Dalhausser: "We did what we had to do last year"
Instead, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena took a high-risk, high-reward leap of faith and suddenly, they look like the top team from the United States as the race to Rio heats up with the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Maceio Open following on from the Kish Island Open next week. Dalhausser is seeking his second gold medal and third Olympiad and Lucena is out to reach the Olympics for the first time.
Though the duo had not played together for more than a decade, the moment they reunited late in the 2015 season they discovered that it was the right move.
“Nick and I are entering the 2016 season in a pretty good spot,” Dalhausser said. “We did what we had to do last year – we got seven good finishes, so we need another five ’til June 13.
“We have a little pressure on us, but there was a lot more pressure on us last year but we held up and hopefully we can do the same this year.”
Dalhausser and Lucena started their successful run in the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam, took second to Brazilian world champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt, then added a second place in Sochi and captured the Xiamen title.
Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers were gold medallists at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
In the Swatch Major Series final in Fort Lauderdale, Dalhausser and Lucena defeated Alison and Bruno in pool play before falling to them in the final. It might have been a bit of a disappointing finish on home sand, but the duo kept their season in perspective.
“We didn’t really get much practice in as a team last year and it happened so fast, we jumped right into tournaments,” Dalhausser said. “We’ve been working on little things, trying to smooth things out. That’s about it.
“I didn’t think we were going to have success as quickly as we did. Right away second in Seattle (on the AVP Tour), first in Manhattan (AVP), second in Long Beach. The pressure was on and we held up.”
Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena celebrate winning silver at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Long Beach Grand Slam 2015
Their road to Rio actually starts up again in Brazil as the FIVB World Tour returns in late February. Dalhausser and Lucena will compete in the Maceio Open, then hit the Rio Grand Slam and the Vitoria Open. Three tournaments in four weeks give them a chance to pile up the qualifying points as they try to outlast countrymen Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson and Tri Bourne/John Hyden.
“If we can get, say, two out of three good finishes, I think we’re looking pretty good,” Dalhausser said. “That’s nine good finishes (for the team) and that gives John and Tri a lot to catch up to.
“We’re going to see what happens after Brazil’s three stops. We could pick and choose, go to the two Chinas. There are Russia, Doha and Turkey, but those places are so far so it would be nice to stay close.”
Currently third in the world point rankings, Dalhausser and Lucena hold a 250-point lead over Bourne/Hyden, who enter the season with a 460-point lead over Gibb/Patterson.
Yet Dalhausser knows it doesn’t take long to change circumstances on the FIVB World Tour. Four years ago, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal earned their qualification for the London 2012 Games at the last possible moment. So they appreciate any chance to pile up points, if not gold medals along the way.
“It’s going to be crazy, but hopefully we can get like a semifinal in Rio,” Dalhausser said. “I think that would be a really good start for us.”