Pro beach volleyball returns this week with the start of the three-week AVP Champions Cup Series in Long Beach (July 17-19, July 24-26, July 31-August 2). This is part of a series profiling new teams for 2020.
When 2020 began, Emily Day was optimistic. She and long-time partner Betsi Flint were the top earners on the AVP Tour in 2019, winning the Hermosa Beach stop and making finals in Seattle and Chicago.
Then the pandemic struck, and Day and her fellow professional beach volleyball players could only watch as tournament after tournament was postponed or canceled.
It was a perfect year for a beach volleyball player to have a baby, and partner Flint and husband Chase announced Tuesday that they are expecting in January.
That left Day without a partner for the AVP Champions Cup. Flint had not yet made her pregnancy public, So Day merely told prospective partners that Flint was injured.
There are two schools of thought when selecting a partner: first, to simply find the best athlete available, or second, to find the partner with which you have the most chemistry.
Day went for the best athlete and chose 2016 Olympian Lauren Fendrick, named the AVP’s best blocker in 2014, 2016, and 2017.
“Being Lauren’s competitor for many years I have witnessed her blocking skills, and I think that she is a very smart blocker, and can be very deceptive up there at the net,” Day said. “So I’m very excited that she’s on my team this time blocking everybody else.“
Day has traditionally been a blocker as well, although she split block with Summer Ross in 2013-14, so she’s no stranger to defending.
“I haven’t played defense in a long time. I have three, going on four weeks of practice back there, so I’m getting more comfortable,” Day said. “The challenge will be reading correctly as a defender, and it’s been helpful to get reps for the past few weeks.“
Day and Fendrick played together in FIVB Gstaad 2018, finishing 25th, so they already have some familiarity with each other.
Distance could have been a problem. Fendrick lives in Los Altos with husband and Stanford beach volleyball coach Andrew Fuller. But Fendrick has been spending time with her parents in Carlsbad.
“We were able to start practicing on the 21st of June, Lauren’s been able to drive up to Huntington to practice, so that hasn’t been an issue,” Day said. “We’ve been able to practice three to four days a week.”
Day is happy to compete, but without fans it means the popular Em’s Entourage won’t be in the stands.
“I’m so thankful that I’m able to play. It’s three tournaments where we can make money, I’m at home, and for me it’s a great opportunity. I’m so glad that there’s something for us to be able to play in.”
Read our other new AVP Champions Cup Partnerships features:
- Avery Drost moves to defense behind Ryan Doherty
- Marciniak, Rodriguez revive 2017 partnership
- Loomis finds his fountain of youth in 18-year-old Miles Partain
- Wheeler, Quiggle, longtime friends and opponents, on same side of the net
- Callahan, Jones, both 6-foot-2, ready for AVP debut
- Fiery Turner, calm Hogan enjoying AVP partnership
- Tiegs excited to partner with Wopat for AVP Champions Cup
- Muno, recovered from coronavirus, and Dowdy working hard