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April Ross, Lauren Fendrick, after world silver, look to the future

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VIENNA — Lauren Fendrick stood to the left of partner April Ross at a post-match press conference at the world beach volleyball championships.

Fendrick suddenly asked to switch sides, realizing it would put a temporary tattoo of a sponsor’s logo on her right shoulder in view of the cameras. Flipping places also put Ross’ sponsors in a better position for exposure.

“Everything is clicking for us, both on and off the sand,” Fendrick said.

Fendrick and Ross earned the silver medal in Saturday’s final, falling to Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in three sets.

The U.S. pair is less than three months into their partnership.

“I have always felt we had this potential,” Ross said. “I am kind of surprised at how much better we got with every single match, but where we got to, I knew we could get to.”

It was the first international medal of any color for Fendrick, 35, who bowed out of the Rio Olympic group stage with Brooke Sweat.

Ross, also 35, won the 2009 World title with Jen Kessy, as well as the 2012 Olympic silver medal with Kessy and the 2016 Olympic bronze medal with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

“This shows you what kind of leader April is,” said 2000 Olympic champion Dain Blanton, who was in Vienna as a TV analyst. “April went from a secondary role, playing with Kerri Walsh, to assuming a role that whoever she plays with, they bring their game up. April helped Lauren get to another level.”

Fendrick and Ross first met in high school, when they competed for rival club teams. The rivalry continued in college, with Fendrick playing indoor volleyball for UCLA and Ross representing USC.

They occasionally played together in the past, most notably finishing fifth at the 2015 World Tour Finals, but only debuted as full-time partners in June.

Fendrick received a call from Ross, who had recently split with Walsh Jennings, while attending the Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Championships in Tucson, Ariz. in late April.

“It was surprising for sure,” Fendrick said. “April is one of the best players in the world.”

Ross picked Fendrick because of her work ethic and blocking ability. No player has more career blocks at the world championships than the 6-foot-1 Fendrick, who is nicknamed “The Long Arm of the Law” because she earned her law degree from USC.

“Nobody knows just how good of blocker she is better than I do,” Ross said. “I’ve seen it from both sides of the net.”

The mid-season partnership change required patience. They finished no better than ninth in their first three international tournaments, as Fendrick had to adjust to playing on the right side for the first time. Even their high-five routine required coordination.

“The more we play, the more we are meshing and finding our rhythm,” Ross said. “The chemistry has a lot to do with our long-term relationship and getting along so well.”

The pair will play in two upcoming domestic AVP tournaments. They are also hoping for a wild-card invitation to the World Tour Finals in Hamburg beginning Aug. 22.

They will then reevaluate their partnership at the end of the season.

“We are really good together, but we have to see what the future holds,” Ross said.

Ross’ main goal is making her third Olympic team in 2020.

“If I make that,” she said, “I can’t imagine not going for 2024.”

Ross was hoping Los Angeles would host the Olympics in 2024, when she will be 42. She grew up in Costa Mesa, Calif., and serves on the Athletes’ Advisory Commission for the Los Angeles bid committee.

But now it is expected that Paris will host the 2024 Games, while Los Angeles will wait until 2028.  Beach volleyball will be played near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, while Santa Monica Beach, which is considered the birthplace of sport, will be the setting in Los Angeles.

“I’ve had to change my mindset about it,” Ross said. “At first I was disappointed, because I wanted to play in Los Angeles [in 2024]. Now I realize I can still be involved in other ways.”

Ross expressed an interest in a future in broadcasting. She filmed a video interview with IOC President Thomas Bach and FIVB President Ary Graca in Vienna, and recently taught NBA players Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell how to play beach volleyball in a video for Gatorade.

“I love journalism,” she said. “It felt natural.”

She would also be open to other opportunities to help grow the sport, as well as make the experience better for the competitors.

“Beach volleyball is going to be epic in Santa Monica,” Ross said. “It’s going to be the place to be in 2028.”

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April Ross, Lauren Fendrick take surprise silver at beach volleyball worlds

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Fewer than three months into their partnership, April Ross and Lauren Fendrick nearly scaled to the top of their sport.

Ross, the two-time Olympic medalist, and Fendrick, a Rio Olympian herself, took home silver from the world beach volleyball championships in Vienna on Saturday.

The Americans fell 19-21, 21-13, 15-9 in the final to German Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.

Few expected the 35-year-olds to get that far, becoming the first U.S. men or women to earn world medals since Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor‘s silver in 2011.

Ross, after her split from triple Olympic champion Walsh Jennings, teamed up with Fendrick in the spring.

Ross has one of the top résumés in the sport — 2009 World gold and 2012 Olympic silver with Jennifer Kessy and 2016 Olympic bronze with Walsh Jennings.

But Fendrick came to Austria having never made a top-level international tournament final in 97 appearances dating to her 2008 debut, according to Bvbinfo.com.

In Vienna, Ross and Fendrick swept through their pool — dropping one set across three matches — and toughed out bracket play, needing the full three sets in the round of 32, round of 16 and the semifinals to meet the German champions.

Later on Saturday, the last remaining U.S. men’s team, Beijing Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, was eliminated by Russia’s Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Nikita Liamin in the quarterfinals.

The men’s semifinals and final will be played on Sunday. None of the teams from the Rio Olympic quarterfinals are still alive.

The U.S. was without its biggest star in Vienna. Walsh Jennings, 38, is missing worlds after dislocating her five-times surgically repaired right shoulder in a match with new partner Nicole Branagh two weeks ago.

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U.S. women into gold-medal match at beach volleyball worlds

Lauren Fendrick
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April Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Lauren Fendrick will play for gold at the world beach volleyball championships, less than three months into their new partnership.

The Americans rallied past Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 19-21, 21-16, 15-11 in Friday’s semifinals in Vienna.

Ross and Fendrick, who paired after Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings split three months ago, will play Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in Saturday’s final.

The last U.S. women’s pair to earn a world medal was Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, who took silver in 2011. Walsh Jennings, 38, is missing worlds after dislocating her five-times surgically repaired right shoulder in a match with new partner Nicole Branagh two weeks ago.

Ross won the 2009 World title and 2012 Olympic silver with former partner Jennifer Kessy and 2016 Olympic bronze with Walsh Jennings.

Beijing Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena lead the men’s teams in Saturday’s quarterfinals. In fact, they are the only team from the Rio Olympic quarterfinals still alive.

Dalhausser and former partner Todd Rogers were the last U.S. men to earn world medals — bronze in 2009 and gold in 2007.

Reigning Olympic and world champions Alison and Bruno were upset by Canadians Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk in the round of 16. That matched the Brazilians’ worst finish since June 2015.

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