Emily Day didn’t know.

Didn’t know what April Ross’ plans were for the upcoming season. Didn’t know the status of Alix Klineman, with whom Ross won an Olympic gold medal but is out for the foreseeable future after undergoing shoulder surgery. Didn’t know if she’d be open to playing a full season together.

What she did know is that when April Ross is potentially without a partner, and you, too, are without a partner, and your skill sets could potentially align in a manner that could possibly make you partners, the first thing you do is call April Ross.

“Betsi [Flint] and I were planning on playing together and then the shuffle with everything happened and I caught wind that April was available so I called her right away,” said Day, referencing the shuffled that included Flint teaming up with Kelly Claes, Sarah Sponcil with Terese Cannon, and Kelley Kolinske with Sara Hughes. “I said ‘I don’t know what your plans are but … ’ I gave her the whole spiel and chatted with her on the phone.”

And then came the wait. A brief one, but still: A few days when waiting on one of the greatest to play the game can feel awfully long.

“I was all on board. April was my No. 1 choice, I wasn’t going to talk to anyone else until I got an answer from her,” Day said. “We connected after a few days and decided that it would work great so we went from there.”

The partnership makes sense, in virtually every sense. Day is a 6-foot-1 blocker who plays predominantly on the right; Ross is a 6-foot-1 defender who plays almost exclusively left. Ross packs one of the meanest jump serves in the world; Day brings with her a nasty float that comes in fast and flat and has given teams fits for years.

And, perhaps the most little-remembered fact of all, they’ve played together before, in one of the more spur-of-the-moment partnerships either have had, at a King of the Court event in the Netherlands in 2020. They finished fifth, making the final after nearly getting booted in the first round.

So, in a way, they’ve already worked out the new partnership kinks, doing so in the blitzkrieg of 15-minute King of the Court rounds with barely any practice.

“We’ve been on the court together and we’ve competed against each other for many years so knowing how she is as a player, being on the same side has been great,” Day said.

April Ross
April Ross passes/Michael Gomez photo

They’ve played against one another 30 times on the FIVB and AVP Tours, dating back to an AVP stop in Riverside in 2009, when Crocs was the name sponsor of the tour. So Day knows full well the talent she now gets to enjoy on her side of the net, and is grateful she no longer has to see Ross across it.

“I’m excited to not have to be passing her serves and having her dig me,” Day said, laughing. “That’s one of the best parts of having her on my team is that I don’t have to play against her.

“She’s a great partner, communicates well. She’s working hard on and off the court, you never have to worry about any of that with her. You’ve seen it that with her, their partner elevates their play as a direct effect of being on the court with her.”

Currently, Day and Ross are signed up for Challenger events in Tlaxcala, Mexico, on March 16, and were signed up at a Volleyball World Pro Beach Tour event in Mexico that, as of this morning, is cancelled. They plan on playing a full season, a mix between international and domestic, with an eye on the World Championships in Rome, Italy, in June.

“Just the FIVB schedule to start is five weeks in a row, like ‘Dang, we’re back! We’ve got tournaments!’ ” Day said. “I know there were rumors that she wasn’t going to play FIVB but we’re playing some and obviously we’re very excited to play AVPs and want to make it to the Championships in September.”

Ross, who has done hundreds of interviews and appeared on virtually every podcast that has mentioned beach volleyball — the Gabby Reece Show, Finding Mastery, SANDCAST — politely declined to comment for this story. But make no mistake, whatever rumors may have been circulating on the beach and online, she is going to be playing volleyball this year.

And she’ll be doing it with Emily Day.

“After she wins a medal I get the opportunity to play with her?” Day said. “I mean, shocked. We’ve had a few practices together and no one can question her work ethic and her goal setting, just a great partner.”

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