USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser capture men’s gold medal in two quick sets, Germany’s Poniewaz bros take bronze at FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, October 11, 2015 — USA’s fourth-seeded Nick Lucena/Phil Dalhausser defeated Netherlands’ third-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen Sunday to capture the men’s gold medal at the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open, the season opening event on the 2016 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

In an all-Germany match, winning the men’s bronze medal was Germany’s 20th-seeded Bennet Poniewaz/David Poniewaz who came from behind to power past Germany’s 10th-seeded Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen.

The first of three tournaments on the 2015 portion of the 2016 FIVB World Tour schedule was held at the purpose-built event site on Playa Camarones. In Puerto Vallarta for the second straight year, the FIVB World Tour visited Mexico for the sixth time for men and the sixth time for women.

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. To start the 2016 FIVB World Tour, the gold medal team earned 500 FIVB World Ranking points, while the silver squad received 450 points, the bronze 400 points and the fourth place team earned 350 ranking points.

In the men’s gold medal match, USA’s fourth-seeded Lucena/ Dalhausser ignored the heat and humidity and gave the overflow crowd something to talk about in an impressive ‘rubber’ match victory in two sets over Netherlands’ third-seeded Brouwer/Meeuwsen, 21-12, 21-18 in just 34 minutes.

After going three sets in their last four matches before the gold medal match and in the two times they had faced each other before today, USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser got the victory in two sets this time. Both undefeated in this tournament prior to the match, USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser leave Puerto Vallarta with an unblemished 7-0 record while Netherlands’ Brouwer/Meeuwsen leave with a 6-1 mark.

As lopsided as the first set was with Netherlands’ Brouwer/Meeuwsen making several unforced errors that led to points for USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser, the second one went almost down to the wire for a photo finish.  The second set was tied point-by-point up to 8-8 and then again at 12-12, 13-13 and after a USA spurt to 15-13, the Dutch tied it again at 15-15 up to 18-18.

USA’s Lucena scored the last three points of the match on a Netherlands’ service error, a Dalhausser poke after a long first-hit went over the net and Dalhausser ended it on yet another ballistic block at the net.

Lucena’s serving and digging along with Dalhausser’s sets and blocks led to a surprisingly quick gold medal victory for the Americans.

In the first meeting between these two teams in August in Olsztyn, Poland, the Dutch defeated the Americans in pool play, 21-18, 18-21 and 15-12 in 47 minutes.  Last week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA at the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals, USA won in the semifinals over the Dutch, 21-18, 19-21 and 15-12 in 58 minutes.

This was just the eighth FIVB international tournament for USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser. The American duo now has won two gold medals with three silver medals and one fifth place finish. As a team, this was their sixth gold medal match in their last seven events, including a silver medal at last week’s Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals before today’s gold medal win.

Individually, this was Lucena’s 77th FIVB international tournament and he now has two career FIVB gold medal.  For Dalhausser, this was his 88th FIVB international event and he has now earned 31 career FIVB gold medals.

For Netherlands’ Brouwer/Meeuwsen, this was their 50th FIVB international event as a team and they now have 14 final four finishes with two gold medals, four silver medals and one bronze. Individually, Brouwer has played in 65 FIVB career events with two gold medals and Meeuwsen has played in 56 career FIVB event and he also has two career FIVB gold medals.

Both teams played and defeated Germany’s Poniewaz twins, who won the bronze medal here, earlier in Puerto Vallarta. USA’s Lucena/Dalhausser won in pool play over the Germans in two sets. Netherlands’ Brouwer/Meeuwsen won their semifinal match over the Germans in two sets as well.

Meeting for the first time in an FIVB international event and for a bronze medal, Germany’s 20th-seeded (third-seeded qualification team) twin brothers B. Poniewaz/D. Poniewaz got rid of their jitters when the overflow crowd responded to their enthusiasm and came back several times to over their German compatriots 10th-seeded Bockermann/Fluggen, 16-21, 21-18 and 15-12 in a crowd-pleasing 66 minutes.

In the longest of all four medal matches, the German twin never stopped smiling as they regained their composure after the first set and held off Germany’s more experienced Bockermann/Fluggen in the second set to set the stage for a thrilling third set. Late in the second set, Germany’s Bockermann/Fluggen took a medical time out as the heat and humidity appeared to be affecting them more than the younger Poniewaz twins.

In the deciding third set, Germany’s Bockermann/Fluggen seemed to have things in control, jumping out to leads of 3-0, 5-1, 8-4 and 10-5, but then the amazing effort by both Poniewaz twins brought them back to tie the set at 11-11 by scoring six of the next seven points. After taking a brief lead at 12-11, Germany’s Bockermann/Fluggen tied it up at 12-12. But daring dives and digs and two blocks by David Poniewaz closed out the set and match for the 22-year old twins first FIVB podium finish.

Germany’s Bockermann, with 57 career FIVB international events played and Fluggen, with 26 career FIVB international events were playing in their 12th FIVB international event as a team with one gold medal and two silver medals. In April of this year, the German tandem won their first FIVB gold medal with their victory at the 2015 season-opening FIVB Fuzhou Open in China. Germany’s Bockermann/Fluggen finished 4-3 in Puerto Vallarta.

For Germany’s Poniewaz twins, just 22 years old, this was their ninth FIVB international event as a team and first final four appearance, although they do have a pair of fifth place finishes. The German brothers had a 6-3 record here, including their qualification win on Tuesday.

After winning the gold medal, USA’s Nick Lucena reflected, “This is definitely the most gratifying event of the year. We came in tired but I’m here with the best player in the world, so I’m fortunate. The Dutch guys didn’t have their best match this time, but they are good and playing them will always be tough to do.”

Lucena’s teammate Dalhausser said after the match, “Out plan is to make it to the Rio Olympics and as long as we keep this up I’m sure we can make it to Brazil. We both played well this week, but Nick was phenomenal as far as I’m concerned. Nick had about 400 serves this week when you count our four three-set wins and with this hot weather he did an incredible job this week. I’ve known Nick for many years and I have never seen him as focused as he has been since we became a team”

Germany’s bronze medal winner Bennet Poniewaz related afterwards, “We changed our serving strategy in the third set. I stop serving short and giving a bit of speed and I think that made us attack more on the serve and be more aggressive, but also the stadium was cheering for us. The crowd was amazing and they encouraged and excited us during the match. This is a tremendous experience for us to get our first FIVB podium finish.”

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.

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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