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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