When this year’s beach volleyball world championships kick off later this month, it might be surprising not to see Lauren Fendrick among those competing. But there’s a good reason she won’t be there.
The 2016 Olympian and her husband, Stanford beach volleyball coach Andrew Fuller, welcomed their first child, a girl named Willa Jaye Fendrick Fuller, on June 3. The couple announced the birth Friday night on Instagram.
The timing of the pregnancy necessitated Fendrick’s withdrawal from this year’s world championships in Hamburg, Germany, the first time in a decade she’s missed beach’s biggest biennial tournament. The 37-year-old, who competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 with Brooke Sweat, initially held out hope that she would be able to defend her 2017 world silver medal, earned with April Ross, this year in Germany.
But when it became clear that Fendrick would not deliver before her May 22 due date, she penned an email to worlds organizers asking to withdraw her request for a wildcard. The world championships begin June 28.
Hamburg holds a special place in Fendrick’s heart, since it was there that she and Sweat clinched their tickets to the Rio Games three years ago this spring. The former UCLA star, who earned a law degree from USC in 2010, made her worlds debut in Stavanger, Norway, in 2009. She has competed with increasing success at worlds ever since, tying for fifth in 2011 (Brooke Niles), 2013 (Brittany Hochevar) and 2015 (Sweat) before breaking into the top three with Ross in Vienna in 2017.
The 6-foot-1 Fendrick has taken time off while preparing for baby, but neither her heart nor her body has strayed far from the beach.
“The time off has allowed me to focus more on coaching the Stanford beach team with Andrew,” she said in an interview with worlds organizers. “It’s also been huge to be able to pick the brain of our new assistant coach, Louise Bawden, so I feel like I’ve added some tools to my coaching and playing toolbox, even though I haven’t been getting the same high-level reps in the sand.”
With the arrival of baby Willa, Fendrick has been intensely focused on both spheres of her life.
“Can’t wait to get back out there,” she captioned a shot of her playing on Instagram last month.
Best of all, the next time she hits the sand, she’ll have a new little fan cheering for her.