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Volleyball World Hamburg Elite 16: Cheng-Flint, Bukovec-Wilkerson final N. American teams left

They knew it was a gamble. Knew that scrambling flights on Monday afternoon to get into Germany late on Tuesday for the Volleyball World Hamburg Elite 16, to play a qualifier match early Wednesday, with no training and a different ball was, at the very least, a small risk.

Yet Americans Zana Muno and Lauren Fendrick have no regrets about making the last-second trip across the world.

No regrets about traveling upwards of 30 hours round trip for a total of 30 minutes of volleyball. That’s roughly how long their one and only match of Wednesday’s qualifier, a 21-16-21, 21-6 loss to Spain’s Sofia Gonzalez and Paula Soria, took to end their trip. Yet neither would change a thing about their decision to come.

“Any time I get the opportunity to step on the court with Zana I’m going to take it,” Fendrick said. “Tough conditions, not the way we wanted it to go. I love this sport. It shows you what’s lying underneath. It puts you in situations like this and we had an opportunity to perform. That pressure is a privilege and it’s not always going to go your way. It’s not always going to click but you can still have the characteristics of being a good teammate, fighting for every point. I’m just grateful underneath it all just for what this sport’s taught me. I don’t like leaving the court like that but it’s a privilege. That’s what it comes down to.

“I’m stoked we got the opportunity. I’d do it again.”

When their next international opportunity will be, neither really knows. Both are playing in next weekend’s AVP Manhattan Beach Open, albeit with different partners: Muno will be playing her final event with Canadian Brandie Wilkerson, and Fendrick will play her second consecutive AVP alongside Hailey Harward, the AVP Fort Lauderdale champ with whom she finished 13th in the AVP Atlanta Gold Series Open.

“I think we knew that it was a little bit of a gamble to come,” Muno said. “We knew we had just come off a long tournament and we had a crazy travel day to get here and have to play the next day. We knew going into it that it was going to be tough but we did well the last time we played together. Unfortunately, I think without the external factors — and maybe fatigue and nerves and whatever it was — we didn’t put our best foot forward but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m proud that we came and proud of our efforts to come all this way.”

For the Americans, then, just one team remains: Olympian Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint, who begin pool play against Brazilians Talita Antunes and Rebecca Cavalcanti at 8 a.m. local time on Thursday, or 11 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday.

Cheng and Flint represent half of the teams remaining for the entire continent of North America. They are in Pool B alongside former world No. 1 Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon, and German qualifiers Chantal Labourer and Sarah Schultz. The only other Canadian or American duo is Olympians Wilkerson and Sophie Bukovec, who are playing their first event in a month, after a silver medal at the World Championships and a fifth place at the Gstaad Elite 16. Wilkerson and Bukovec are the top seed of Pool D, which also includes Sandra Ittlinger and Isabel Schneider, Italians Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi, and Swiss qualifiers Zoe Verge-Depre and Esmee Bobner.

Canadian men Sam Schachter and Sam Dearing, after winning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, fell in the final round of the qualifier to the Netherlands’ Stefan Boermans and Matthew Immers, 25-27, 19-21.

“I wouldn’t blame it on the jet lag. It was our physical performance,” Muno said. “I felt good this morning and it’s a beautiful venue, a beautiful place and I was excited but things don’t click sometimes.

“Any chance you get to play is an opportunity and to see the world is an amazing, beautiful thing I’m grateful for. I wouldn’t change it.”

Watch the Hamburg Elite 16 at Volleyball TV

Zana Muno attacks as Lauren Fendrick looks on in the Volleyball World Hamburg qualifier/Volleyball World photo