SOFIA, Bulgaria — Sarah Schermerhorn and traveling mom Aurora Davis have been on the road, from Bulgaria to Sochi and back to Bulgaria again, for more than three weeks. Yet in all that time, before this past weekend, they’d played only three matches.
In their first competition, the Bulgaria one-star May 20-23, they were upset in the final round of the qualifier by the Netherlands’ Annemieke Driessen and Iris Reinders. In Sochi the following weekend, they lost in the first round of the country quota to Allie Wheeler and Corinne Quiggle.
Then it was back to Bulgaria, back to training, and, this past weekend, back to finally competing. Davis and Schermerhorn, alongside Adam Roberts and Travis Mewhirter, Canadians Will Hoey and Jake MacNeil, Amanda Harnett and Alina Dormann, and a pair of teams from Brazil, received foreign wild cards into the event.
All of us made good on it.
Davis and Schermerhorn won gold at Sofia Beach, beating Brazil in the finals, 15-13 in the third. It marked Schermerhorn’s first international gold — she and Kim Hildreth took silver in Guam in 2020 — and Davis’ second. She has previously won events in Thailand and Bonaire.
“Our finals match was really tight and to be able to work through the nerves was really good,” said Davis, who had her third child only nine months ago and brought all three on the road with her. “We’re still a new partnership so it’s been really good to get more reps.”
That was the main goal of the tournament: Reps. Winning is wonderful, yes, as is this 1,000 euros and gold medal that came with it. But for Davis and Schermerhorn, who were playing in just their third tournament together, reps were equally as much the goal as winning.
“It was really nice to work through some kinks,” Schermerhorn said. “We definitely had some moments where I was like ‘What is going on?’ There’s something about tournament situations, game-like situations you can’t necessarily replicate with normal reps. It was really nice we had that, it was really nice we were able to get into this tournament and play it.”
In a single day on Sunday, they played as many matches as they had in the previous three weeks combined, building momentum into this week’s upcoming FIVB one-star, which will also be held at Sofia Beach.
“We’re just really grateful to have those reps together,” Schermerhorn said. “That’s always good for a partnership, just building that trust in each other, being able to step onto the court and being like ‘OK, I know a little bit about what to expect out of my partner, what I can bring to the table, what she can bring to the table.’”
At the moment, what Americans are bringing to the table at Sofia Beach are medals. At the first one-star in late May, Quiggle and Wheeler won gold, their first win as a team. At the Sofia Beach Open, Davis and Schermerhorn also claimed gold, while Mewhirter and Roberts took silver, losing in the finals to Serbia’s DJ Klasnic and Bulgaria’s Branimir Grozdanov.
Klasnic’s name you may recognize. For six months this previous summer, he lived in Florida, finding tremendous success all over the Sunshine State. He won tournaments with Ricardo Santos, Brad Connors and, primarily Andy Benesh.
Now he’s back to Serbia, competing on the World Tour and in Continental Cups for his home federation. Grozdanov, meanwhile, is one of the best indoor players in Bulgaria, and has competed in leagues in Italy, Dubai, and Qatar, among others.
“Such a great feeling to play some good volleyball against some of my friends and local and international teams from Bulgaria, the U.S., Canada, and Brazil,” Klasnic said. “Looking forward to some possible FIVB action next week.”