After a season that resulted in five different women’s teams taking titles in the seven AVP tour stops, the upper echelon of women’s pro beach volleyball experienced a big shake-up in partnerships.
April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings, the dream team who got together midway through last season (and won the Santa Barbara AVP event) will stick together with their eyes on the ultimate prize, gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Fighting for a spot next to those two at the top of the rankings will be three new partnerships and one budding team in their second season together.
Even though they finished the 2013 season as the second-ranked team on the domestic tour, Brittany Hochevar and Lauren Fendrick decided to go their separate ways. Fendrick picked up the reigning AVP Defensive Player of the Year Brooke Sweat for the upcoming season. “I’ve really admired [Brooke’s] game for a long time,” said Fendrick. “I’ve always had really tight games against her in the past, so I am excited to see what we can do being on the same side of the net.” Sweat finished her 2013 domestic season by earning the title at the AVP Championships in Huntington Beach with her partner of two years Jennifer Fopma.
Following her split with Fendrick, Hochevar allied herself with AVP Newcomer of the Year Lane Carico. “Lane caught my eye as she was quickly becoming harder and harder to beat,” said Hochevar. “Our game is very similar to one another, versatile and athletic in my opinion. We get to be creative on how to score points and that’s fun for me.”
Another new squad to keep an eye out for is Sweat’s former partner Fopma and Whitney Pavlik. Pavlik spent the majority of the 2013 season playing with Kerri Walsh Jennings, and together they won the Manhattan Beach Open before Walsh Jennings left to start her partnership with Ross. Pavlik then played with five different partners to finish out the season. Fopma and Pavlik will make a strong duo: the AVP and VBM Best Blocker and the VBM Best Defensive Player on the same side of the net. Good luck scoring a kill on these two.
Committing to play together for a second season, Emily Day and Summer Ross will be one of the longest-term partnerships at the top of the tour this year. With one domestic title and a few good international finishes under their belts, the young Day and Ross are poised to continue challenging their more senior competitors.
Originally published in May 2014