AVP

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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Phil Dalhausser is fifth U.S. man to win 100 beach volleyball titles

Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena
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Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena remain perfect since beach volleyball’s return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 40-year-olds won their second AVP Champions Cup tournament in as many weeks, giving the 2008 Olympic champion Dalhausser his 100th career tournament title.

They beat fellow Tokyo Olympic hopefuls Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb in a second straight Sunday final, this time 21-9, 21-15 in Long Beach, Calif.

“I’m just grateful that I can make a living playing the sport, and to have 100 pro wins, that’s pretty darn cool,” Dalhausser said on Amazon Prime.

Earlier, April Ross and Alix Klineman won a second straight women’s title, beating Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 21-15, 21-19 in a battle of the world’s top two teams. NBCSN airs coverage of the finals on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

Dalhausser became the seventh U.S.  player, and fifth man, to reach 100 titles, according to Bvbinfo.com. The leaderboard:

1. Karch Kiraly (148)
2. Sinjin Smith (139)
3. Kerri Walsh Jennings (135)
4. Randy Stoklos (122)
5. Misty May-Treanor (112)
6. Kent Steffes (110)
7. Phil Dalhausser (100)

Dalhausser owns 59 AVP titles. Most came with 2008 Olympic champion partner Todd Rogers before they broke up after the 2012 London Games. The last two with Lucena came on consecutive weekends on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

“It’s been about the same, two little angry guys I’m dealing with,” the 6-foot-9 Dalhausser joked of Lucena, his first partner with whom he reunited, and Rogers. Dalhausser said last year that he plans to retire from international play after the Tokyo Olympics, which have since been postponed to 2021.

The three-week AVP Champions Cup marks the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March.

Dalhausser and Lucena, Gibb and Crabb and Tri Bourne and Crabb’s older brother, Trevor, will battle next year for two U.S. Olympic men’s spots.

Dalhausser and Lucena rank third more than halfway through qualifying, but they still have one more tournament to count, while the other teams can only count a result in place of a worse previous result.

Dalhausser and Lucena would both break the record of oldest Olympic beach volleyball player in history, according to Olympedia.org. As would the 44-year-old Gibb. And Walsh Jennings, 41.

AVP results do not count toward Olympic qualifying. The schedule has not been set for the resumption of top-level international tournaments that count in Olympic qualifying.

MORE: The team that plans to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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Correction: An earlier version of this post didn’t specify that the career wins list didn’t include international players.

April Ross, Alix Klineman win AVP beach volleyball’s socially distanced return

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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Olympic medal favorites April Ross and Alix Klineman won the first AVP beach volleyball tournament since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, taking the AVP Champions Cup in Long Beach, Calif., on Saturday and Sunday.

Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, rallied past American Sara Hughes and Canadian Brandie Wilkerson in Sunday’s final 24-22, 21-19. Ross and Klineman were down 20-16 in the first set.

They lifted a trophy during a time they thought they would be heading to Tokyo for the Olympics, which have been postponed to open July 23, 2021.

“It’s not what anybody hoped for, but I think we’re making the most of it,” Klineman told Dain Blanton NBC. “We took the time off to enjoy that time but also to get stronger and healthier. We’re just really grateful that we even have opportunities to play right now.”

Ross, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist, and Klineman beat reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada 14-21, 21-15, 15-12 in the semifinals earlier Sunday. Those are the two favorites for Olympic gold in Tokyo next summer.

Ross and Klineman paired in 2017 after Ross and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings split with Walsh Jennings’ decision not to sign an AVP contract. Ross and Klineman won their first international tournament together in 2018. They also racked up eight AVP titles in 13 starts over the last three years.

Ross and Klineman have a comfortable lead in U.S. Olympic qualifying more than halfway through the period. Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Rio Olympian Brooke Sweat, are trying to hold off Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil for the second and final spot. AVP tournaments do not count toward Olympic qualifying.

Earlier Sunday, 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena beat three-time Olympian Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb 21-19, 13-21, 15-13 in the men’s final.

Dalhausser and Lucena, Gibb and Crabb and Tri Bourne and Crabb’s older brother, Trevor, will battle next year for two U.S. Olympic men’s spots. Dalhausser and Lucena rank third more than halfway through qualifying, but they still have one more tournament to count, while the other teams can only count a result in place of a worse previous result.

Dalhausser and Lucena, both 40, would both break the record of oldest Olympic beach volleyball player in history, according to Olympedia.org. As would the 44-year-old Gibb. And Walsh Jennings, 41.

The AVP Champions Cup is a three-weekend series of three tournaments replacing the normal AVP season. Every tournament takes place in the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

Every player competing began undergoing weekly coronavirus tests three weeks ago. No players tested positive as of Thursday, the day before play began with qualifying. Each player also gets their temperature taken upon arrival at the tournament site.

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MORE: Claes, Sponcil bid to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career