Ali Wood at the World University Championship for Beach Volleyball
Day 1 World Beach University Championships.
Whoever told us to bring umbrellas and sweats to Hamburg was way off. It's about 85 and very little shade. Despite the heat, Team USA is progressing well. This is the first time we have held a training camp for this event and sent the athletes with a coach, so we are planning on bringing home a few medals. However some of the European delegations are huge, so we aren't the only country with grand plans, and have our work cut out for us!
Unlike regular FIVB events, this event is pool play in groups of four with every team coming out of pool to a double elimination playoff. There are 31 mens teams and 28 women with 23 countries represented...the biggest field in the history of the WBUC! Yesterday we had the opening ceremonies, which were very quaint. Team USA unanimously voted for Mark Van Zwieten to carry the US flag, as he has the most international experience on the team. Lauren Fendrick was asked to read the FISU Athletes' Oath. The ceremony was held in stadium court, which overlooks the harbor here, so it was very scenic.
Today each team played two pool play matches. Joey Dykstra/Mark Van Zwieten led the charge with two-game victories over Slovakia and Brazil. Joey was on fire blocking Ferramenta 8 times, while Mark was hammering the line. It's always nice to beat Brazil! They face Turkey tomorrow in their final pool play match. I am pretty sure this will be quick, as the Turkish team plays with a lot of heart, but is very inexperienced.
Clint Coe/Duncan Budinger beat Czech Republic in two, and then got a bye as they are in the only three-team pool. They face China 2 tomorrow, which may be a battle. The Chinese are very tall and look to be very experienced.
Lauren Fendrick/Keegan Featherstone struggled in their first match against 6'2" and 6'3" Blundell/Scarlet of New Zealand, but were able to pull it out and take the match in two. They beat Japan 2 in the afternoon wave and will face CAN 2 tomorrow.
Our youngest duo, Olivia Waldowski(26)/Kari Pestolesi (19) dropped the only set of the day in their first match against Spain. After overcoming their butterflies...it's their first international beach event...they rallied behind Pesto's inspired defense to win in three. In the afternoon round they knocked off a scrappy Japan 1 to make it 7-0 for the US teams today. They will play Estonia tomorrow morning.
After the pools are completed there will be a draw based on each team's pool play results. From there they will be seeded into the double elim bracket that starts tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it will cool down a bit tomorrow.