In their pool play during the Rio Grand Slam, they bowed out of the tournament when they fell, 15-12, in the third set of their final match. Had they won that same set by a 15-12 score, they not only would have advanced, but would have captured their pool.
• Vitória Open website
• Qualification - Men
• Qualification - Women
• Main draw - Men
• Main draw - Women
On Thursday in the $150,000 Vitoria Open, they got dunked in another pool. However, at least they advanced to the knockout phase.
After wins over Canada’s Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter plus third-seeded Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst, all Rosenthal and Brunner needed was to stop Brazilians Leo Gomes and Rodrigo Vieira Bernat, who were playing in an FIVB main draw for the first time.
The Netherlands' Christiaan Varenhorst (white) blocking USA's Sean Rosenthal
“We had a chance against a Brazilian team we hadn’t seen before to win our pool after beating Nummerdor and Varenhorst, one of the best teams out here,” Rosenthal said. “We should beat that team, especially in the situation where we can win the pool. We’ve got to be able to step on teams’ throats and be a little tougher.”
But when the dust settled, the Americans, Dutch and Brazilians finished with 2-1 records. When they went to the tiebreakers, Nummerdor and Varenhorst were the top team out of the pool, meaning they get a first-round bye in Friday’s knockout phase.
Rosenthal and Brunner, who turned 31 on Thursday, know exactly what they are left with.
“It’s definitely kind of a kick in the side - we have to play an extra match out here in this humid, very hot place,” Rosenthal said. “But out here this tour’s so tough, there’s no easy games. You never know out here. There’s never any walkovers.”
After falling to Rosenthal and Brunner, Nummerdor figured it would be his team having to deal with an extra match.
“We gave them a present,” Nummerdor said. “Rosie said, ‘Thanks man, we need two wins today and its Theo’s birthday.’ Hey, I wanted to win that game.
“In these circumstances it’s an advantage because you skip a game and it’s really hot so two matches are tough.”
The real victors may have turned out to be Gomes and Bernat, who prevailed, 18-16, in the third game against Rosenthal and Brunner. A couple of weeks earlier, Gomes and Bernat had won a silver medal after falling in a Brazilian domestic tour final to the world’s No. 1 team, Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Alison Cerutti.
They opened pool play in Vitoria by getting drubbed, 21-10, 21-14. They emerged from their three matches in an ecstatic mood.
“Yesterday we had such a hard time in our first match,” Gomes said. “We faced the third best team in the world, they did a great World Cup last year, that final against Alison/Bruno was historical. Everything about this tournament is new to us, because it is our first time at the main draw, so we were a bit overwhelmed by it.
“It was so different from everything that we ever had in our careers. As Emanuel (legendary Brazilian Rego) always says, to win in beach volleyball you need to adapt yourself with everything that is going on around you. And today we managed to adapt ourselves.
“We have got two major victories, especially the last one against Brunner/Rosenthal, it was an epic game to us. So I hope we can succeed tomorrow to keep the dream alive and keep having fun as we had so far on this tournament.”