In a Tournament Marked by its Youth, AVP Huntington Still Won by the Familiar
Talk has turned, recently, understandably, predictably, to the youth movement in beach volleyball. To the booming numbers of youth players, of the young talent beginning to find its stride. Of Sara Hughes and Summer Ross beginning to take their roles as the new faces of AVP women’s volleyball. Of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil and this growing armada of 20-somethings – and under – rising up the ranks of American beach volleyball.
But they aren’t there yet. Close. But not yet.
April Ross and Alix Klineman proved that as much on a perfect Sunday afternoon – and the three days that preceded it — in Huntington Beach, when they played five matches and won fives matches, the final of which sealed up the AVP Huntington title.
In a tournament where a new record was set for the youngest team to qualify, with 16-year-olds Delanynie Maple and Megan Kraft, Ross and Klineman won their fourth consecutive AVP.
The days of the next generation are coming.
But they’re not there yet.
Ross and Klineman beat some of the best of the next generation the U.S. has to offer. They beat qualifiers Emily Hartong and Alexa Strange, whose potential both as individuals and as a team has hardly been tapped. They shut down Carly Wopat, a former indoor national team player and one of the most promising rookie blockers. They swept Emily Day and Betsi Flint.
They beat Hughes and Ross for the fifth time in their last six meetings.
Yes, one day, this tour will be for the Hugheses and (other) Rosses of the country.
Not when April Ross is still the best server and offensive player in the country and, arguably, the world. Not when Klineman, who at 29 still has plenty of years to make this sport hers, is quickly establishing herself as one of the best blockers in the world, just three years into playing beach full-time.
Ross’s and Klineman’s win on Sunday could even quell the arguments that the U.S. is losing its footing atop the world rankings. While Brazil and Canada and Germany and Australia continue to look stronger and stronger, it was a no small show of strength that Ross and Klineman beat Canada’s Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, the former world No. 1 who didn’t lose a match prior to the final.
The A-Team is still the A-Team, both in nickname and in status.
This is, technically, their fourth tournament in the 2019 season, whose calendar also includes an October event in China, as well as The Hague in January and the Xiamen four-star two weeks ago. They have two wins, with a low finish of fifth.
The average age may be dropping on the women’s side of main draws, but the name of the winner remains the same as it has since 2009, when Maple and Kraft were seven years old and Ross won her first open AVP.
Until April Ross says otherwise, the time for the next generation?
Soon. But not yet.
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