Los Angeles, Calif.- One has to wonder if 2008 European tour champions Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig will be performing the “haka” in 2009 as the Germans will have a coach from New Zealand for the upcoming season on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour.
Known by some as the LG girls for “looking good on the sand,” Ludwig and Goller secured the coaching services of Craig Seuseu last November after the former Kiwi Beach Volleyball player had coached New Zealanders Jason Lochhead and Kirk Pitman the past five seasons.
Lochhead and Pitman introduced the "haka," a traditional dance form of the Maori of New Zealand, last August on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour when the New Zealanders performed the ritual at international Beach Volleyball stops in Austria and Norway where the Kiwis netted “final four” berths in Klagenfurt and Kristiansand, respectively.
“We don’t know about performing the haka,” said the 23-year-old Ludwig, who will be beginning her fifth season of the SWATCH FIVB World Tour with the soon-to-be 25-year-old Goller. “We have been with Craig since November and he brings a lot of new ideas, energy and motivation. He worked us hard during the winter.”
After spending November, December, January and February in Germany practicing at indoor beach centers in Hamburg, Goller, Ludwig and Seuseu trained in March with teams from Austria, Germany and Greece at Fuerteventura, a Spanish island off the coast of Africa in the Canary Islands.
Goller, Ludwig and Seuseu are now in the Americas training in the Los Angeles-area with teams from the United States, including Nicole Branagh/Elaine Youngs, Jen Kessy/April Ross and Angie Akers/Tyra Turner. The Germans and their new coach will continue their travels in the Americas early next week when Goller and Ludwig compete in the season opening SWATCH FIVB World Tour event in Brazil at a new site in Brasilia.
“We are still together because it has worked well in the past and we had no reason to stop playing,” said Ludwig, who teamed with Goller to place ninth at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games where they split four matches. “Since the beginning, we had tough competition in Germany and started to play a lot of matches as we always had to play in the Country Quota playoffs in the beginning. At the start, we were very inexperienced and had to play a lot of matches just to reach a Main Draw. This really helped us to improve.”
Since the start of the women's SWATCH FIVB World Tour in 1992, Germany has produced several top-ranked and successful Beach volleyball teams. The German women have claimed only one gold medal, 14 podium placements and 27 "final four" finishes in 186 SWATCH events to rank fifth among all countries.
“The women’s teams from Germany have had success on the FIVB tour, but we have not compiled the numbers like the Brazilians (257 medals, 317 “final four” finishes), Americans (181, 228), Chinese (50, 63) and Australians (32, 51),” Ludwig noted. “The German women have had very good success on the European tour, but not like Brazil and the United States since the start of the tour, and not like the Chinese for the past six years. All the European teams would like to change that, but it is difficult because those countries have an abundance of great players.”
With Norway hosting the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships presented by ConocoPhillips at the end of June in Stavanger, Ludwig and Goller are looking to improve their finishes at the past two world championships where the German girls placed 17th both times at Berlin (2005) and Gstaad, Switzerland (2007)?
“We will try to play our best Beach Volleyball and try to get a better place then the years before,” Ludwig noted. “Brazil, China and the USA will have strong teams again. All the countries are now fielding better teams, so we underestimating nobody.”
Ludwig and Goller, who spent the off-season with their boyfriends and enjoying life by participating in sports other than Beach Volleyball, have competed in 41 FIVB events together since 2005. The pair placed third in a FIVB Challenger/Satellite events in Switzerland before reaching three SWATCH “final fours” in 2007 where the Germans claimed a silver podium placement in Portugal, a bronze medal in Austria and a fourth-place finish in Stavanger.
For their 41 FIVB events, Ludwig and Goller have posted a 104-72 match record, including 24-18 in 2008. At the start of the Ludwig/Goller partnership, the Germans were only the fifth-ranked from Germany on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour in 2005 (46th overall) and 2006 (39th).
Things were much differently in 2007 as Ludwig and Goller became the top German women’s team on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour while finishing as the No. 2-ranked European team on the international behind Greek Vickys (Vassiliki Arvaniti and Vasso Karadassiou). With a 45-26 match mark, Ludwig and Goller was the seventh-best SWATCH tandem despite having to play through country quota and qualifying rounds.
Despite dropping back to the fifth-ranked German team on the 2008 FIVB circuit, Ludwig and Goller flourished on the European tour by winning three gold medals, including the continental championships. Ludwig and Goller compiled a 31-3 continental mark in 2008 by winning events in Spain, Germany and Russia. The previous three seasons on the European circuit, Ludwig and Goller had never reached the top of the podium in six events despite a 23-9 match mark.
As one of seven German women’s teams to win SWATCH medals since 1992, Ludwig and Goller are seeking to “do our best. The competition gets stronger and stronger each year. In addition to playing well at FIVB events, we are eager to defend our European title,” said Ludwig. “We love everything about Beach Volleyball. We enjoy the environment and association with all the great Beach Volleyball players in the world.”
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt