Gstaad Major

Gstaad Major: Saturday to Feature Second Matchup Between Top American Teams in Ross-Klineman, Walsh Jennings-Sweat


Photo credit: FIVB

The new hierarchy of American women’s beach volleyball is beginning to take shape a bit. For so long, it had been the same: There was whomever Kerri Walsh Jennings was playing with, and then, a few tiers down, there was everyone else.

No longer is that entirely the case. Not that it’s incredibly different, though. Walsh Jennings, despite a slew of shoulder surgeries, three pregnancies and a beach career that will soon span two decades, is still, improbably, incredibly, at the pinnacle of that hierarchy, only no longer is there a gap between her and the next team.

Joining her and Brooke Sweat at the pinnacle is April Ross, with whom Walsh Jennings won 23 events from 2013-2016 and an Olympic bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games, and Alix Klineman. In the year and a half that Ross has been partnered with Klineman, an All-American at Stanford and a former member of the indoor national team, the two have established themselves as the top team on the AVP Tour, winning four events in 2018 while going two-for-two this season, in Huntington Beach and New York. On the world tour in 2019, a critical one in the Olympic qualification process, Ross and Klineman have yet to see a finish outside of the top five, with two golds and a silver, at the World Championships, in seven events.

Photo credit: FIVB

Tomorrow in Gstaad will be the second matchup of the season between the two, who are currently flip-flopping as the first- and second-ranked American women’s teams in the Olympic race. Currently, it’s Ross and Klineman leading the U.S., ranking second in the world in the Olympic standings, behind only Brazilians Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva. Five hundred and forty points down are Walsh Jennings and Sweat, second in the U.S. and fourth in the world.

The gulf between those top two teams and the rest of the Americans making the push for Tokyo – Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, Betsi Flint and Emily Day — is only widening, especially seeing as they are the final two Americans remaining in the Gstaad Major, another enormous opportunity for points in this race.

Saturday’s quarterfinals in Gstaad present another shot at making the podium rounds, something both are intimately familiar with. Walsh Jennings and Sweat have medaled four times this year, including a gold in Jinjiang, Sweat’s first international win of her career. Ross and Klineman have added three of their own.

In their only meeting this season, in Ostrava, it was Ross and Klineman who emerged victorious, in an excellent, 18-21, 21-16, 17-15 match that proved just how thrilling this American race is becoming.

More of that can be expected in Gstaad, the finest site of the FIVB season, hosting the finest match an American fan could hope for.