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Hochevar & Fopma: following defeats, four Vitória wins

American Jennifer Fopma (right) competes at the Vitória Open net Wednesday morning against Britta Buthe from Germany in a pool play match on Camburi beach.
Vitoria, Brazil, March 16, 2016 - First came the defeat in the qualifier in the Maceio Open as the FIVB World Tour opened in Brazil.

Two weeks later in the Rio Grand Slam, Brittany Hochevar and Jennifer Fopma were pitted against fellow Americans Lane Carico and Summer Ross in the country quota round. Close, but it was a loss.

Quick links
•    Vitória Open website
•    Qualification - Men
•    Qualification - Women
•    Main draw - Men
•    Main draw - Women

If you’re thinking that’s really no way to start a season, Hochevar and Fopma were at least trying to hold onto some semblance of a positive outlook. And then their credit card numbers were stolen.

“We got to a point where we were like ‘Well, this might be rock bottom so the only way is up.’ I don’t know,” Hochevar said.

They arrived in the state of Espirito Santo for the $150,000 Vitoria Open and faced the prospect of having to win consecutive qualifying matches to reach the main draw.

Mission accomplished, and the pair reached the main draw with a three-set victory over Russians Nadezda Makroguzova and Olga Motrich. That earned Hochevar and Fopma a No. 28 seed for Wednesday’s start of the main draw and were placed in a pool with Britta Büthe and Karla Borger of Germany, the No. 5 seeds who had just captured the bronze medal in Rio.

After a 21-13 loss in set 1, Hochevar and Fopma outlasted the Germans, taking the third set at 19-17. They then went three more long sets to hold off No. 12 seeds Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez of Spain.

USA's Jennifer Fopma (white) watching the Mikasa bump by Spain's Liliana Steiner

Suddenly, all they need is a victory Thursday over the Czech Republic’s Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova to win the pool and take another giant step forward. Not bad for the team that entered the season as the No. 5 team from the United States.

“The fact that we stuck together, trained well and stayed focused, that’s the ticket,” Hochevar said. “Just staying the course, staying true to the process. We knew that once we did get our chance, things like this would happen.”

The veterans hooked up as partners halfway through the 2015 season but after the Long Beach Grand Slam, played only one other FIVB World Tour event, the Puerto Vallarta Open. However, they entered the season healthy and hungry.

But until their win over the Germans, you couldn’t blame then if they were a tad frustrated yet they turned it around.

“It’s a big confidence booster,” Fopma said. “That team was just on the podium last week, so we knew we had to come out really hard. It’s kind of nice being the underdog in the pool. I would hope there are expectations, but we knew once we got a chance in the main draw, there is no turning back. We were just going to go.”

“This is where we belong, this is the volleyball we know, seeing this speed of the main draw is different,” Hochevar said. “Everybody’s tough out here, we understand that, we respect that, but we just knew once we got our chance, we were good.”

They’ll take the credit for their victories, but they also wouldn’t mind having those credit issues solved as well.


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