2017-09-25 10:00:00 CET

Debut season success for Anouk & Jo

The sky’s the limit for Swiss sensations Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Joana Heidrich after a positive first season on the sand together

Swiss eyes watch on as Anouk and Jo compete on home sand in GstaadSwiss eyes watch on as Anouk and Jo compete on home sand in Gstaad

Every new relationship can be a real rollercoaster – and that’s exactly what the first season on the sand together was like for Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Joana Heidrich.

The two Swiss 25-year-olds joined forces before the Fort Lauderdale Major following the retirement of their experienced teammates Isabelle Forrer and Nadine Zumkehr.

After a slow start the pair picked up their form, winning their first medal together in The Hague before going onto a secure a host of top 10 finishes – including a fifth place in the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone.

“It’s been a lot of fun because at the start of the season we never really knew for sure what we could be capable of,” Joana, who ended the season in eighth place in the World Rankings, told us. “We’ve had a lot of new things to learn, especially Anouk now playing defense for the first time.

“But when you’ve made to the Finals in Hamburg you know you’ve had a good season, so we’re really happy with that and also knowing there’s a lot of improvement in us to get better – and that’s a really good feeling. The winter is going to be important for us and I think other teams will have to watch out for us next season.”

The new position at the back of the court has been a challenge explains Anouk, but she is confident that she can take what she has learned in 2017 and put it to good use next season.

“It’s like anything in life, you learn through experience,” she says. “But I have had a lot of fun at the back. I look at players like Laura Ludwig and think ‘wow’. One day I’d like to have these kind of skills and as long as I continue to work hard and take every step as it comes then why not.”

Anouk and Jo celebrate winning a big point against Elize Maia and Taiana Lima in the quarterfinals in GstaadAnouk and Jo celebrate winning a big point against Elize Maia and Taiana Lima in the quarterfinals in Gstaad

With an appearance at the 2016 Olympics already behind them, the focus for both is Tokyo 2020.

And, with age on their side, both Anouk and Joana are looking forward to improving their on and off court relationship in a bid to qualify for a place in Japan in three years’ time.

“We still need to get to know each other better on the court,” admits Heidrich. “When it’s crunch time, when the heat is on and when it’s not working so well we need to know how act with each other.

“Sometimes our passing and setting is not good enough and we can certainly do better.

“Of course Anouk she is still getting used to playing on the left so setting on a different side of the court but what she has done in her first year in defense has been great. I don’t think I could have done that in my first year. The amazing thing is, she is still learning and so am I so the sky’s the limit.”

After a season that saw them miss out on a bronze medal on home sand in heartbreaking fashion at the Gstaad Major, Anouk also believes that the off-season will be crucial to their chances of success in 2018.

“It’s exciting to think what is possible,” she says. “We’re two young girls who have a long-term plan and long-term ambition. We’ll take the time in winter to work on our technique and improve our skills and try and put that into practice on the court.

“We’re lucky to have a great support staff and training center where we can train.

“But we can look back on a positive first season together knowing we have been able to beat some of the top, top teams so we are both looking forward to the next step of the journey.”

You can watch every game that Anouk and Joana played in the 2017 Swatch Major Series and at the World Championships by subscribing to BeachStream. Click here to log in or subscribe – it’s free!

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