiss Tanja Hüberli and Nina Betschart 22-20, 21-17 in the semifinals and rallied past Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carol Salgado 15-21, 21-17, 15-12 in the final.

Ross and Klineman have won four FIVB World Tour events since they began playing together at the start of the 2018 season. They’ve made at least the quarterfinals in their last 11 World Tour events.

Ross and Walsh Jennings split in 2017, less than a year after taking bronze in Rio. Ross earned world silver with Lauren Fendrick in 2017 before picking up former Stanford indoor player Klineman later that year.

Ross and Klineman have a comfortable lead for one of two U.S. Olympic spots more than halfway through the two-year qualifying window. Walsh Jennings and Sweat are in second place after a boost as the only other U.S. pair to make the quarterfinals in Gstaad.

There is one more major event this season in two weeks in Vienna.

MORE: Olympic beach volleyball champion eyes comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman take silver at beach volleyball worlds

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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman took silver at the world beach volleyball championships, getting swept 23-21, 23-21 in the final by Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday.

“I’m pretty upset,” Ross told media in Hamburg, adding that she and Klineman did not play their best. “To get here and have it be Alix’s first world championships, it would have been so amazing to win the gold. … It stings a ton.”

Ross, 37, earned a world medal with a third different partner after taking gold with her now-coach Jennifer Kessy in 2009 and silver with Lauren Fendrick in 2017, four months before announcing her new partnership with Klineman. No U.S. men’s or women’s team has won a world title since 2009.

Klineman, 29, nearly scaled the heights of the sport in just her third season since switching from a professional indoor career.

“She’s already one of the best players in the world,” Ross said. “It’s really scary for other teams.”

Ross and Klineman consolidated their lead in U.S. Olympic qualifying standings with about a year’s worth of tournaments left. The top two U.S. pairs come June are in line to go to Tokyo.

Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings, who split from Rio bronze-medal partner Ross in 2017, and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, are in the mix but took a step back with Walsh Jennings’ earliest career exit from an Olympics or worlds.

Pavan and Humana-Paredes have been one of the world’s formidable teams since pairing to start this Olympic cycle. But this marked their first tournament win this season.

Pavan, who helped Nebraska to the 2006 NCAA women’s indoor title with U.S. Olympic indoor captain Jordan Larson, lost in the Rio Olympic quarterfinals with former partner Heather Bansley.

In men’s action Saturday, Americans Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb fell in the semifinals to Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy 21-13, 19-21, 15-11 after upsetting Brazilians Andre and George in the quarterfinals.

The top U.S. team of the last few years, 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, were eliminated by Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler 21-18, 21-17 in the quarterfinals.

NBC Sports’ Seth Rubinroit contributed to this report.

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings has earliest Olympic/worlds exit of career

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April Ross, Alix Klineman into beach volleyball worlds final

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross reached her third world beach volleyball championships final with a third different partner.

Ross, 37, and Alix Klineman, 29, swept Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar 21-15, 21-18 in Friday’s semifinals, advancing to Saturday’s final (9:15 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA).

They will face Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, looking to become the first Americans to win a world title since Ross and Jennifer Kessy in 2009.

A decade ago, Ross was in her fourth pro season and her third with Kessy.

“I was new on the beach,” Ross told media at worlds in Hamburg. “It was just kind of like ignorance is bliss. We were firing on all cylinders and doing the best we can. Now I feel like there’s a method to the madness a little bit.”

Kessy, who earned Olympic silver with Ross in 2012, now coaches Ross and Klineman, who paired after Ross split from Rio Olympic bronze-medal partner Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017. Ross earned world silver in 2017 with Lauren Fendrick before partnering with Klineman later that year.

Klineman, the 2007 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year out of high school, is in just her second international season. The 6-foot-5 Klineman said that this season has brought “a wave of improvement.”

Earlier Friday, Ross and Klineman eliminated the other remaining U.S. women’s team of Sara Hughes and Summer Ross 21-18, 21-14 in the quarterfinals. Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, were eliminated in the round of 32 for Walsh Jennings’ earliest career exit at an Olympics or worlds.

All these results are key in Olympic qualifying, which is near the midpoint. Worlds carry the most Olympic qualifying points of any tournament in the two-year window, and only two pairs per country maximum go to Tokyo.

Ross and Klineman are in best position of the U.S. pairs. Walsh Jennings and Sweat and Hughes and Ross are among the teams also in the mix with nearly a year left in the qualifying window.

Two U.S. men’s teams are still alive at worlds — 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb. The men’s quarterfinals and semifinals are Saturday.

NBC Sports’ Seth Rubinroit contributed to this report from Hamburg.

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