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2018-02-21 10:00:00 CEST

Friends reunited chase #FTLMajor medal

14 years after they first played together, Lauren Fendrick and Nicole Branagh will be back on the sand together next week

Lauren Fendrick (left) and Nicole Branagh finished 5th in China last year (Photocredit: FIVB)Lauren Fendrick (left) and Nicole Branagh finished 5th in China last year (Photocredit: FIVB)

The top-seeded female American team for the 2018 Fort Lauderdale Major won’t be together for much longer.

Partnering for the first Beach Major Series event of the beach volleyball season, veterans Lauren Fendrick and Nicole Branagh will probably not be seem in the same side of the court many other times in 2018, but they want to make the most of their period together in Florida.

Ranked eighth for the Fort Lauderdale Major, the Olympians are joining forces while Kerri Walsh-Jennings, Branagh’s regular partner, recovers from a shoulder injury.

But don’t be fooled – besides the temporary status of their partnership, they are not unfamiliar to each other, having played together in seven tournaments before. The first three came back in 2004, when Branagh was a rookie in the American AVP and Fendrick was enjoying only her second season in the national tour.

They most recently paired last November, when they finished fifth in a three-star World Tour tournament in Qinzhou, China, and their best international placement was when they finished fourth in Thailand in 2012.

“We were both rookies back then, so I think we both are better at just about every possible skill,” Fendrick, a Rio 2016 Olympian, joked about their reunion after 14 years. “We have some experience playing together in a couple of events over a couple different seasons. We’ve been so close to medaling and I know we have it in us. So the external goal for us would be to do break through this time and medal.”

The veterans have been doing their best to regain their chemistry, with Fendrick eventually heading south to Los Angeles and Branagh making her way north to the Stanford area so they can train together.

Just trying to keep the balloon off the floor. #ohnelly @nbranagh #beachvolleyball

1,264 Likes, 22 Comments - Lauren Fendrick (@laurenfendrick) on Instagram: "Just trying to keep the balloon off the floor. #ohnelly @nbranagh #beachvolleyball"

But they both know what their main assets as a team are. With Fendrick, 35, standing at 1.92m (6ft 3in) and Branagh, 39, almost there at 1.86m (6ft 2in), they will be both one of the most experienced and tallest teams competing in the #FTLMajor. And as we know, experience is always great on beach volleyball.

“We both have years of competition and training at the highest level and we both have an Olympics under our belts,” Fendrick, a silver medalist at the 2017 World Championships, added. “So I think these experiences make us a very strong, physical team. We both are good offensively and we can be very effective from the service line as well.”

The miles they have logged during their careers may come in handy in Fort Lauderdale, where players are expected to face some very specific conditions over the week.

“We both have been in high-stakes pressure situations and competed in a number of environments. I’m expecting a lot of wind in Fort Lauderdale and I think our mental toughness and experience in those types of conditions will come through for us,” Fendrick told us.

Beach Volleyball on Twitter

BeachWorldTour : @LaurenFendrick @NicoleBranagh of @USAVBeach make it to Qinzhou Quarterfinals, with 21-19, 21-12 against Cuba on Friday

Beside of the wind, Fendrick is also convinced Branagh, who finished fifth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with Elaine Youngs, and her will find an amazing atmosphere in Fort Lauderdale. Benefits of being the home team, you know.

“The Beach Major Series puts on such an incredible event! I’m so excited to play our hearts out in front of such an energetic and knowledgeable crowd,” she added.

You can watch firsthand how Fendrick and Branagh do together in the Fort Lauderdale Major on BeachStream. Click here to sign-up and get closer to the sand.

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