Last but certainly not least, we’ve come to April Ross and Alix Klineman. As the #2-team in the world and podium favorite, the A-Team is sure to amaze in the Games. They’ve honestly been amazing us since their very first tournament.
April and Alix have been a success story from the beginning. April is one of the best beach volleyball players in the history of our sport; she’s a two-time Medalist with two different partners (Jen Kessy and Kerri Walsh Jennings). Since her professional debut in 2006, she’s sat atop the World Rankings list. And normally in the top three teams.
April, born and raised in Southern California, has been playing beach since she was small. As a USC Trojan, she won two National Championships, was named National Freshman of the Year, and earned All American in her junior and senior seasons. Though she was an indoor great, she switched to pro beach volleyball in 2006, earning Rookie of the Year on the AVP with various partners.
In 2007, she united with Jen Kessy. I’ve outlined their partnership in a previous article, as it’s one of the best in US beach volleyball history. After earning Silver with Jen, April joined forces with Kerri Walsh Jennings (who had just beaten her in the London Olympics for Kerri’s third Gold Medal with Misty May Treanor). They also had great success, winning all seven AVPs in 2014 and qualifying for the Rio Games. After an upsetting loss in the Semis, April and Kerri bounced back to win the Bronze Medal.
After Rio, April was looking for a new partner to make a run for Tokyo. She had her pick of the litter. Literally, any blocker would say yes to playing alongside April. She turned to her former partner and recently acquired coach Jen Kessy for a bit of guidance. Apparently, Jen knew all along it should be indoor standout and beach newcomer Alix Klineman.
At 6’5″, Alix proved a force in the indoor volleyball world. She excelled at Stanford and played for years professionally overseas. In Alix’s first full season on the AVP, she bounced around with different partners. She finished everywhere from not qualifying to 2nd place with Lane Carico. When April called Alix to start training, she felt the pressure rising.
But she rose to meet it.
Alix knew April before they started playing, and not just for her accolades. The two had mutual friends and spent a lot of time with each other off the beach. At the time that April was looking for a new partner, it was widely known in the beach volleyball world. She was training with a slew of athletes, but her shortlist was Summer Ross and Alix. Luckily for her friend Alix, it was evident from practices that they had something special. As November of 2017 drew to a close, the team officially announced their partnership.
Just a few weeks later, in January of 2018, April and Alix won their first international event. This is no small feat, especially because they had to start from the ground floor. Alix had no FIVB points, so the new duo had to go through two Country Quota matches against fellow Americans and two more Qualifier matches to get into the tournament. The newly minted A-Team (such a good name) won ten matches in a row to claim their first team victory. And it’s not like they steamrolled mid-level teams. They beat tough international powerhouses, including the #3-seed in the Tokyo Olympics – Brazilians Agatha/Duda. They also won their first AVP together in Austin just four months later. Winning both of your first tournaments? Who does that?
From there, the A-Team continued skyrocketing. In their three years together, April and Alix have won 10 AVPs and five FIVBs. They have six more 2nd-place finishes and a handful of 3rds. Their epic success put them atop the OR; they’re tied for first with AVP and Canada’s own Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes (the tiebreaker goes to Canada, which is why they’ll enter the Games as the #1 seed).
April and Alix are almost expected to come back with a medal, however fair or unfair that is. April has a Bronze and a Silver; at 39-years-old, this may be her final Olympic run. She’s intent of securing the ultimate, most coveted prize in the sport – the Gold. And Alix is assuredly hoping right alongside her. Safe to say, the A-Team is ready to prove they’re among one of the greatest American beach volleyball teams ever.