Beach volleyball newcomer Alix Klineman won’t stop until she secures a bid for the 2020 Olympics

Can she turn indoor ability into outdoor gold?

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  • Written & Photographed by
    Kat Monk

Manhattan Beach native Alix Klineman knows the expectations are high for her latest pairing. Her partner, April Ross, is already a two-time Olympic medalist—taking silver in London with Jen Kessy and bronze in Rio with Hermosa’s Kerri Walsh. Now, with the 2020 games in Tokyo just two years away, the pressure is on to bring gold back to the U.S.

Born in 1989, Alix played club indoor volley-ball growing up. She graduated from Mira Costa High School in 2007 as the Gatorade national volleyball player of the year and a three-time CIF/state champion.

She continued her volleyball success as a four-year All American player at prestigious Stanford University (as did volleyball legend Kerri Walsh) and played internationally for a few years. Alix was a consistent player on Team USA from 2004 to 2015.

Yet Alix was virtually unknown on the beach before 2016. She only began taking beach volleyball seriously once she ended her indoor volleyball career—shortly after Karch Kiraly said she would not be considered for the 2016 Olympics. The news was a huge blow to Alix.

“Ever since I can remember, my dream has been to play in the Olympics,“ she shares. “For me it is the ultimate honor and the highest level you can get—to play in the Olympics against the best in the world. That’s my goal. I want to go there and do well. I want to be the best.”

While at Stagecoach, Alix ran into April Ross. April mentioned her partnership with Kerri had ended and she was looking for a new partner. “I took away from that chance meeting: ‘You need to get better, but I am looking for someone.’”

Alix saw an opportunity. “It gave me the motivation to learn everything I possibly could. Now I had a mission.” She started training—hard—and taking in as much beach education as she possibly could in a short amount of time. April had already been playing with a few different people, so time was of the essence.

“I made a case for myself,” Alix says. “It is not usually how I am, but I wanted this really bad. I knew there were other players better than myself, but if I put in the time and work, I [could] be better than all these other players.”

April’s former partner and current coach, Jen Kessy, was in Alix’s corner. Soon, with hard work and persistence, she would not only score a new partner but a shot at her Olympic dream.

DID YOU KNOW? In addition to raising hell on the court, Alix lives like a perpetual student—constantly taking in new information and challenges. An art major at Stanford, she thrives on arts and culture. She’s also a gourmet cook and fluent in Portuguese.

Jen and April have taken Alix under their wings and are teaching her everything there is to know about beach volleyball. “I don’t have to be picked to be on a roster,” notes Alix. “The coach doesn’t have to say, ‘Yes, I choose you.’ If I do bad, it is on me. I get to keep going out there no matter what. I love that and the accountability and responsibility.”

It also helps having one of the best court partners in the world. “April is at the peak of her career,” Alix says. “She has taught me so much.”

So why would April Ross—one of the most sought-after players in her sport, partner with someone so raw with virtually zero points on the beach circuit? (Points help with seeding in tournaments, making the process more difficult when one player starts with zero points.)

The answer is one word: potential. And Alix Klineman has got it. Height makes all the difference in volleyball, whether it is beach or indoor. You can’t teach tall.

“Alix and April are both big and physical at the net, and I am sure they will put pressure on teams with their size,” says Holly McPeak, a fellow Olympic medalist. “Kerri Walsh used to be the most dominant big player at 6’2”, and now Alix, with her 6’5” stature, has great potential to do big things on the volleyball court.”

Off to a great start, the duo won gold at the Hague 4-star indoor beach event in January, gold at the AVP Austin in late May, a tie for third in the AVP NYC, silver at the Hermosa AVP and gold at the Manhattan Beach AVP. Adds Holly, “It will be fun to see how her game progresses as she gets more experience on the sand!”