The Hague, Netherlands, January 8, 2018 - When Alix Klineman blocked Carolina Salgado’s attack to secure the final point for her and April Ross’ victory over Brazil in the women’s gold medal match at the Dela Beach Open here Sunday, a new name was etched into the beach volleyball record book on the FIVB World Tour.
Klineman became the third women in FIVB World Tour history to win a gold medal in her first-ever international beach volleyball event as she and Ross posted a 2-0 (21-12, 21-15) win in 33 minutes over Carolina and Maria Antonelli at the indoor arena at Sportcampus Zuiderpark.
In the FIVB match report, it was written that the Americans “took an early grip and held it throughout, combining Klineman’s dominance at the net with Ross’ agility behind. Ross and Klineman went on a run of nine consecutive wins to reach the gold medal match, a run that took them through two country quota matches, two qualifying round matches and into the main draw, before they met Carolina and Maria Antonelli.”
Coach Jen Kessy (left) with April Ross (center) and Alix Klineman
Kirby & Reno established the women's standard
The first two women to win gold in their first-ever event were Americans Karolyn Kirby and Nancy Reno. It should be noted that Kirby and Reno’s podium-topping performance was together as the Americans won the first-ever women’s FIVB World Tour event in August 1992 in Almeria, Spain.
Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos of the United States were the first gold medal winners at a men’s FIVB World Tour stop in February 1987 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The other men to net a gold medal in their first FIVB Beach Volleyball event were all from the United States, including Kent Steffes (August 1990, Lignano, Italy), Eric Wurts (August 1990, Enoshima, Japan), Adam Johnson (February 1993, Rio de Janeiro), Mike Whitmarsh (July 1995, Hermosa Beach, Calif.) and Jeff Nygaard (June 2003, Rhodes, Greece).
28 years after winning the first FIVB Beach Volleyball event, Randy Stoklos (left) and Sinjin Smith are being interviewed at a 2015 World Tour event in Rio
Third time, second for Ross
The Klineman/Ross gold medal finish marked the third time that a women’s team won a FIVB World Tour event after starting the competition in the country quota round. Ross and Jen Kessy were the first in 2007 at Stavanger, Norway with Carolina and Antonelli accomplishing the feat in 2017 at The Hague at the indoor/outdoor event at the newly-constructed Sportcampus Zuiderpark.
Two Brazilian men’s teams have accomplished the feat in winning a gold medal after starting a FIVB World Tour event with a country quota win. The first was Marcio Araujo/Fabio Luiz Magalhaes in Zagreb, Croatia. Pedro Solberg, Carolina’s brother, teamed with Gustavo “Guto” Carvalhaes to win country quota and qualifying matches at the 2017 Porec stop in Croatia before topping the Swatch Major podium on the weekend.
First for women qualifiers
Sunday’s Dela Beach Open final marked the first time that the two women's finalists had to qualify for the Main Draw. The only other time that the two teams in a FIVB World Tour gold medal match had to qualify for a Main Draw berth was 2014 in Germany where Tri Bourne/John Hyden defeated Ryan Doherty/Nick Lucena in the All-American finale.
Prior to the 2017 American domestic season when she played in eight events on the Association of Volleyball Professional tour with three different partners, the 28-year old Klineman was a standout indoor player starting with All-American honour in high school (Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, 2004-2006) and college (Stanford, 2007-2010).
During her first full-season of beach volleyball competition in 2017, Klineman and Lane Carico placed second, third, seventh and ninth in four events with a 12-7 record. Overall, Klineman played in eight events in 2017 with a 21-13 record.
Her previous beach volleyball experience was in AVP events in 2005 and 2006 as a teenager, and 2016 in a domestic qualifier in her native Manhattan Beach.
Klineman's indoor mark
Indoor internationally, Klineman played on United States teams and captured medals at the 2011 (bronze) Pan American Games and 2015 (gold) Pan American Cup. She started six of seven Pan American Cup matches in 2015 by scoring 55 points in 17 sets for a 3.24 scoring average. In 2011 at the Pan American Games, Klineman scored 15 points in two sets in victory over Mexico and averaged 4.83 points in six sets.
In 2014, Klineman started one match against Brazil in the USA Volleyball Cup, compiling 19 points and seven digs. She also played in 14 sets as a reserve in the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix where the American finished fifth in the preliminary rounds. A member of the 2005 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team that finished fourth at the FIVB Youth World Championship, she was named the Best Scorer at the event.
Alix Klineman (left) spikes against Brazil in 2007
While Klineman was playing in her first FIVB World Tour event, Ross was playing in her 124th as she netted her 22nd career international gold medal while playing in her 37th finale and winning her 49th medal. Ross, who ranks eighth all-time in FIVB women’s gold medal and earnings ($1,065,475), has now medalled for 12-straight seasons at an international event.
The Dela Beach Open also marked the return of Kessy to the international beach volleyball scene as she is coaching Ross and Klineman. Kessy retired from competition in 2016 after playing in 127 FIVB events with 11 gold medals, 34 podium placements and 39 final four finishes with $722,750 in earnings to rank 14th all-time.
Highlighted by a gold medal finish at the 2009 FIVB World Championships and a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Kessy and Ross competed in 78 FIVB World Tour events together with 10 titles (ninth all-time), 31 podium placements, 35 final four finishes and over $1.2 million in earnings to rank fifth all-time.
Jen Kessy (left) and April Ross on the podium at a 2013 event in Rome