The Hague, The Netherlands, June 15, 2017 - It had been a “slow” start to the season for the new partnership of Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre after the Swiss had posted a pair of 17ths in their first two FIVB World Tour events in 2017.
But after winning two matches here Thursday in “modified” pool play action at the US$150,000 Dela Beach Open at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark, the “new” partnership for the 17th-seeded pair has started to pay dividends for Switzerland starting with a two-set win over co-No. 1 ranked team on the FIVB World Tour - Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil.
After opening Thursday’s play with a morning win over 16th-seeded Valentyna Davidova/Ievgeniia Shchypkova of the Ukraine 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) in a 32-minute Pool A match, Heidrich and Verge-Depre scored a 2-0 (23-21, 21-17) victory in 39 minutes over the top-seeded Talita and Larissa.
Larissa Franca (left) follows the action by Brazilian partner Talita Antunes.
With the victory over Talita and Larissa, Heidrich and Verge-Depre captured the group title and secured a first-round “bye” when elimination play starts Friday at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark where the men completed their first of two rounds of “modified” poll play Thursday.
The back-to-back wins marked the first-time the pair had accomplished the feat together as Heidrich earned a little revenge against the Brazilians, who had defeated the Swiss player four-straight times on the FIVB World Tour with Nadine Zumkehr.
Two of the setbacks to Talita and Larissa were “heart-breaking” for Heidrich and Zumkehr as the Swiss tandem dropped a 2-1 (21-23, 27-25, 15-13) decision in 68 minutes to the Brazilians in the August 14 quarter-finals at the Rio Olympic Games on Copacabana. Earlier in the 2016 season, Talita and Larissa posted a 2-1 (17-21, 21-12, 15-11) pool play win in 48 minutes over Heidrich and Zumkehr in the Rio Grand Slam in March.
Nadine Zumkehr (left) and Joana Heidrich after their quarter-final setback to Talita and Larissa at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“My last game at the Olympics was against them. a really bad loss for me,” said the 25-year old Heidrich, who was named the FIVB World Tour’s most improved player following the 2016 season. “I am really happy we beat them. As a new team, we are on the right path. But, we still have a lot to improve.”
Verge-Depre, who had split two matches with Talita and Larissa with her former partner Isabelle Forrer, said the win felt “really good. We served well. It put them under a lot of pressure in the reception and passing. I think that was a big, big point for us. We also got most of the breaks and we kept on going and fought for every ball.
When asked about her energy and screaming on the court, Heidrich said “it helps me. I know sometimes I struggle with it, because I want to win all the time. But I think I found a way to push and stay calm when something is not working. I just focus on the next ball.”
In talking about their new partnership and posting their best finish to date, Verge-Depre said that she and Heidrich are “very happy. We are just trying to improve as a team, find each other as a team and put our strength together.”
With the match being playing indoors at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark, Verge-Depre said it was “to our advantage, because we also train in the indoor hall in Bern. For them, it was probably the first-time.”
Despite the setback, Talita and Larissa are still in contention for the medal rounds and the $10,000 first-place prize. The Dela Beach Open is the 31st FIVB World Tour event for Talita/Larissa partnership as three of the Brazilians 15 gold medals have come after losing a pool play match earlier in the competition.
Thursday was not a good day for the No.1-ranked teams on the FIVB World Tour as fourth-seeded Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa dropped a 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) Pool D decision in 34 minutes to 20th-seeded qualifiers Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar of the United States.
As a new team on the FIVB World Tour this season, Agatha and Duda has won medals at their first three events this season and the Brazilians had defeated Day and Hochevar in a pool play match in mid-February at the Fort Lauderdale Major in the United States and two weeks ago in an elimination match in Moscow.
Emily Day (right) with a Mikasa reception as American partner Brittany Hochevar follows the action.