Oct. 4, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina beach volleyball senior Macie Tendrich had the chance to represent her country and also strengthen her faith and understanding of competition while earning a bronze medal at the Maccabiah Games over the summer in Israel. Similar to the Olympics, the Maccabiah Games are held once every four years and are made up of athletes of the Jewish faith from all around the world.
“Having ‘USA’ on your chest was the coolest thing ever,” Tendrich said. “Just being able to represent my country in Israel, a country I now love, was an unbelievable experience. I’ll never forget it. I became really good friends with athletes from water polo, softball and basketball. We’d all go and support each other. The USA athletes were all really close.
“I had heard great things about the country (Israel), but I never realized how great the country is. Being Jewish, it’s powerful to be there, but it was neat seeing all of the different religions that are there. There are Catholics and Muslims. It’s sort of like being at the heart of religion, which is awesome.”
Faith and family are important to Tendrich, who was the second member of her family to compete the Games as her sister, Taylor, played indoor volleyball in the 2008 event, also earning a bronze medal. The 20th Maccabiah Games drew approximately 7,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries, along with 2,500 athletes from Israel, who competed in 45 different sports. The Maccabiah Games is the third largest international sporting event in the world, behind the Olympics and the World Cup.
“For the opening ceremonies, there were probably 30,000 spectators in the arena,” Tendrich said. “That was really cool. Representing our country was the most amazing experience. It was really neat to see all of these countries come together to support their friends and family.
“We went to the Wailing Wall, or the Western wall, and that was huge. It made such an impact on me; just being there. We were there for Shabbat [day of rest that begins at sunset on Friday] on Friday night. Everyone is singing and dancing and praying. That made me really proud to be Jewish; to see everyone come together at the holiest place in the world and to be there celebrating.”
Having her family there as well is what made the trip even more special.
“We were able to site-see for about three days together,” Tendrich said. “That was really nice. We went to the Dead Sea. That was quite an experience. A big thing when you go to Israel is hiking up Masada. There was a lot of history there.”
With the two of us being one of the shortest teams there, it really made me realize that we can compete against anyone and that I can compete against anyone.
Make no mistake however, Tendrich was there to compete. Already the Gamecocks' all-time wins leader, Tendrich competed alongside Samantha Lemmon, who is now a freshman at Florida International University, during the six day tournament in July. Tendrich owns school records for wins in a season (27) and a career (70), and helped the Gamecocks reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time last spring.
Even with that impressive resume, she knew earning a medal in Jerusalem would be a huge challenge as beach volleyball pairs normally have one taller player, yet Tendrich and Lemmon are both less than five and half feet.
“Our partnership turned out really well,” Tendrich said. “We had really good chemistry. I think people really underestimated us. We just played great defense, and that totally helped us.”
Earning a win over a Russian team in their first match helped them settle in and displaced any nervousness about competing.
“The teams were great,” Tendrich said. “Despite being in another country, it’s just volleyball. The two Israeli teams were really good, and the Brazilian team was amazing, as usual. Both of their players were like 6’3”! Although we lost to them, it was one of the greatest matches I ever played in. It was a really cool experience. Even though we’re all competitors, we would all go back to the hotel and just hang out. We all still keep in touch.
“Coming back and beating the Israeli team that beat us in pool play was the greatest feeling ever. I definitely had a lot of fuel and fire within me. I wanted to go home with a medal. Being in Israel and playing an Israeli team in the bronze medal match, they had tons of fans there, so we just had to block that out. We showed up that day, and it worked out!”
Tendrich noted how the athletes competing in the games were treated like celebrities, but she didn’t let it go to her head. Instead, it was learning experience that she hopes will help her with the Gamecocks this year.
“I definitely came back with a better mental ability to not judge [opposing teams],” Tendrich said. “With the two of us being one of the shortest teams there, it really made me realize that we can compete against anyone and that I can compete against anyone.”
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