A marquee match-up, perfect for primetime: Team USA's second-seeded Alix Klineman and April Ross took on Germany's 18th-seeded Maggie Kozuch and Laura Ludwig in the quarterfinals. Don't let the seeding fool you: Ludwig represents one of the best defenders of all time and won beach volleyball gold alongside former partner Kira Walkenhorst at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Ludwig won't get a chance to defend her gold medal after Klineman and Ross emerged with a close but emphatic victory on the beach in Tokyo Tuesday morning, winning both sets 21-19.
Going into the match, Ross had authored 17 career Olympic wins to Ludwig's 16. Klineman and Ross -- the latter on her quest for a first Olympic gold after winning silver at the 2012 London Games and bronze alongside Kerri Walsh Jennings at Rio 2016 -- fought experienced opponents and tough weather conditions, as rain splattered the volleyball court.
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Following a slow start, the American duo tied the Germans at 12-12 -- and battled point-for-point for an advantage. Still tied at 19-19, the Germans issued their second challenge after a ball was initially called out -- but, unlike in the Claes/Sponcil match the prior day, the ruling stuck. The Americans won the set on their first match point, 21-19.
The Americans took an early lead in set two, but the Germans were hot on their tails. Each team remained within a one-point margin until the U.S. hit a 4-1 scoring run at 17-16, when they widened their lead by two. Kozuch served into the net at 19-18, giving the U.S. their first set point, and Ross and Klineman took home the two-set victory.
It was a big win for the only Americans left in either the men's or women's beach volleyball tournaments. The pair is now just two victories away from a gold medal, facing either Brazil or Switzerland in the semifinals on Aug. 5.