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Former Stanford star Alix Klineman impresses at AVP San Francisco

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In 2013, indoor volleyball player Alix Klineman was suspended 13 months for a positive anabolic steroid test. While the USADA ruled the result came from accidental ingestion of her mother’s DHEA supplement, the organization kept her out of action for over a year.

Klineman wasn’t allowed to discuss the incident with people outside her inner circle, making the stretch difficult to handle. After a standout career at Stanford as a four-time All American, the time away from the game forced her to reflect.

“When something is taken away from you, you either realize ‘Hey, I don’t really like it,’ or ‘Hey, I can’t live without this,’” Klineman said. “I realized I’m not just playing because I’m good at it, I’m playing because I love it.”

Klineman’s passion for volleyball led her to ultimately abandon a stable career as a professional indoor player for the beach game this year. She believed the transition would increase her chances of fulfilling her Olympic dream.

She produced her best-ever performance on the sand at AVP San Francisco alongside partner Lane Carico, finishing in second place on Sunday. Before the Bay Area tour stop, Klineman had never finished higher than seventh.

While top-ranked partners Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen beat Klinman and Carico in straight sets in the final, Klineman took pride in the progress she made over the weekend. After all, the beach game is still new to her.

“Overall it was an incredible experience for me,” Klineman said. “I surpassed my expectations so much in every match that I won.”

Klineman and Carico, the No. 5 ranked team in the tournament, defeated No. 4 duo Angela Bensend and Geena Urango in the semifinals. Klineman began the match with two kills and a block, and she used her 6-foot-5 frame to dominate at the net in a comfortable victory.

But Flint and Larsen cruised in the final, defeating Klineman and Carico 21-13 in the first set and 21-8 in the second set to claim their second career AVP titles. That came after Klineman and Carico defeated them on Saturday in the double-elimination quarterfinals.

“We’ve been grinding and we’ve been in a couple of finals the last couple of times, so we’ve been on a mission,” Flint said. “Alex and Lane played great all tournament, and we were ready for some payback.”

After struggling to settle in with a partner since beginning on the beach, Klineman and Carico played well together in their first tournament as a pair. They were former high school teammates at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach.

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“She made me a better player throughout the weekend, so I’m really thankful to have had the chance to play with her,” Klineman said.

Klineman viewed her weekend performance as a positive step as she acclimates to the beach. But she regretted not putting up a stronger fight in the championship match.

“It just didn’t seem like we could get things going,” Klineman said. “We know they’re a really solid team, so the fact that they played like that doesn’t really surprise me. I just wish we could have matched their level a little bit better.”

MEN’S BRACKET

Ty Loomis and Maddison McKibbin upset Billy Allen and Stafford Slick with a straight set victory in the men’s final. In the semifinals, they came back from a 14-9 third-set deficit with seven straight points to advance.

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