Porec, Croatia, June 27, 2017 - It has been a good five-day period for German indoor sensation Margareta “Maggie” Kozuch starting with her confirmation last week with Karla Borger to fill one of three women’s wild card berths at next month’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Vienna.
Sunday, the 30-year Kozuch also received a telephone call to play with Laura Ludwig when her Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal partner Kira Walkenhorst had to withdraw from the $600,000 Porec Major due to right shoulder problems. It has been an injury-filled season for Ludwig and Walkenhorst as Ludwig missed the opening event of the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in the United States and only returned to competitive action in May after having right shoulder surgery in mid-May.
To make the situation easier for the 31-year old Ludwig, Kozuch was already planning to travel to the Croatian seaside resort with Borger to “scout” the competition for the FIVB World Championships along with training with other international players, including three-time Olympic and world champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and her new partner Nicole Branagh.
“It has been a frustrating season in some respects due to learning the beach game along with the issue of gaining entry for events as a fifth or sixth German team” said Kozuch, who was named her country’s top indoor player for five seasons (2010-2014). “But the past five days has been wonderful starting with the wild card for the World Championships and having the opportunity to play with one of the great beach volleyball players in the history of the game in Porec.”
A member of the German national volleyball team for 11 seasons (2005-2015), Kozuch switched to beach volleyball for the 2017 season and made her FIVB World Tour debut in mid-February when she and Borger placed 17th at the Fort Lauderdale Major in the United States.
Margareta Kozuch in interview at a 2015 FIVB Grand Prix event
The new pairing improved their ranking with a ninth at the end of April in China (Xiamen) followed by a fifth in Moscow where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals in three sets by Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat, the top American team on the FIVB World Tour.
Moscow excitement for Karla Borger (left) and Margareta Kozuch
Kozuch and Ludwig will begin competing in the Porec Major Wednesday with 31 other teams, including eight that qualified here Tuesday for the money rounds in the FIVB World Tour event that returns to the Croatia resort for the third straight season. Ludwig placed fourth with Walkenhorst in the 2016 Porec Major after losing the all-German bronze medal match to Borger and Britta Buthe.
“I really don’t know what to expect since Laura and I have not really had real hard training sessions together,” said Kozuch. “I know that she is a great defensive player and I hope I can fill in adequately for Kira. They had a tremendous season last season with several gold medals and an Olympic championship together.”
Ludwig and the 26-year old Walkenhorst captured seven gold medals last season in 13 FIVB World Tour events together highlighted by the Copacabana Olympic success and topping the podium at the 2016 Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto where the pair captured the $100,000 first-place prize.
After posting a 69-10 match mark last season, Ludwig and Walkenhorst’s season this year has been less than what was hoped for. Walkenhorst placed 17th in the Fort Lauderdale Major before reuniting with Ludwig in May as the pair finished fifth, ninth and ninth in three international events in Brazil, Russia and the Netherlands, respectively.