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Lauren Fendrick's Report from Liechtenstein FIVB Qualifier

Sept. 10, 2008, 12:01 p.m. (ET)

B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
BJ.Evans@usav.org

Lauren Fendrick (Carlsbad, Calif.) and partner Ashley Ivy (Arlington, Texas) captured gold at the FIVB Beach Satellite Tournament held in Liechtenstein from Aug. 7-9. In the final, the Americans defeated the German pair of Claudia Lehmann and Julia Sude, 21-19, 21-16. Fendrick, 26, played collegiate volleyball at UCLA and Ivy, 27, played at Stanford. Both play on the AVP Tour.  

The following are reports filed from Liechtenstein by Fendrick during the tourney.

Aug. 6

Well, after 30 hours of trying to get to Liechtenstein, Guy, Ashley, and I arrived at our hotel at 1:30am the night before the qualifier.  We had some unforeseen traveling delays, and ended up flying Air India which flew us on the biggest, oldest plane I have ever seen (it still had ashtrays) into Frankfurt.  From Frankfurt we rented a car and drove down the beautifully green German countryside through Austria to the tiny country of Liechtenstein.  The drive was pretty easy, but we also had some help from some kind Austrians who let us follow them to the cheaper toll road. At this point we were also a little frantic because we missed the technical meeting and I had heard some horror stories about teams getting fined and cut from tournaments.  We were happily rejuvenated when we received a text from the director that we would be playing at noon the following morning.

Once we arrived in the country, we found that our hotel that looked on the map only 2 miles away from the site, turned out to be 2 miles straight up a mountain and took us an additional 20 minutes.  When we arrived at 1:30am the manager informed us that our "pre-paid" reservation somehow never got into their system and that they had sold our room.  After cussing underneath his breath and shaking his head toward the sky, the kind owner put us up in some extra space labeled "seminary" with beds and a bathroom.

We awoke to the awkward bell chimes of a church across the street that sounded like a young Quasimoto vagrant had broken into the steeple and went to town on the bell for what felt like 20 minutes.  But the view from the hotel balcony where we ate breakfast was spectacular. The town, Treisenberg, is up on a steep hill with view of the green lush river valley below and then some Swiss mountains (the Alps?) on the other side.  The air was clear, crisp mountain air and breathing just felt good.

The site is right on the river, which has this icy sky blue water running through it, making it look fake, behind a soccer stadium.  There was only one court for the entire qualification tournament (lucky for us because we got to sleep longer), but it was a nice, well-maintained court.  Our first match was against an Austrian team I recognized from the World University Beach Championship.  The first match was very close, but we won as Ashley and I found our rhythm (23-21, 21-18).  The second match we played much better, beating the Danish team pretty easily and getting into the main draw.

I also got to see and chat with Gracie Santana, who used to play AVP with Paula Roca.  We may get to stay with her in Basel, Switzerland during our week off before Egypt.  Okay, that's all for now.  We are thrilled to get to play in the main draw and look to continue to upset more teams!!!

Aug. 8

Yesterday, we played on center court all day which is right in the center of Vaduz, the capital, and right next to the city hall, Rathaus. We beat the 3rd seeded team, one of like 4 Swiss teams that are in the main draw. One of the girls had an inside out jump float that she would move around the court and that gave us a little trouble and diminished our early leads in Game 1 and Game 2.  She had what Guy calls "a wicked chick serve." But we managed to side out and win both games. We then went on to beat the 11th seeded Canadian team who upset the sixth seed. It rained during most of that match but was still warm. They had this really good smelling grill right behind the court, so I was pretty excited when we finished our matches for the day and I got to try a local brat. Wished I could've washed it down with an icy bier, but I am waiting until after the tourney on Saturday for that!

The teams left in the winners' bracket -- two German teams, a Swiss team and us -- got today off which is sort of weird; I guess it is because there are only two courts and both genders are competing. So we slept in, enjoyed breakfast on the balcony with a view of the river valley (had some kickass cheese). Then we walked around Treisenberg. There was a really cool cemetery next to the church. Had a nice view, but to be next to those every 15 minute church bells for all eternity?  No thanks.

Then we headed into Vaduz and Ashley and Guy watched Gracie's match (they lost a close one, 16-14 in the third) while I went to the physio to work out a major kink in my neck.  Ingrid, a local from a village two towns over, was an amazing PT. Not only did she work out my "blocked spots" she also was super informative about the area.  For instance, Guy and Ashley were convinced that the locals didn't have microwaves or running water. I tried to culture them and explain that these weren't folks from the middle ages and that they were at least as sophisticated as them, if not more so. Ingrid looked at me sideways when I asked her if most people had microwaves. That settled that. She also explained that the "freakin' church bells," her words not mine (okay I lied, they're mine) are from a time when people didn't wear wrist watches and the bells would tell them when to come in from the fields, or when to deliver the milk, or when to come in for brunch, etc.

