USC Alumnae April Ross, Kelly Claes Receive Official Team USA Beach Volleyball Nominations
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Three-time USC All-American outside hitter April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and three-time beach volleyball All-American Kelly Claes (Placentia, Calif.) each earned official nominations to represent the United States at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Thursday, June 10, pending approval from the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
USA Volleyball nominated four pairs for the upcoming Tokyo Games. The two women's pairs are Ross and Alix Klineman (Manhattan Beach, Calif./Stanford); and Claes and Sarah Sponcil (Phoenix, Ariz./UCLA, LMU). The two men's pairs are Taylor Crabb (Honolulu, Hawai'i) and Jake Gibb (Bountiful, Utah); and Phil Dalhausser (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and Nick Lucena (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).
All four duos earned an Olympic berth by finishing among the top 15 of their gender's FIVB Olympic Provisional Rankings. Klineman/Ross finished second in the women's rankings and Claes/Sponcil were sixth.
Upon approval, Ross will make her third consecutive appearance in the Olympic Games. She paired with USC All-American Jennifer Kessy to claim silver medals at the 2012 London Games and then won bronze with Kerri Walsh Jennings at the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil.
Claes will make her first appearance in the Olympics as part of the youngest beach duo to represent the United States in the Olympic Games. She and Sponcil have an aggregate age of 49 years (Claes 25, Sponcil 24). Sponcil herself will become the second-youngest American beach Olympian after former USC assistant coach Misty May-Treanor made her Olympic debut at age 23 in Sydney 2000.
The Olympic beach volleyball tournament will run July 24-Aug. 7 at Shiokaze Park, located alongside Tokyo Bay. Women's medal matches will take place Friday, Aug. 6, and men's medal matches on Saturday, Aug. 7. USA Volleyball beach teams have won at least one medal in every Olympic Games since the sport debuted in 1996.
Additionally, current Trojan All-American Tina Graudina (Jurmala, Latvia) is the first-ever collegiate beach volleyball athlete to qualify for the Olympics. She and partner Anastasija Kravcenoka won the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Haiyang, China, in September 2019, and are the first Latvian women's beach volleyball Olympic pair in the country's history.
The USC beach volleyball team captured the program's fourth national championship (third NCAA crown) with a win over crosstown rival UCLA in the NCAA Championship dual. Under second-year head coach Dain Blanton, USC went 30-4 and had winning streaks of 13 and 12 matches during the season. The Trojans finished as the Pac-12 runner-up and produced the league's Pair of the Year in Tina Graudina and Megan Kraft. Graudina was also named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Kraft was the conference's Freshman of the Year. Both were named first-team AVCA All-Americans and were joined on the first team by Julia Scoles and Sammy Slater.
For more information on the USC beach volleyball team, a complete schedule, and results, please visit USCTrojans.com/beach. Fans of the Women of Troy can follow the team on Instagram and on Twitter @USCBeach.