The champagne-soaked, sand-caked celebration was joyous – and cathartic.
After three years together, Southwest Florida’s
If so, they made the most of it.
“It’s the perfect way to end such a crazy season,” said Sweat, a
The win, coming just weeks after a dispiriting showing in the Olympics in Brazil, drew praise from, among others, American star
“Congrats (Lauren and Brooke),” read a Tweet from Walsh Jennings, whose own absence from the event in protest of an experiment in rules changes without meaningful player input brought some notoriety to the season finale on American soil.
“It is A VERY BIG DEAL for me to choose to miss an event,” Walsh Jennings wrote in a Facebook post last week. “One of my biggest priorities is to grow our sport domestically.
“In my opinion, (the minimal player input) is utterly disrespectful of each and every athlete who virtually pays to work for the sport we all love and it is utterly disrespectful to the game itself.”
Sweat and Fendrick, who had each won on the AVP with different partners but never together, ended up playing through the heart of the rules experiment in exciting but lengthy fashion in Sunday’s final.
Once the match reached match point, it switched from rally scoring – which awards a point on every serve regardless of who is serving, a format now universal in the sport – to volleyball’s once-traditional scoring format, in which points are awarded only on one’s own serve.
Sweat and Fendrick, seeded fourth, beat No. 9 Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen, 14-21, 21-10, 19-17. The match lasted one hour and eight minutes, but it seesawed in scoring and momentum more extensively than in rally scoring once it reached match point.
“I think I heard there were 31 extra serves from match point on,” said Fendrick, who like Sweat declined to share an opinion on the rules experiment or Walsh Jennings’ boycott, other than to note “it seemed like it was really exciting for the crowd.”
“It was intense, mentally,” she said. “You had to refocus on each ball, but that’s kind of what we do anyway. It didn’t feel fatiguing. It was just what we had to do. We were so focused and just trying to work through it together. There were so many wild plays that could have ended the match for both sides. Both teams came up big in both moments.”
“I respect both sides of that argument,” Sweat said of the rules standoff. “From the fans’ standpoint I don’t know if that makes it more exciting or less exciting. I don’t really know how I feel about it.”
The added labor did seem almost fitting, though, for the champions given the grind they’ve endured. That included Sweat playing through a torn rotator cuff and searing pain for three international events in 2015 as the pair accrued points to qualify for the Olympics.
“We really did just kind of keep our heads down, working hard and grinding,” Fendrick said. “We stuck together. We fought. It just feels really good to go out on a win.”
The duo on Tuesday picked up one more variable for its uncertain future. Their coach,
Fendrick, 34, and Fuller, already have talked of having a child next year, while Sweat, 30, who has lived across the country from her home and husband, Nick Sweat, since 2012, is potentially facing surgery to repair her torn rotator cuff.
“There’s definitely going to be some change,” Fendrick said. “I’m still not sure what (Fuller’s job) means for me exactly other than at least a partial move. Brooke’s shown that you can definitely compete at a high level when you’re away from family.”
“I think we’re both looking forward to a break,” said Sweat, who said she wants to play more AVP events next season. “We both have decisions we have to make, personal decisions, moving forward. But I think we showed ourselves that we can be a really good volleyball team. If we want to pursue that we’ve got to be on the same page moving forward.”