Men’s field reduced for quarters, semifinals at FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, October 9, 2015 — Down to the ‘elite eight’ after two rounds of elimination matches Friday, the stage is set for Saturday’s men’s quarterfinals and semifinals at the double-gender $150,000 FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open, the season opening event on the 2016 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. After Friday’s Round of 24 and Round of 16 matches, two teams each from Germany, the Netherlands and the United States along with one tandem each from Austria and Italy have advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals and semifinals.

The double-gender event, first of three tournaments on the 2015 portion of the 2016 FIVB World Tour schedule, is being held through Sunday at the purpose-built event site on Playa Camarones. Back in Puerto Vallarta for the second straight year, the FIVB World Tour is visiting Mexico for the sixth time for men and the sixth time for women, and the 3-0 teams are led by two teams each from the Netherlands and the United States along with one from Italy.

The FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open, which started with qualifying for the final eight spots in 32-team main draws for each gender, Saturday schedule will have the women’s round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals along with the men’s quarterfinals and semifinals. On Sunday, both the men’s and women’s bronze and gold medal matches and the awarding ceremony will be held at the Playa Camarones stadium court.

Scheduled to be played on four courts at 11:00 a.m., Netherlands’ top-seeded Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst will play Germany’s 10th-seeded Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen, Netherlands’ third-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen will line up against Austria’s 25th-seeded (eighth-seeded qualification team) Thomas Kunert/Christoph Dressler, USA’s fourth-seeded Nick Lucena/Phil Dalhausser will challenge Italy’s fifth-seeded Alex Ranghieri/Adrian Carambula and USA’s sixth-seeded John Hyden/Tri Bourne will face off against Germany’s 20th-seeded (third-seeded qualification team) twin brothers Bennet Poniewaz/David Poniewaz.

The quarterfinal losers will be eliminated and leave Puerto Vallarta with official fifth-place finishes and purses of $3,375 per team.

In the first four of eight round of 16 matches Friday, Germany’s 20th-seeded B. Poniewaz/D. Poniewaz advanced by defeating Switzerland’s 15th-seeded Alexei Strasser/Nico Beeler, 21-15, 21-15 in 34 minutes, USA’s sixth-seeded Hyden/Bourne eliminated Mexico’s 32nd-seeded Juan Revuelta/Ricardo Galindo, 21-12, 21-16 in 38 minutes, Austria’s 25th-seeded Kunert/Dressler stopped Venezuela’s Igor Hernandez/Leonard Colina, 24-22, 21-12 in 45 minutes and Netherlands’ third-seeded Brouwer/Meeuwsen ousted Latvia’s 13th-seeded Martins Plavins/Haralds Regza, 21-18, 21-19 in 39 minutes.

In what was truly a battle for the ages between beach volleyball compatriot brothers, USA’s fourth-seed Lucena/Dalhausser came from behind to stun USA’s second-seeded veterans Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson, 19-21, 21-16 and 16-14 in 58 breath-taking minutes. The other three round of 16 results saw Italy’s fifth-seeded rising stars Italy’s Ranghieri/Carambula rallied to beat Belgium’s upset-minded 17th-seeded Dries Koekelkoren/Tom Van Walle, 17-21, 21-17 and 15-12 in 55 minutes, Germany’s 10th-seeded Bockermann/Fluggen outmuscled Poland’s 11th-seeded Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak, 21-15, 20-22 and 15-10 in 57 minutes and Netherlands’ top-seeded Nummerdor/Varenhorst slipped by Brazil’s 26th-seeded (10th qualification seed) Pedro Cunha/Allison Francioni, 21-19, 22-20 in 42 minutes.

The losers in the round of 16 were eliminated and leave Puerto Vallarta with official ninth-place finishes and purses of $2,000 per team.

USA’s band of brothers, Lucena/Dalhausser and Gibb/Patterson truly waged a battle of epic proportions that often resembled heavyweight boxers just going toe-to-toe in the ring and slugging it out. When it was over, the battle between USA’s two of three top Olympic hopeful teams were bloodied and bruised emotionally and gave the mesmerized crowd plenty to talk about.

After exchanging blow after blow, the two teams split the first two sets with USA’s Gibb/Patterson winning the first and USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser taking the second.  In the deciding third set, both teams new that they were in the final round of a championship fight and it was nearly tied on the scorecard before some great shots by Patterson and Gibb put them at set and match point at 14-11. Mustering up the courage and tenacity to never give up, USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser saved match points five consecutive times to win the set and match 16-14.

In that final run, Dalhausser, aka the ‘Thin Beast’ displayed power that hasn’t been seen much in the last couple of years because of his oblique muscle injuries and contributed two classic and memorable blocks at just the right time to coincide with Lucena’s serve and defense to pull out the victory.

Following his team’s amazing match against their brothers from the beach, USA’s Lucena said, “I think the heat outside and inside the court was pretty high. Casey has such a strong serve that point by point we tried to figure it out. The first set didn't go so well but we turned the thing around in the second set. I think the attitude between Phil and I was great compared to the first (set) where we were just losing our minds over not getting the point over Jake and Casey. We hung in there, persevered and at the end our Olympic gold medalist wrote another chapter for his legacy. What a great win for us, especially trying to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for 2016."

After a close two-set win over Brazil’s Cunha/Francioni, Netherlands’ Varenhorst commented, "Our main errors were on the defense and that got us into trouble on the second set, but we made it back with block defense. This tournament is mainly to work on our game plan more than winning a medal, it's about practicing certain abilities and like I said our game plan as we continue to prepare for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."

As the host nation for the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open, Mexico had three men’s teams that were pre-seeded into the main draw and two more teams in the qualification tournament. Mexico’s main draw teams were eighth-seeded Juan Virgen/Ulises Ontiveros, 30th-seeded Joe Rubio/Josue Gaxiola and 32nd-seeded Ricardo Galindo/Juan Revuelta. Mexico’s Virgin/U. Ontiveros (2-2) was eliminated in the first elimination round and Galindo/Revuelta (2-3) was eliminated in the round of 16. Rubio/Gaxiola (0-3) was eliminated after pool play Thursday. Men’s teams in the qualifier from Mexico were, Raymond Stephens/Miguel Sarabia and Elvis Perez/Edwin Valencia. The two qualifying teams were eliminated in the first round on Tuesday.

The gold medal team in each gender at the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open will split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500.

The FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open is the 330th men’s event since the FIVB began men’s competition in 1987 and the 294th FIVB women’s tournament since they started in 1992.

Puerto Vallarta is one of three cities to host an international FIVB beach volleyball event. Others have been Acapulco and Rosarito Beach.

Prior to last year’s Puerto Vallarta event, Acapulco had FIVB World Tour events in 1999, 2005 and 2006 and Rosarito Beach hosted a FIVB World Tour stop in 2000. In 2014, Acapulco returned to the FIVB international calendar, hosting the inaugural 17U FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, one of four age-group world championships held every other year by the FIVB.

After the season-opening event in Puerto Vallarta, the 2016 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, with placement points counting in the FIVB Olympic Rankings for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, continues with the two remaining 2016 FIVB World Tour events on the 2015 portion of the schedule. The first will be the double-gender $150,000 FIVB Antalya Open in Turkey (Oct. 20-25) and the final event in 2015 will be the men’s only $75,000 FIVB Doha Open in Qatar (Nov. 9-13).


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