Hamburg, Germany, June 12, 2016 - When Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena arrived in Germany after a disappointing 17 th-place finish in the Moscow Grand Slam, they knew something was wrong in their communication.
“We were just kind of bickering with each other,” Dalhausser explained early in the week.
Truth be told, that’s nothing new for the top United States Beach Volleyball team.
“More than usual,” Dalhausser was quick to add.
There was nothing to argue about Sunday when the duo put a stamp on the Rio 2016 Olympic qualification cycle with two resounding victories to capture the US$800,000 smart Hamburg Major.
Their 29-27, 21-12 victory over Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands at Am Rothenbaum stadium gave Lucena and Dalhausser their third FIVB World Tour victory of 2016, their sixth in the qualification cycle, and enabled them to slide into the No. 3 spot in the provisional Olympic rankings.
The win over Brouwer and Meeuwsen, the No. 2 team in the Olympic rankings, followed a decisive semifinal victory over No. 1 Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Alison Cerutti of Brazil. Not a bad day’s work.
“Today we played the best we have played as a team,” Dalhausser said. “I don’t know if Nick’s going to argue with that. We beat probably the two best teams in the world, obviously No. 1 and the Dutch guys are always in the mix, finals, semis. They’re the most physical team on the tour, both of them just hit the crap out of the ball. They’re the best serving team on tour, so you just have to deal.”
Russia’s Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov topped Bruno and Alison, 15-21, 22-20, 15-10 to capture the bronze medal.
Brouwer and Meeuwsen, who have won only once since they captured the 2013 FIVB World Championships, held an 8-6 lead in the first set before Dalhausser and Lucena got traction to lead by as many as three points.
The Dutch reclaimed the lead at 19-18, but couldn’t convert four set points. On the Americans’ fifth set point, Dalhausser served an ace to capture the first game and provide them some momentum that they never relinquished.
“That really didn’t decide it because you have to play one more, but it was a big impact (to lose the first),” Meeuwsen said. “It was a big factor.”
“After a first set like that, it’s a big impact to get back to your own game, your own level,” Brouwer added. “In the second set, we started off not focused enough, maybe, and that gave them some space and they started to serve better and our service pressure fell a little. And man, I couldn’t get any of the shots of Nick, so that was a bit of trouble.”
In the second set, the Americans remained steady while mistakes began to pile up on the Dutch side. Brouwer and Meeuwsen called a timeout down 3-1, but couldn’t stem the tide and Dalhausser and Lucena took the match’s final four points to win going away.
“Phil was staying on top of his serve and that’s how we won (the first set),” Lucena said. “He got an ace at the end by being aggressive down the middle. My job was to keep the ball in and sideout and his was to try and score some points with the serve.”
Dalhausser and Lucena will return to the States and their domestic tour to participate in the AVP New York City Open next week. They will return to the World Tour to play in the FIVB Porec Major and the FIVB Gstaad Major.
“We wanted to finish on a win to end the qualification process and that’s important,” Lucena said. “There’s going to be 24 teams that can win that (Olympic) tournament and we’re going to have to face six or seven teams. It will be tough either way, no matter what seed you are.”
To win the bronze medal, how did Semenov and Krasilnikov rebound from a semifinal loss to topple the Brazilians? Well, they were playing in Hamburg, for one thing.
“After losing the semifinal, we went to McDonald’s and ate a hamburger and we had much more power after a Big Mac,” Semenov said with a laugh. “We played better and my partner made about 15 sideouts.”
It was a rare two-loss day for Bruno and Alison, the reigning World Champions. But they were certainly not discouraged.
“It was nice to be in the final four but we need to try to improve, to try to raise our level,” Bruno said. “Our main stage is in August.”
The smart Major Hamburg podium (left to right) featured Robert Meeuwsen, Alexander Brouwer, Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, Konstantine Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov