TOKYO (July 30, 2021) – The first points were played in a driving rainstorm. The entire third set? Much the same. While talking to the media afterward, Alix Klineman and April Ross looked like they just came out of a pool rather than off a volleyball court.
Turns out they had. An Olympic pool at least.
With their 2-1 (20-22, 21-17, 15-5) victory over Sanne Keizer/Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands, Klineman/Ross clinched a pool B title. The win was their third of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and it was their closest.
“We’re stoked,” Ross said. “We had a tough pool, really tough pool. We’re really grateful to come out first.”
The pair, ranked fifth in the world by the FIVB, earned the No. 2 seed in the playoff bracket. They’ll learn their Round of 16 opponent on Saturday, July 31, after Lucky Loser matches have decided the final third-place teams to reach the playoffs.
To clinch that second seed, Klineman/Ross had to get past a Dutch squad desperate for a win. At 0-2 entering Friday, Keizer/Meppelink needed a win for a chance at a Lucky Loser match. The two teams battled each other and heavy rain in a close first set. Keizer/Meppelink scored the final two points to take the set, 20-22.
In the second, Klineman/Ross faced a three-point deficit halfway through the frame. They rattled off four in a row and seven of the next eight to storm ahead, 16-13. From that point, they went four-for-four on sideout opportunities to win the set, 21-17.
After subsiding in the first and nearly disappearing in the second, the rain drove hard again in the third. So did Klineman/Ross. A big block from Klineman gave the U.S. a 6-3 lead. After a Netherlands sideout, Klineman and Ross hit another gear, winning nine of the final 10 points to clinch the set and the match.
Both Klineman and Ross scored 20 points Friday. All of Ross’ came on the attack, but Klineman supplied 12 attack points on 14 attempts, blocked five Dutch shots and served up a trio of aces late in the third set.
“With the rain, [the sand] got pretty hard packed today, and that affects the way players play,” Klineman said. “I think you saw a lot more hitting today than normal because it’s so packed.”