AVP Chicago: April Ross, Alix Klineman

April Ross, Alix Klineman Leave No Doubt in Second Straight AVP Chicago Title

AVP Chicago
2019 Championships
Chicago, IL
Oak Street Beach
Credit: Robert Beck

Photo: Robert Beck

The scores are telling enough: 21-8, 22-20; 21-8, 21-19; 21-10, 21-16; 21-15, 21-17; 21-12, 21-15. The record, too, is a reliable indicator: Five wins, zero losses. Ten sets won, none lost.

But perhaps the greatest barometer for just how dominant April Ross and Alix Klineman were at AVP Chicago came after a 21-12 first-set victory over Betsi Flint and Emily Day in the finals. Amazon Prime broadcaster Camryn Irwin sat with Flint’s and Day’s coach, John Mayer, wondering what the mindset would be in the second set after losing by nine.

“We’re playing well,” he said, and the best part was that he absolutely, totally meant it. One of the best teams in the United States, who won Hermosa and finished second in Seattle, was playing well – and still lost by nine.

Such was the dominance of Klineman and Ross in Chicago this weekend. It’s not all that unusual that Ross and Klineman are the clear, unquestionably best team in the tournament. They’ve played four AVPs this season, won three, and made the finals in the other. It’s also possible they played their best volleyball this weekend because of the one win that eluded them, two weeks ago, in the finals of the Manhattan Beach Open.

“Both Alix and I hate losing,” Ross said afterwards. When the rare occurrence of a loss happens on the world tour, without the opportunity for them to go to their separate homes, they’ll just take a break, think for a few hours. Then, periodically, they’ll text: We could work on this, we can fix that.

This is how we can get better.

On the FIVB, though, there is little practice time, meaning those fixes are made oftentimes on the fly, in the middle of sets.

After Manhattan, though, they weren’t on the world tour. They were home, with their full coaching staff, their home gym, their home trainers, their home kitchens. They could put in the exact training they needed, fixing everything in practice, rather than in competition.

“We put in a lot of work at home,” Klineman said of the two weeks between Manhattan and Chicago. “I think we had a really good training block and it just feels good to have it transferring on the court.”

Did it transfer, all right. Klineman led the tournament in blocks and hitting percentage. As a team, they hit .573, a cartoonish number for a tournament in which the finals matchup at World Champs – and the Manhattan Beach finals rematch – was played in the third round of the winners bracket; they met the third-ranked American Olympic hopeful team, Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes, in the quarters; matched up against the 2018 FIVB Blocker of the Year, Brandie Wilkerson, in the semifinals; and the second-seeded AVP team in the finals.

And not a single set was dropped.  

“We were a little hungry after Manhattan,” Klineman said.

Consider the deep dish pizza earned, then.