TOKYO (August 2, 2021) – The Olympic Games bring people together from across the world and offer a chance to meet those from different countries.
Alix Klineman and April Ross can now cross that off their Olympics checklists after beating Cuba’s Lidianny Echevarria Benitez and Leila Consuelo Martinez Ortega, 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) during the first-ever match between the two NORCECA foes.
“It’s a team we’ve never seen before,” Ross said. “We knew that they’re very good, so it’s a little hard to know what to expect. They came out in the second set and served really, really well. Luckily we were able to adjust and handle that down the stretch.”
The Round of 16 win advances Klineman/Ross to the quarterfinals, where they will line up against German duo Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch. That match will take place Monday, August 2 at 5 pm Pacific (9 am August 3) local. Ludwig, along with former partner Kira Walkenhorst, won gold in Rio 2016.
Against Cuba, Ross led all players with 14 points, all of which came in the attack. Klineman added 13, nine on the attack, three from blocks and one at the service line. Klineman/Ross, known as the A-Team, also benefited from 15 Cuba errors while committing just 10 themselves.
Echevarria Benitez/Martinez Ortega only took the lead twice Monday. Their first came in the first set at 6-5 and lasted just a point as Klineman leveled the score with a kill. A few points later, the United States embarked on a 5-1 run for a lead they’d never relinquish.
The second Cuba lead, one that began the second set, was much more dangerous. Echevarria Benitez/Martinez Ortega jumped out to leads of 0-4 and 2-7, but another U.S. run evened the score at 9-9. Klineman then put down a Cuban over pass for the lead, one she and Ross would keep until the end of the match. From that point, they outscored Cuba 11-6 to clinch the win and the quarterfinal berth.
“I think we came out a little complacent in the beginning of the second, and they served some really tough serves,” Klineman said. “I knew it was time to turn it up a bit or we weren’t going to win that set. This is too important of a match and too important of a tournament to not put your foot on the gas whenever you can.”