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April Ross Honored for 2013 Season

By BJ Evans | Dec. 17, 2013, 1:18 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 17, 2013) – When reviewing her 2013 season, it’s easy to forget that April Ross won an Olympic silver medal a little more than a year ago.

 April Ross makes the dig
  April Ross reaches for the ball.

Instead of taking a year to rest on her laurels and coast a little in 2013, Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) competed in 13 FIVB events (Grand Slams and Opens as well as the World Cup Final) and seven AVP Tour events as well as the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., and the Hilton HHonors Beach Volleyball Challenge in Hawaii.

She also started a successful blog, signed a sponsorship with Mizuno and worked to raise money and awareness for a variety of causes.

She did all this while transitioning from her longtime partner Jennifer Kessy (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), with whom she won that Olympic silver medal, to her new teammate, Kerri Walsh Jennings (Saratoga, Calif.), whom you may have heard of.

All kidding aside, Ross, 31, did more than enough to be voted USA Volleyball’s 2013 Female Beach Athlete of the Year.

“My mindset is the same as it’s always been; get better and win tournaments,” Ross said. “Every tournament I go to, I want to win. It’s always the same. But every year I’ve gotten more and more focused. I think that will continue.”

Ross finished on the podium 12 times in 2013, including two FIVB Grand Slam gold medals (with Walsh Jennings), an FIVB Grand Slam silver (with Kessy) and seven AVP medals (with both Kessy and Walsh Jennings).

But it’s a medal she didn’t win that Ross points to as a highlight of her season. Although she had been hoping to compete at the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship with Kessy, Kessy had to withdraw due to injury. Ross competed with Whitney Pavlik for the first time and finished fourth.

“Doing as well as we did at the world championship as a team thrown together at the last minute was a highlight,” Ross said. “I wish we had taken a medal, but to play until the last day was awesome.”

Ross’s season was not without challenges, the greatest one being the transition from Kessy to Walsh Jennings. Although Ross, Kessy and Walsh Jennings had all discussed how and when the partner change would happen, onlookers began speculating almost immediately after the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

“It was a challenge to manage everything as far as the media misconception on when it was going to happen and why it was happening,” Ross said. “I wanted everyone to know that Jen was involved and Kerri was involved. It wasn’t like I was dumping Jen and going to Kerri in a bad way.”

Along the way Ross was supported by her husband, beach volleyball player Brad Keenan, and also got some sage advice from coach Tyler Hildebrand.

“I liked what he had to say and his positive attitude,” she said. “He said some things that increased my confidence in myself. It came at a really good time.”

Now that the change has been made, Ross said things are “really exciting. Everything is new. Playing with her pushes me to get better. She gets me fired up for every practice and every match.”

And while the partnership with Walsh Jennings has put Ross “a little more in the spotlight,” she is also fine with letting the three-time Olympic gold medalist be the center of attention.

“If we’re at a tournament and a ton of people line up outside our box for autographs, I can sneak away and nobody notices,” Ross said.

But perhaps not for long.


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