Ross Earns Beach Female Athlete of Year

Dec. 16, 2011, 7 p.m. (ET)

B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: (719) 228-6800

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 16, 2011) – After a 2011 season of ups and downs and more ups, April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) has been named USA Volleyball’s Beach Female Athlete of the Year.

Ross and partner Jen Kessy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) are ranked second in the USA Volleyball Beach National Rankings (behind Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh). They are also second among U.S. women’s teams and fourth overall on the FIVB Olympic rankings, which are being used to determine the two beach pairings that will compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The pair finished fourth on the FIVB Swatch World Tour in 2011, with one gold medal (Stavanger, Norway), three silver (Shanghai, China; Stare Jablonki, Poland and Phuket, Thailand) and three bronze (Brasilia, Brazil; Myslowice, Poland and Beijing, China).

Ross, 29, and Kessy also won the silver medal at the FIVB Beach Volleyball International in London, a test event for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The 6-foot-1 Ross was named the Best Hitter and Best Server on the FIVB Tour. The Best Hitter award was voted on by players, coaches, referees and officials while the serving recognition was determined by her top serve speed of 85 kilometers per hour recorded during this year’s season-ending event in Phuket.

Ross said the highlight of her season was the victory in Stavanger; but she added that she and Kessy also gained a lot from losing in the early rounds of their first three events of the year and battling back to medal in two out of three.

“That was definitely a growth period for me and Jen,” Ross said. “We now know the will to win can get us to the podium. Now that I’ve had time to look back on it, I think it was a highlight.

“Looking back overall, we were happy with our season.”

Ross and Kessy had to ride out some bad finishes as well, including a 17th in Klagenfurt, Austria, and had to miss the Moscow Grand Slam after Kessy suffered a sprained ankle.

“It was a tough time for our team,” Ross said. “We were fighting through her ankle sprain, both mentally and physically.”

The two came back domestically at the end of the year, winning the season-ending Jose Cuervo Beach Volleyball Tour event in Hermosa Beach and finishing third in Miami. They also won the National Volleyball League event in Miami and finished third at the U.S. Open of Beach Volleyball in Cincinnati.

Ross and Kessy have enjoyed some perks from their status as 2012 Olympic hopefuls, signing on as ambassadors for Ralph Lauren Corporation, an official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams for London 2012. They also took part in a media day put on by Olympic broadcaster NBC in November in Los Angeles.

“That was super fun,” Ross said. “It was so fast-paced. We got to do the E! News interview with Bruce Jenner, NBC Nightly News and the photo shoot.”

But after just missing out on making the 2008 Olympic Team that competed in Beijing, Ross knows that she and Kessy cannot be complacent in 2012. The pair still needs to secure more FIVB ranking points to secure a trip to London.

“We’re not sure exactly what events we’ll be doing yet,” Ross said. “We’re going to play it by ear as the season goes along. We’re not assuming that we’re definitely going. We still have to take care of a lot of business. But we’re happy with where we are.”