2018-02-16 09:10:00 CET

Swiss duo aiming high for 2018

After a promising first season, Heidrich and Vergé-Dépré want more

Joana Heidrich (left) and Anouk Vergé-Dépré finished eight in the world in their first season together Joana Heidrich (left) and Anouk Vergé-Dépré finished eight in the world in their first season together

When up-and-coming Swiss stars Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré decided to join forces by the end of the 2016 season, they knew time and patience would be two words to be frequently repeated in the upcoming months.

As one of the several new teams fighting for space in the competitive beach volleyball World Tour in a post-Olympic season, the duo ended 2017, its first year together, ranked eighth in the world, the best placement for a Swiss team since 2012.

“We had a really nice first season together, we couldn’t expect it would come out like that,” Vergé-Dépré said. “We were dangerous against every team and that’s a really good feedback for us. But we still have a lot to improve and that’s really motivating because if we are at this level now, we can be a lot better.”

One of things the 26-year-old Swiss pair wants to do differently in 2018 is starting the season stronger and that means kicking the year off with a good result in the Fort Lauderdale Major, the first five-star tournament of the year, from February 27 to March 4.

In 2017, the Europeans finished 17th in both Fort Lauderdale and the Rio four-star tournament before they found their best form and won silver in The Hague and got solid finishes in the Major Series – fourth in Gstaad, fifth in Porec and in the World Tour Finals in Hamburg and ninth in the World Championships in Vienna. And they also won the Swiss Championships.

“When the season started we were not sure about what we could do because Anouk was playing defense for the first time and that was a big change for her,” Heidrich explains. “I think she did a great job, I never thought she could do so well in the first year. She also had to change sides to play on the left and that required some adjustments.” 

After six years playing as a blocker, Vergé-Depré transitioned to the defender role in 2017After six years playing as a blocker, Vergé-Depré transitioned to the defender role in 2017

Originally a blocker, Vergé-Dépré transitioned to defense in 2017 and despite of some early struggles, her game progressed during the season, making of her a constant presence behind Heidrich’s block.

“At first I was really lost,” admits Anouk. “I got more experience from each game and also learned a lot from our coaches. The way you make decisions on defense is completely different than when you are blocking, but I’m having fun in the back.”

The evolution she experienced as a defensive player encouraged her to look at Laura Ludwig, the reigning Olympic and world champion of Germany, as a role model for the sequence of her career.

“When I watch her play I really feel like, ‘Wow, it would be really nice if one day I could have some of her skills,’” Anouk says. “I really work hard for this and I hope to improve step by step. I want to keep progressing every match and I am looking forward to see what’s possible to achieve.”

If for 2018 all the Swiss want is to keep improving, their long-term goals are more ambitious. Heidrich and Vergé-Dépré, who competed in the Rio 2016 Olympics with former partners Nadine Zumkehr and Isabelle Forrer, want to return to the Games in Tokyo 2020, this time together.

“We want to go to Tokyo, that’s for sure our dream as a team,” Joana added. “We still have to work a lot for that. It was a good start, but we need to keep learning. We are young and still can improve a lot.”

If they keep progressing in the same pace, it will be definitely in reach.

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