DOHA, Qatar (March 12, 2021)Alix Klineman and April Ross won the Katara Beach Volleyball Cup women’s draw Friday, and U.S. Beach National Team teammates Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb took third in the first four-star FIVB World Tour event since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“It was amazing to be back,” Klineman told the FIVB after their win in the finals. “A little strange to be on the court again, but the feeling is really good. We are continuing to get better and better as we play more and more. This was an amazing starting point.”

Klineman/Ross, ranked second in the world in both FIVB World Ranking and Provisional Olympic Ranking, downed Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada, 2-0 (22-20, 21-18) in the final. The win against the world’s top-ranked duo capped a tournament where Klineman/Ross went 6-0 and won 12 of 13 sets played.

“Against [the Canadians], it’s really tough, and I felt like we pushed each other,” Ross told the FIVB. “So we are going to take notes, go back and continue to work hard.”

On the men’s side, Crabb and Gibb prevailed in an all-American bronze medal match, beating Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, 2-0 (21-9, 23-21). Crabb/Gibb finished the tournament 5-1, suffering their first loss of the tournament – of a set or a match – in Thursday’s semifinal.

Taylor Crabb

“We feel like we are building on getting better every tournament, and that’s what we want going into the Olympics.”

“This is huge! We’re in a very tight race against two other American teams, Nick and Phil being one of them, so it’s a huge win for us, and our second medal,” Crabb told the FIVB. “We feel like we are building on getting better every tournament, and that’s what we want going into the Olympics.”

In all, four USA Volleyball duos reached the Katara Cup semifinal round, the first time USAV saw two men’s and two women’s pairs in the same semifinal round in 10 years. Kelley Kolinske and Emily Stockman competed for the women’s bronze medal Friday morning, falling to Brazil’s Agatha and Duda in two sets.

Eight U.S. pairs competed in Doha this week. Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil reached the third round of knockout matches, and Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat made the second round before falling to Kolinske and Stockton. Two more – Chaim Schalk/Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson/Chase Budinger – competed in the qualification round but did not advance to the main draw.

The 2021 Katara Beach Volleyball Cup was the first four-star event of 2021 and first since the 2020 edition, which ended as the pandemic was beginning last March. There are five more 4-star tournaments to offer Olympic qualification points. The next three will take place in a hub in Cancun, Mexico, April 16-May 2.