Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Whirlwind through Europe

It has been awhile since I have posted anything. I have been competing just about every weekend this summer, except one (unfortunately forced) weekend off during Klagenfurt.

Mid-season I switched partners from Ashley Ivy to Brooke Hanson. Ashley and I had some success this year and last with two fifths this year on the AVP and a semifinal appearance last year in Thailand. We had a couple almost big wins on the FIVB, but we kept being on the losing end of those games. I liked playing with Ashley, who has a big serve and good on-two ball, but I wanted to try playing with one of the best defenders in the game with Brooke Hanson.

Brooke and I did not get to train much before our first tournaments. Hence, we had a slow start in Hermosa. After that we bounced back with big wins over Ana Paula and Tati and Brittany Hochevar and Dianne DeNecochea in Long Beach taking a fifth. We played a great game one against EY and Rachel and almost pulled off that upset as well.

Then due to a USAV error in sign ups, Brooke and I were forced to withdraw from the FIVB event in Klagenfurt. We were both really bummed, especially after seeing what our draw would've been to get into the main draw and there after.

We took the week and trained hard to prepare for Poland, where we upset the #3 seeded US team of Kessy/Ross, who were World Champs last year, in two straight sets. This was a big win for us. Unfortunately, we couldn't parlay the win into more than a 17th. We were a couple points away from winning our pool and only two points away from winning our elimination match.

Next up was Kristiansand, Norway, where Brooke and I defeated the #2 seed in the world, Maria and Talita from Brasil, again in straight sets. This was a must win for us as we played them in the contender's bracket. Unfortunately, once again we couldn't manage to string together a couple more wins to advance further than a 13th. Still an improvement, but not as big a jump as we'd hope for.

The next tournament was in Aland, Finland. This tournament was an adventure to get to. We took two flights and a five hour ferry before we arrived in Aland. Because we thought we would be playing in AVP tournaments, we and two other US women's teams had to late entry into the Finland qualifier. All three teams emerged from the qualifier. We went on to beat the Russian team we lost to in Poland, but then narrowly lost to the Chinese team who went on to win the tournament. We played them so well and were up in game two, but unfortunately they served really well on the good side and got a string of points late in the game to pull out the win. We finished unsatisfied with a 17th. It had been raining pretty heavily the first day of the main draw and the balls got very heavy. I was mad at myself for not pushing the issue of changing balls with the referee the next day when it was sunny again. But, no excuses. We just needed to play better.

We thought the weather in Finland was poor, until we arrived in the Hague. 25-30 mph winds (I believe) were recorded on the day of the country quota. It was an ugly match and we were trying too much to force things. Lisa and Ashley, my former partner, played well and came back after being down 13-8 in the first game. A frustrating cap to the this portion of the season, but it only fuels my fire to work hard, learn more, and get better.

Interestingly, over four weeks we traveled within a pretty small region of Northern Europe. I estimate we traveled within less than a 500 mile radius circle, yet each destination took almost an entire day to get to.

None of the American women's teams have had "great" seasons this year. I believe this is due to the tough travel schedule the Americans have had and to the international teams improving.

Unfortunately, the AVP has shut down for the rest of the season. My heart is heavy with the loss of our domestic tour. So many incredible athletes who put their lives on hold to pursue beach volleyball are now unemployed. I am hopeful though that like a phoenix, something better will rise from its demise.

In the meantime for the next two months, I will actually be in the US and I will be working hard training for the China and Thailand FIVB events at the end of October.

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