SANDCAST is the leading podcast for beach volleyball and stories in the volleyball world. Hosts Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter take listeners into the world of the AVP, FIVB, NORCECA, and any other professional beach volleyball outlets, digging deep into the lives of the players both on and off the court as well as all of the top influencers in the game.


The 2018 beach volleyball season is, remarkably, upon us. In a way, at least. 

The FIVB kicked off the 2018 year in the very first week of the year, hosting an indoor beach tournament at The Hague, a four-star event to open the season, hauling in a variety of new partnerships and unfamiliar faces.

One of those new partnerships, of course, was that of April Ross and Alix Klineman, who took the longest road possible, battling through a pair of country quota matches, two more in the qualifier, and then running off six straight-set wins in the main draw to claim gold, beating Brazil’s Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado – another team that came out of the qualifier – in the finals.

“I’m going to be riding high on this win for awhile and this week in The Hague was a blast,” Ross wrote on Instagram afterwards. “Pretty excited or this journey.”

It was Klineman’s first international beach tournament, though far from her first time on a big stage, having played on both the Brazil and Italian indoor leagues.

As for the rest of the U.S. teams, though, it wasn’t quite the start to the year many would have desired.

Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes finished ninth, while Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross took a 17th and Lauren Fendrick and Karissa Cook finished 25th. The men didn’t fare much better, with the new partnership of Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty claiming the highest finish of American teams at ninth. Casey Patterson and Stafford Slick and Miles Evans and Billy Kolinske both finished 17th.

"It was definitely a little weird overall," said Trevor Crabb, who failed to make it out of the qualifier, on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. "Me and [Sean Rosenthal] pretty much decided we won't practice together before we left for the trip because I went back to Hawaii for the offseason and pre-season for six weeks, doing some training there, and I'm not exactly sure how much training he was doing. It was so early in the year, it's the end of off-season and beginning of pre-season, and it affected us for sure." 

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The cat’s out of the bag: April Ross is playing with Alix Klineman, a 6-foot-5 blocker out of Stanford.

On paper, the two will be a formidable pair, Ross one of the best defenders in the world, Klineman a standout indoor blocker who has an AVP final and a third under her belt. One problem: Klineman has just one year of full-time beach experience. The road to Tokyo 2020 will not be easy, though as Ross says on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “it’s not supposed to be easy.”

“What is the meaning if what you’re doing if you’re not being challenged?” she says. “If you don’t have these things that will help you grow and things to help you overcome, what’s the point?”

On Part Two, Ross discusses the path ahead, the inevitable challenges ahead, her mindset moving forward, as well as pairing up with former partner Jen Kessy, who will be coaching Ross-Klineman through Tokyo, site of the 2020 Olympic Games. Ross and Kessy, of course, are one of the best teams in American beach volleyball history, medaling in 17 out of 20 FIVB tournaments in a stretch from 2008-2010, finishing with a silver medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where they lost to Kerri Walsh and Misty May.

Few, if any, in the game know Ross’ style better than Kessy.

“One of the things I learned the importance of,” she said, “is building a like-minded team around yourself: having the same mentality, the same goals, the same work ethic are all really important. Alix and I don’t know each other very well but it’s funny how connected we feel.”

The first glimpse the beach volleyball world will have of Ross-Klineman will be in The Hague on January 3, where Ross, who has won 21 international tournaments, will likely be in a country quota.

“We’re training every day,” Ross said. “Doing everything we can to get better every day.”

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