Lausanne, Switzerland, September 8, 2020 – If Laura Ludwig and Margareta ‘Maggie’ Kozuch wanted to lay down a marker of their potential as a team they did so in fine style at the Rome 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals.
They were able to pick up that form when the German Beach Volleyball Tour re-launched in July and while they were unable to go all the way at the Tour finals on Timmendorfer Beach, they did leave with silver following a 2-1 (19-21, 21-16, 15-9) defeat to Sandra Ittlinger and Chantal Laboureur to show that they will be a competitive pair in the upcoming European Championships.Also read: Thole/Wickler, Ittlinger/Laboureur clinch 2020 German Championship titles
Their coming together as a team at the start of 2019 brought together two of the biggest names in German volleyball and beach volleyball.
The 34-year-old Ludwig is half of the team that won gold at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, and the Vienna 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, alongside Kira Walkenhorst.
Kozuch, 33, is one of Germany's most successful volleyball players. She has won 336 caps and led Germany to two European silver medals and bronze at the 2009 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix. She also lifted the CEV Champions League with Pomi Casalmaggiore and was also named Germany's best volleyball player from 2010 to 2014.
They gave their rivals a taste of what was to come when Kozuch guested alongside Ludwig at the 2017 Porec 5-Star when Walkenhorst was injured, before they came together under the guidance of double Olympic gold winning coach Jurgen Wagner for the Xiamen 4-Star.
“I think working with this experienced team is a great option for me,” Kozuch said at the time. “In our first joint training session it all clicked, and I have a very-good feeling.
“I have the impression that something great can arise here.”
There was little sign that any of that predicted greatness would arrive at the season’s conclusion considering the 34-year-old Ludwig and 33-year-old Kozuch’s best finish came at the Vienna 5-Star quarterfinals.
Even once they reached the Eternal City there was no indication that they would finish the week victorious after they lost 2-0 (21-19, 27-25) to fellow Germans Karla Borger and Julia Sude in their opening match.
They brushed that off though and beat Russia’s Maria Voronina and Mariia Bocharova, and Brazil’s Maria Antonelli and Carol Solberg in straight sets to reach the second round.
Once in the knockout rounds they defeated USA’s Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, China’s Xinyi Xia and Fan Wang, and Switzerland’s Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich to reach the gold medal match.
There they faced Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda 'Duda' Santos Lisboa, the defending World Tour Finals gold medallists, but showed their class with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) victory over the Brazilians.
“The entire season was a massive test for us,” Ludwig said following their win. “We were kept in check all the time and had to remain patient and work on the things we really believed.
“It is great to see the work pay off at the end of the season because it shows we’re on the right path and keeps us motivated to the next one. We communicated a lot and played really, really well.”
Victory in Rome pushed them up to 15th in the FIVB Olympic Rankings and en route for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which was one of their stated aims when they teamed up.
Both players are notoriously competitive as they showed following the gold medal match in Timmendorfer, where their failure to win gold will drive them on to further success
“I would have gladly given Maggie this success,” Ludwig said. “We got going well, but then I made too many mistakes, which is really annoying.”
King of the Court 2020
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour