HER FIRST LOVEwas basketball. As the tallest girl in her grade school class, Alix Klinemanwould "just drive to the basket and everybody would run away," shesays. "I enjoyed it until I started getting beaten up by girls [who seemedto be] 100 pounds heavier than me."
The willowyKlineman, who grew up three blocks from the ocean in Manhattan Beach, Calif.,found refuge on a sandier court. At age eight she attended her first volleyballcamp with her older brother, Max, who is now a sophomore setter at UC SantaBarbara. She was hooked, and pestered big bro to practice with her. "Wewould play pepper every day until we got into an argument," Alix says.
Now 6'5",Klineman enters her senior year at Mira Costa High as the top-ranked player inthe country, according to PrepVolleyball.com. The website's editor, John Tawa,calls Klineman, an outside hitter, the best talent he's seen in years. "Shedoes everything well-she can pass and play defense, and she's a tremendousblocker," he says. "But attacking is her calling card. She contacts theball above 10 feet and hits it down at such an angle that no back-row playercan get the ball up."
Thanks toyear-round training that has bulked her up to 165 pounds, Klineman is now theone delivering on-court punishment, having broken a couple of her opponents'fingers with ferocious spikes. She led Mira Costa to a Division I state titlelast year, and she finished her junior season with 350 kills, 35 aces and 179digs. She followed that last month by winning a gold medal with the U.S. teamat the Women's Junior Championships in Mexico.
The 16-year-oldKlineman, who carries a 3.9 GPA and plans to major in communications, hasnarrowed her choice of colleges to Hawaii, Stanford, Texas, UCLA andWashington. She's used to being in demand. While in Hawaii for a tournamentthree years ago, her coach, Dae Lea Aldrich, was approached by a film producerwho asked if Klineman would be interested in modeling. Aldrich promptly spikedhis offer. "Alix won't be modeling," she said. "She's anathlete."
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
BUCKEYE BONANZA The Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USAChallenge this weekend pits the state's best teams against national powers innine games over two days. The event was the brainchild of Herbstreit-ESPNanalyst, former Ohio State quarterback and 1988 Ohio Player of the Year atCenterville High-and includes five teams ranked in SI's preseason top 20. OnSaturday, in the marquee matchup, second-ranked Lakeland (Fla.) takes on No. 10St. Xavier of Cincinnati.
INDEPENDENCE STREAK Not every top team will be inOhio: Sixth-ranked Independence of Charlotte will travel crosstown to faceClass 4A rival Vance this Friday. Independence (3-0) has a 95-game winningstreak and is led by senior quarterback Darryl McFadden (below), who threw for295 yards in a 55-14 win over Olympic on Sept. 1. But the Patriots will betested by Vance (3-1), which two weeks ago upset Butler, then ranked No. 2 inthe state by The Charlotte Observer, 21-20.