2018-01-18 16:00:00 CET

Alix’s A-Team ambition

After a dream debut, Alix Klineman looks forward to the Fort Lauderdale Major with teammate April Ross

Alix in action on her way to gold in The Hague. Photocredit: FIVBAlix in action on her way to gold in The Hague. Photocredit: FIVB

Few athletes - or even professionals, to be honest - can claim a better start in a new career than Alix Klineman.

Last week, in The Hague, the Netherlands, the 28-year-old American blocker became one of only three women to win their first-ever beach volleyball World Tour tournament.

Alongside two-time Olympic medalist April Ross, the Californian, who made her transition from indoor volleyball to the beach in 2017, turned several heads in the Dutch indoor courts by winning 10 straight matches in six days, sprinting from country quota to the gold medal match – dropping only one set along the way.

“It feels incredible to have won my first tournament, almost a little too good to be true,” says Klineman in her first interview with beachmajorseries.com. “Honestly, we were really focused on just getting past the other American teams in the country quota. I never really looked past that, and there was never a thought about winning the entire tournament. But we just took everything one game at a time, and before we knew it, we had gold medals around our necks.”

@aprilrossbeach & @aklineman10 debuted their new partnership in a MAJOR way at the @fivbvolleyball #DELABeachOpen! The future looks bright... #OnTheGrind #Tokyo2020

1,147 Likes, 7 Comments - USAV Beach (@usavbeach) on Instagram: "@aprilrossbeach & @aklineman10 debuted their new partnership in a MAJOR way at the @fivbvolleyball..."

If one of the most effective strategies for success in any area is being surrounded by great people, Klineman couldn’t probably be in a better place. After just one year playing beach, and only with national experience in the American AVP, she hit the jackpot by clinching a partnership with the legendary Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist and a 2009 world champ who has been a regular on the World Tour for over a decade.

And the icing in the cake was to have Jennifer Kessy, who shared the court with Ross both in the Worlds Championships victory and in the capture of the silver medal in 2012 London Olympics and who had just retired from competing, as the head coach of her new team.

“I feel so lucky!” Alix said about her team. “I really feel like I’m in the best learning environment possible. April obviously has so much experience. She already plays at a high level consistently, but she’s still motivated to take her game to an even higher level. She’s been a great example and also really patient with me through this adjustment process from indoor to beach.

“Jen, in my mind, is the perfect mentor and coach. She also has a lot of experience and she played on the right side next to April, so she understands how to play with her, and has a great eye for the game. She catches a lot of details that I think other people overlook, and she’s just as invested in our success as we are.”

The trio were the sensation in The Hague last week – but not just for the performances the tandem put up in the sand courts. The #Ateam, as they now call themselves, provided enjoyment to thousands of fans through their social media accounts with amusing moments of their routine during the tournament being registered, commented and shared by Kessy. These included Ross warming up for games with nunchuks and pretending to take a nap in the shower at their hotel room.

Sometimes you just need a little peace and quiet on the road. Maybe @aklineman10 and I should take the hint!! #sleepingbeauty #lifeontheroad Thanks for playing #whereintheworldisaprilross @aprilrossbeach you always surprise me

361 Likes, 19 Comments - Jennifer Kessy (@jenniferkessy) on Instagram: "Sometimes you just need a little peace and quiet on the road. Maybe @aklineman10 and I should take..."

“Jen was on fire on Instagram!” Alix laughs. “It all developed pretty organically...She captures a lot of moments that to us seem ordinary and not that funny, but she has a way of bringing light to everything. We have a great vibe going on our team, we’re serious and motivated on the court, but definitely are more relaxed and have a lot of fun off of it. We wanted to share that with everyone!”

Yes she brought #nunchucks to a #beachvolleyball tournament but yet, she forgot pants. Oh my @aprilrossbeach I've missed you. @aklineman10 good luck to you! Thanks for playing #whatsinaprilross'sbag

538 Likes, 17 Comments - Jennifer Kessy (@jenniferkessy) on Instagram: "Yes she brought #nunchucks to a #beachvolleyball tournament but yet, she forgot pants. Oh my..."

With her first international tournament under her belt, Alix plans on using the experience in the Netherlands to grow her game. The memories of debuting in the World Tour defeating five Olympic athletes and two Olympic medalists on her way to the top will probably give her the confidence she needs to keep developing.

After a stellar debut, the American is making sure she has learned every lesson she could to keep pushing the #Ateam forward as the season progresses.

“I think the main thing we learned from playing great in this tournament is that we can compete with the best teams,” she says. “For me, that was a really powerful realization. However, past that, I don’t read too much into our results. We know that this is only the beginning, and there’s a lot of work to still be done if we want to continue to be successful.”

And the next step of Alix’s journey on the beach will be, gladly for her, near home – as the Fort Lauderdale Major kick-starts the five-star season between February 27 and March 4 in Florida. Klineman has never competed there before, but has already completed her homework to start her preparation in the best possible way.

“I’ve already watched some film of matches played in Florida, and the number one thing that stood out to me was the wind,” she explains. “I think it’ll be a challenging environment and we’ll have to be able to adjust to it. But for now, I’m just going to go back to practice and continue to work hard and improve as much as I can, and hopefully the rest will fall into place!”

Yes, it seems that could work, Alix… See you in Fort Lauderdale!

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