FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Ft. Lauderdale Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals | 29 September - 4 October 2015


Press release

Standing Shoulder-to-Shoulder, so to speak

Dain Blanton (right) of NBC Sports interviews Lauren Fendrick (left) and April Ross following the women's AVP Huntington Beach first-place finish Sunday in their first-ever Beach Volleyball event together.

Huntington Beach, Calif., August 14, 2015 - It was the height of the Olympic qualifying season and two of the United States’ top women’s Beach Volleyball teams could only fret over their status.

The perceived top team, April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings, couldn’t pile up any points on the FIVB World Tour because of a shoulder injury to Walsh Jennings.

Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat, the American leaders in the point standings, were stopped in their tracks by Sweat’s shoulder injury. Neither Walsh Jennings nor Sweat could hid their pain as they served underhand for the most part at the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam in August.

When both of them opted to interrupt their season with surgery, Fendrick and Ross faced a no-brainer: They’d have to finish the season as teammates, not rivals, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder, so to speak.

So with only two days of practice, Fendrick and Ross joined forces to capture the $200,000 AVP USA Championships, the final event of the U.S. domestic tour.

Not a bad kickoff for their next endeavor: the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals, which will be held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla,, which runs from Sept. 29-Oct. 4. It’s a tournament with the top eight men’s and women’s teams in the world rankings plus two wild cards on each side.

Ross and Fendrick obtained one of the wild cards and will play for the unprecedented international prize of $100,000 to the winners.

“I think we both wish we were there with our partners, but we’re both going to be stronger players for them by having this challenge against the best players in the world,” Fendrick said.

“Nothing to lose,” Ross said. “We got the wild card and we’re new partners, it’s icing on the cake for the season. People are going to get a treat, I think. People are going to have so much fun playing.”

Ross and Fendrick have never played together before they hit the sand in Huntington Beach. But they’ve been good friends even as rivals since their teenage years in club play, then as collegians as part of the fierce USC-UCLA rivalry.

They worked seamlessly together and didn’t lose a game en route to their first - and perhaps only - title together.

“She’s super easy to play with as shown by only two days of practice,” Fendrick said of Ross, an Olympic silver medalist with Jen Kessy in 2012. “I think things clicked pretty well even though there’s a ton we can improve on, like our defensive timing.”

They opened the tournament by trying to decide which player would play which side. For the most part, they settled with Ross on her traditional left side, with Fendrick, the blocker, patrolling on the right.

However, they were able to show their flexibility and switch when the opportunities called for it.

“The more we played - and I don’t want this to sound bad, I think it’s a compliment - Lauren makes it very simple to play with her,” Ross said. “She passes really well, she comes in and makes really good choices on her sideout. It’s just really easy to know what she’s going to be doing. She makes great blocking moves and I can read right off of her.

“And we played against each other so many times (43 times) - If I didn’t know her game at this point, I’d be worried,” she added with a laugh.

But after Fort Lauderdale, the duo will disband, wait for their regular partners to heal then prepare for the crunch time of the 2016 qualifying tour for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Ross admitted she was “stressed” as Walsh Jennings struggled with her shoulder during the early part of the year, but said she’s learned to roll with whatever crops up. Now Fendrick and Ross are pumped about competing four other top world teams in their pool - Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas (Brazil), Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (Germany), Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez (Spain) and Jamie Broder/Kristina Valjas (Canada).

Post-match interview on NBC -

Match rally on NBC -

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