CHICAGO, Ill. — Olympian April Ross took a chance on Alix Klineman as her new partner in 2018 and it worked perfectly right away when the two won the FIVB season-opening event the first week of January, in The Hague, Netherlands, and then the AVP Tour’s first stop in Austin in May.
But it took until the last two stops of the season for them to cash in again on the AVP Tour.
They won AVP Manhattan Beach in August and then Sunday at the AVP’s Gold Series The Championship, Klineman and Ross beat top-seeded Sara Hughes and Summer Ross 25-23, 21-16 in the women’s final.
They will split $25,000 and so will Trevor Crabb and Jake Gibb, who beat Tim Bomgren and Chaim Schalk in the men’s final 21-14, 21-7. Crabb and Gibb also won AVP Seattle.
“This feels really good but we won Manhattan but we weren’t happy with our performance,” Ross said. “We went back and worked really hard and we’re still trying to fix some things. By no means are we there — we still need to work on a lot of stuff — but we are getting better and we can definitely feel that out on the court.”
Earlier Sunday, third-seeded Klineman and Ross beat second-seeded Kelly Claes and Brittany Hochevar 21-19, 22-20 in the semifinals, while Hughes and Ross, who won AVP gold twice this season, in New York in June and last month at Hermosa Beach.
“It’s not night and day, because we won The Hague, and going into the Hague and winning the country quota and not knowing how were going to do, to now when it feels like we’re starting to jell,” Ross said.
“It took a really long time and I think a lot of it has to do with Alix’s confidence,” Ross added about her 6-foot-5 partner who is playing her first full season on the beach after a long indoors career.
“Her confidence is going higher and higher and higher and she wants it super bad and now she has the attitude and confidence behind it.”
In the men’s semifinals, second-seeded Crabb and Gibb got past fourth-seeded Ed Ratledge and Roberto Rodriguez, who won AVP San Francisco, 25-27, 22-20, 15-5. Bomgren and Schalk, who were seeded ninth, knocked out third-seeded Jeremy Casebeer and Reid Priddy 21-17, 19-21, 15-12.
“We were just mentally and emotionally drained from Manhattan,” Crabb said. “This tournament was the biggest challenge in my career so far.”
Crabb and Gibb lost a grueling AVP Manhattan Beach final.
“We were in a slump for about a week after that, but a win feels good right now,” Gibb said.
“This one means a lot, because we both felt the same way and we both responded,” Crabb said.