Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena knocked off three Olympic medal contenders en route to the most impressive of their five FIVB World Tour titles in Hamburg, Germany, this weekend.
They beat countrymen Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson in the quarterfinals Saturday, top-ranked Brazilians Alison and Bruno in the semifinals Sunday and the Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen 29-27, 21-12 in the final later Sunday.
Dalhausser and Lucena consolidated their Olympic medal favorite status, after failing to make the round of 16 in Moscow in their last event.
Moscow marked the first time Dalhausser and Lucena failed to reach the quarterfinals in 12 FIVB World Tour events together since reuniting last summer, a decade after they last played together.
“We really wanted to make a statement and say, hey, we just had a bad tournament, and we wanted to come out strong this week,” Dalhausser said Sunday. “We shouldn’t get 17ths [place finishes]. We want to be in the semifinal every time. Once we’re in the semifinal, everyone has a chance to win.”
Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic champion with Todd Rogers, and Lucena were then confirmed by USA Volleyball as one of four U.S. Olympic beach volleyball pairs for Rio. Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat and Gibb and Patterson were also confirmed as Rio Olympians on Sunday.
All four pairs mathematically qualified for the Olympics earlier this spring.
The average age of Dalhausser, Lucena, Gibb, Patterson, Walsh Jennings, Ross, Fendrick and Sweat is 35, making it the oldest U.S. Olympic beach volleyball contingent of all time. Beach volleyball debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
On Saturday, Walsh Jennings and Ross lost their semifinal to Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst and their third-place match to Brazilians Larissa and Talita, two of their biggest rivals for Rio Olympic gold.
That snapped Walsh Jennings and Ross’ winning streak of three straight FIVB World Tour events dating to April.
The FIVB World Tour continues in Poland this week.Follow @nzaccardi