“When you’re working for something like this, you need somebody who’s gonna work their butt off every day and have a fire under their butt,” Ross said. “I knew her story and I knew that she was coming out to the beach to make the Olympics. To take such a risk for herself, I knew that was gonna be a huge motivating factor.”
While Klineman didn’t have an FIVB point to her name, Ross recognized her potential early on. The newcomer’s physicality, work ethic, intelligence and intensity impressed Ross. When it came to breaking old habits and techniques better suited for the indoor game, Klineman tried, failed, dissected film and tried again the next day.
“I think the biggest thing was just sticking with it and being really persistent and going every day with all of the effort and intensity that I had and believing that I could eventually make the changes I was trying to make,” Klineman said.
Wins pile up quickly for new partners
Klineman didn’t want to let her tenured partner down. Ross said Klineman’s tireless effort made her work even harder.
“Alix did study the game more than anyone else I’ve ever known,” Ross said. “She’d go home and watch a ton of video and I’d be like, well, I better go home and watch video, too.”
Though the transition took time, the international success came quickly. The duo won their first tournament – the FIVB Dela Beach Open in The Hague, Netherlands in January 2018.
Ross never doubted her pairing with Klineman, but starting their career together off strong solidified their decision.
“It was just kind of like, ‘Well, duh,’” Ross said.
“Like, OK,” Klineman added. “We made the right choice.”
The wins kept piling up. During the 2018 AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, Klineman and Ross won four tournaments. Later that year, they took gold at the Yangzhou Open, their second- FIVB tournament event. In 2019, they won silver at the world championships.
Then 2020 saw three more AVP tournament wins, and during the abbreviated 2021 season, Klineman and Ross won once and took third twice. The foundation they’ve established on the international stage as the No. 2 pair in the world translated in their dominant play at the Tokyo Olympics.
Ross and Klineman won six straight sets through three elimination matches to guarantee themselves an Olympic silver or gold.
“It’s the most amazing feeling and we dreamed of this,” Klineman said. “This is what we worked for every single day. But just cause you work for it and just cause you do everything you can doesn’t mean that it happens. So the fact that everything is falling into place, it feels so magical.”
Getting in their faces with big blocks
In their 2-0 semifinal victory over the Swiss pair of Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidric, Ross and Klineman showed what makes their partnership special. Both displayed their offensive prowess, as Ross finished with 15 attack points and Klineman added nine. Klineman, who was named AVP’s best blocker in 2018 and 2019, contributed four block points.