Kim Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn did not ease their way into their international beach volleyball careers, as most would. They didn’t take a quick flight down to Puerto Rico or any of the island countries near Florida. It didn’t begin with a little one-star in Europe.
It actually began easy enough. Just a four-hour drive from Orlando to Miami. And then the real travel for the FIVB two-star in Cambodia this week began: 14 hours to Doha, 10-hour layover, seven hours to Vietnam, three-hour layover, one hour to Siem Reap and — voila! — just like that, they’ve made it!
“We’re looking at it as, if you’re committing to a single elimination tournament on the other side of the world, it elevates your confidence in your team,” Hildreth said. “Because you’ve gotta be confident to do that.”
A lot of Americans have that confidence this week. Hildreth and Schermerhorn are one of five American teams traveling to Cambodia for the two-star. Joining them on the other side of the world are Kelly Reeves and Terese Cannon, Traci Callahan and Crissy Jones, Aurora Davis and Allie Wheeler, and Lauren Fendrick and Sara Hughes.
This is the first event for Callahan and Jones, who competed with Carly Wopat and Zana Muno, respectively, in 2019. Davis and Wheeler have played one event, a NORCECA in Bonaire, which they won without dropping a match. Reeves and Cannon closed 2019 together in promising fashion, with a third in Manhattan Beach and a ninth in Hawai’i, where twice they battled with April Ross and Alix Klineman to three sets.
The team of most interest, of course, is that of Hughes and Fendrick, who are playing in their first event as a new partnership and are the only American team straight into the main draw. Their only previous event, the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Major, went well, though their ninth-place finish belies how they played. Their only losses were to Brazil’s Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes and Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Duda, and the latter came 15-17 in the third set.
So now they’re off to Cambodia, making their 2020 debut, in a last-ditch effort to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.
This Olympic Games is not the goal for Hildreth and Schermerhorn. But it’s a litmus test to see if a future Games may be possible.
“It’s five years, four years away until the next Olympics but I don’t think it’s crazy to think about starting to put ourselves into a position to think about it and see how it goes and see where it takes us by then,” Hildreth said.
Depending on how they finish, they could use the winnings from Cambodia to finance travels to a one-star in Guam, or any other potential FIVB prior to the onset of the AVP season. What matters to them, and several others in the field, is that they’re out there, on the World Tour, testing the perimeters of their potential.
“We kind of wanted to last year but we were kind of middle of the pack on the AVP and had no international points,” Schermerhorn said. “Last year we registered for a couple and didn’t hear anything back so we just took that as ‘Ok, let’s just focus on the AVP’ so that’s what we did. Now we’re in a little bit better of a position on the AVP, giving us a little room to breathe.”