We went to a local museum and walked into a church wedding... whoops. We later saw the bride being biked around the city in a rickshaw with cans tied to her and her new husband biking beside. We wanted to go visit the Prince and his family who live in a castle high above the city, but apparently you aren't allowed to disturb them. We watched a little more volley (there are a lot of teams here that were at the World University Beach Championships a couple weeks ago in Hamburg). Interesting side-note, most sponsors put their screening on the front of the bathing suit.

Next we headed back to our hotel and caught the end of Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics with "King" Arthur, hotel Kulm owner. We saw Phil, Rosie, and Mike Dodd.

Now, Ashley and Guy are already passed out, so I think it's time to sign off. Miss and love everyone at home!! Wish I could send pics!!

Aug. 11

We arrived today in Basel, Switzerland at Gracie's house and got to meet her adorable two-year-old "Little Gracie." Mama Gracie made us a lovely dinner and we were so thankful to have a home-cooked meal. Getting here, as getting anywhere has been for us, was an adventure.  But I'll spare you those boring details and try to encapsulate what winning the gold medal in Vaduz felt like, which is difficult and almost cheapens the experience, but I'll do my best. 

We faced our toughest opponent first in the day.  It was a Swiss team, both pretty tall, that had knocked me out of the Cyprus qualifier last year.  One of the girls played and looked exactly like Angela Lewis. So like Angela, she was fiery and fast. We started on her partner, the blond blocker and had moderate success, a few points here and there and we were leading by two for the whole game until the end when they pulled out a few points to win Game 1, 21-19.  Game 2, we started down 7-4 and then we switched and served the dark haired girl deep at her chest and found our golden ticket.  We ran off a couple points by "chesting" her and then pulled out Game 2. Game 3 was back and forth the whole time and at 14-14, we sided out for 15-14. Then Ashley "hubby-wifed 'em" down the middle for the match. 

Our next game was against a young German team that got the bronze at the World University Beach Championships and who also came through the qualifier here in Vaduz.  We had a pretty good strategy against them and while they were a good team, we were better and we controlled the match winning in two.  

For the finals... we had to face the German team that won the tournament last year, a dark haired girl who lived in Southern Germany, only 45 minutes from Vaduz, and a red head. They had a lot of fans, but we had some peeps too, besides Guy, cheering for USA. We had seen this team play quite a few times and went after the red head.  She passed awfully, but her partner dished out some amazing sets. We still controlled the match as they made more errors than we did. I finally got better timing on my block and our defense improved; we touched just about every ball they came with. While the score was close, we were in control of the entire match. 

I was very proud of the way Ashley and I played. We had very limited training time before the tournament and it was sort of strange to go into matches knowing nothing about our opponents and figuring out a game plan and being quick to adjust when things weren't working. It was also nice to win seeing as, while everyone was for the most part very nice and quick to congratulate us too, they seemed to enjoy seeing the USA lose. Many players were quick to point out and ask "did you see Phil and Todd lost?"... sort of grinning while they said it. And many teams played their absolute best games against us. They cut our national anthem short, but it was still great to see our flag raised above others and stand on the #1 podium. What a great way to start the trip!  

We stayed in Vaduz and enjoyed a few local brews with the other players to celebrate the victory. But when we arrived back at the hotel we received the sobering news about the Bachman's in Beijing. It's been really tough to grasp. No one deserves that to happen, but least of all the always kind and warm Bachman's. My heart aches for Wiz and her family. I just can't stop thinking about her, seeing her father getting knifed to death and mother critically wounded. I played with Wiz in college and her parents attended just about every game and our parents would often sit/cheer together. Her mom would bring special K bars and they were always so supportive and positive. This news is shocking and distressing. My thoughts and prayers are with Wiz and her family.

The timing of our trip/win has been interesting. With the Olympics just starting, we are extra proud to represent USA and have been following the results wherever we can. On our drive over here to Basel, Switzerland from Vaduz, Liechtenstein we saw a little village that had a bunch of super tall flag poles and each little cottage had different flags raised (I assumed in support of the Olympics). That was pretty cool. The scenery of the drive was breath-taking too; the highway was along a really steep mountain range whose cliffs dropped straight down into an icy blue lake with sail boats.   

Off to explore Basel and train with the Swiss.

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