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Rising Stars – Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré

 
Lausanne, Switzerland, November 20, 2016 - The 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour will launch in a superlative way from February 7 to 12 with the first of six events on the FIVB Swatch Major Series portion of the tour. Action returns with the eagerly-anticipated return to Florida and the Fort Lauderdale Major.

But for two of beach volleyball’s rising stars, the start of the 2017 season in the glamorous surroundings of the east Florida coast will be completely different.


Anouk Vergé-Dépré (left) and Isabelle Forrer at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

In September, as the curtain came down on a brilliant season, Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré had plenty to smile about. Not only did both players savour the unique experience of playing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but they also left the Swatch FIVB World Tour finals with a medal each, further enhancing their own and Switzerland’s growing reputation in beach volleyball.

For Heidrich, she and partner Nadine Zumkehr scooped silver in Toronto, while Vergé-Dépré – with teammate Isabelle Forrer – secured bronze.

However, for both teams, their appearances and smiles on the sand at a packed Polson Pier would be the last time they would appear on the FIVB Centre Court together. After the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals, both Forrer, 34, and 31-year-old Zumkehr announced their retirement from beach volleyball, leaving Heidrich and Vergé-Dépré on the hunt for new partners.

Their solution was simple: the rising stars from Swiss beach volleyball announced they would join forces.

“Joana and I met to discuss our goals and opinions and we then talked to our coaches to make sure there is a vision for us as a team,” Vergé-Dépré explained recently. “I’ve trained a lot against Joana over the past four years and we know each other well as opponents. We both had the tendency to play with each other.”

“I was never afraid that I wouldn’t find a new partner,” adds Heidrich, who turned 25 in October. “After Nadine officially announced that she would stop it wasn’t an easy decision but not a hard one either. Me and Anouk have trained a lot together before and we know each other’s game. I think Anouk is a very complete player and she is very ambitious.”

With both players building sparkling reputations as brilliant blockers at the net, eyebrows were raised when the news broke that Heidrich and Vergé-Dépré announced their new, sandy constellation.


Joana Heidrich in action at the net

But that’s no problem for Vergé-Dépré. The 24-year-old will drop to the back of the court and play defense to leave Heidrich prowling at the net.

“I am really motivated to learn defense. In the last few years I’ve learned a lot as a blocker and I think it can still help us to both block when the weather is really hot for example,” said Vergé-Dépré on her new role on the sand. “For me it’s a very interesting challenge to learn defense. It will change my view of the game. Of course it will take some time and it will need hard work, but no pain, no gain, right?”

Both players, coincidentally, have played in 63 FIVB international tournaments each, winning a total of 13 medals between them.

And despite their tender years in beach volleyball terms (the average age of women at the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals was 29.5) the pair have experience by the bucket-load.

“I’m not worried that we’re a young team,” said Vergé-Dépré confidently. “I think we’re ready for that. We are both young players but also with some years of experience on the FIVB World Tour. I learned to understand myself better and to take responsibility on the court in the last few years with Isabelle. I think it will push us to even more self-control and progress.”

“The Olympics was an incredible experience and I learned a lot,” added Heidrich. “It will really help me in the future. Yes, we are young but we both already have the experience and both played at the Olympics so that will really help us.”

Next season will not be the first time that the duo has appeared on the same side of the sand. Heidrich/Vergé-Dépré won the Under-18 Swiss Championship in 2007.

“The big strength of Joana is that she will always go the extra mile if she knows it will bring success,” said Vergé-Dépré. “She will do everything to progress. She’s tall and athletic and I look forward to having her in front of me. Of course we still have to find out what we need as a team but I’m positive we can help each other become better players.”

The plan for the new team is obviously success. “The long-term goal is to get a medal at the Olympics,” said Vergé-Dépré. “But that’s a long road and for now we just want to take it step-by-step.”

Quick links - Beach Volleyball:
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 2016
Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Beach Volleyball
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Little by little, every match as it comes…these are well-used clichés that seasoned pros use, yet these ambitious rising stars have young heads on experienced shoulders.

Read more on swatchmajorseries.com: Anouk and Joana – The new team on the block

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