The A-Team continues to win.

After winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this month, April Ross and Alix Klineman are champions in the AVP once more. The partners won the Manhattan Beach Open on Sunday, defeating Eily Day and Betsi Flint in straight sets.

Ross and Klineman went 4-0 in the tournament. Ross is now a four-time Manhattan Beach champion, having also won it in 2014, 2015 and 2018.

Following the win, the two admitted they were still recovering from the Olympics.

“We were really exhausted,” Ross told VolleyballMag. “It hit me harder in the finals how special this is so, ‘Let’s see how we do.’

“The adrenaline went from 10 to 100.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure what my expectations for this week were,” Klineman said. “It’s been such a roller coaster winning gold in Tokyo, and we didn’t feel super sharp coming into this weekend. The crowd was amazing, and we took it point by point and it feels amazing to get our names on the pier again.”

The Association of Volleyball Professionals has been bought by Bally’s Corporation, the casino and sports betting company announced Tuesday.

In a statement, Bally’s Corp. said the deal creates “a significant opportunity for the company to gamify and incorporate interactive content into beach volleyball, which, in turn, will drive traffic to Bally’s platforms and promote customer acquisition.”

The AVP has featured volleyball stars such as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings as the foremost beach volleyball tour in the United States.

The AVP’s former owner, Donald Sun, will stay on through the transition.

Three events are scheduled for this season, starting in Atlanta the week after the Tokyo Olympics.

Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn are a professional beach volleyball pair who will be competing in the upcoming AVP Champions Cup Series. Below, they spoke to Just Women’s Sports about the Champions Cup and how they feel about competing amidst the ongoing pandemic. 

The AVP tour is hosting a 3-week tournament to replace the 2020 season which had cancellations and postponements due to COVID. What are your expectations heading into the tournament? 

Sarah: First and foremost, we’re really excited that they were able to put something together this season. Typically, the first event is in May and everybody starts with preseason training in January. It was weird to have it keep getting pushed back and pushed back, not knowing when the first start date would be. When they announced the tournament, we didn’t know how small the event was going to be, so that was a surprise. They’ve limited it to 18 teams total in the mini series. Whereas, in a normal tournament, 12 to 16 teams get in, but there are 40 or 50 teams in the qualifiers. Kim and I feel very fortunate that we had a good season last year and that we’ve put ourselves in a position to compete. We’re the fourth seed in the qualifier. So, we are grateful to be included and excited to take advantage of the opportunity that AVP was able to put together for us in 2020.

You two won your first FIVB medal earlier this year. How do you two plan to ride this momentum during the AVP tournament? And do you two feel pressure to perform given the limited opportunities to play this season?

Kim: We had a little bit of a different path than a lot of other teams. In Florida, we were able to train almost the entire time that everything was shut down because there are private courts. And we live here together, and our coaches do too. So we were pretty fortunate. We’re feeling competent in our team. We know we are a much better team than we were last year, and getting that metal under our belt early in the season feels like another confidence boost for us.

The way this series is set up, it’s so different from the regular AVP tournaments because they are paying all of the athletes who are involved. It’s like we have a guaranteed salary. So I actually feel like there’s less pressure in this tournament because we weren’t even sure that there was going to be a tour at all. We’re going into this tournament feeling just thankful to play. Fortunately, we will get to keep our points for next season and we will be in a good position then as well. So this is just a bonus godsend from AVP.

How do you think it will be playing without fans? 

Sarah: We play a lot of tournaments here in Florida where there’s a beach vibe and a lot of people playing, but not necessarily a lot of fans standing around your specific court. Obviously, it’s fun and engaging, and helps pump your adrenaline up when you have fans all around. I think Kim and I have experience playing in both environments. Ideally, it’s awesome to have fans to ramp up the event, but I know a lot of people are going to be watching from home. For me, it’s just as exciting to be able to give fans something to watch and something to be excited about, even if we don’t get to witness it firsthand.

Do you know your schedule and matchups yet? 

Kim: In theory, yes. The seeding has been released, but the AVP is requiring everyone involved with the event to be tested for COVID every single week. We just took our tests, so everyone is waiting to hear their results back. The seeding could change if someone tests positive for COVID and is unable to play in the event. Obviously, we hope for ourselves and for our competitors that that doesn’t happen because that’s not how you want to compete.

What other types of protocols are they putting in place to keep everyone safe during the tournament?

Kim: They are definitely taking it very seriously. I know that the city gave them guidelines to run the event. They are giving us information as we go on how to keep the event safe. There are going to be a lot of specific safety guidelines.

Sarah: One of the biggest issues was keeping the numbers small for this tournament, too. So, I think step one was minimizing the tournament size and then, like Kim said, there are going to be a lot of strict guidelines to keep players and staff safe.

Do you have any concerns about playing during COVID?

Kim: Everything these days is a little bit concerning health wise. But, I’ve been taking it pretty seriously here in Florida, and Florida has had an extremely high case number recently. Our plan is to travel out there as safely as we can, taking all of the precautions. And then, we are going to pick and choose what events we want to play to make sure that we’re able to compete in the AVP tournament. We feel confident that the AVP is taking it seriously and is going to do everything they can to keep us safe. It’s comforting to know that every single person that’s going to be at the event has tested negative.