Fort Lauderdale, Fla., USA, February 3, 2017 – They’re on their way to Florida where it all began for Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in their Beach Volleyball careers, but present circumstances in their partnership have them taking a bit of a detour.
The USA Olympians will unofficially open their season on February 5 in Rio de Janeiro in an exhibition match against reigning Olympic gold medalists Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt in what is being billed as the “Gigantes da Praia,” or “Giants of the Beach.” The rival teams met in the quarterfinals of the Olympics, with Bruno/Alison taking the victory in three sets.
They also met in the final the last time a tournament was held in Florida, with Alison/Bruno hanging on to capture the 2015 SWATCH World Tour Final.
The event will also hold a match of the Brazilian women’s teams Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Rebecca Cavalcanti/Ana Patricia Silva.
Then the players will wing back to the States to open the FIVB World Tour with the SWATCH Fort Lauderdale Major. It’s an early start to the season after a short offseason following the grinding tour the athletes encountered during the Rio 2016 Olympic year.
“Physically I felt OK after the season, but mentally I was just drained,” Dalhausser said. “I didn’t touch a volleyball until the first of January. We were gone so much last year I caught up with the family a little bit, went to Florida with the folks and recharged.
“I feel like Nick and I could have a really good season this year. We just talked about our goals, the No. 1 goal is to win the World Championships. We’re focusing right now just getting in decent shape and get a good tournament in Fort Lauderdale, then go back to working on individual skills. If we didn’t have this tournament, I wouldn’t have touched a volleyball yet. I’d still be in the gym.”
The restructured FIVB World Tour won’t resume with a large tournament until May. The SWATCH FIVB World Championships will be held in Vienna starting in the last week of July.
But without the necessity of chasing tournaments in order to qualify for the Olympics, the veterans can be more discriminating in lining up their schedule for 2017.
“This is the first year we can kind of pick and choose which ones we want to play,” Lucena said. “Which ones do we want to make runs in, make as much money as possible. Ideally I’d like to play all the AVPs (the USA domestic tour) and the (Majors) but there are a couple overlapping. It’ll be go where the money is for us.
“It’s just so random to have a February tournament and then not another one ’til May. We’re not trying to peak going into this tournament, we’re just trying to get ourselves in a position where we can have a good finish and really focus on the World Championships and the Major tournaments.”
Dalhausser and Lucena might have a few new wrinkles in their game this year, particularly in serving. Traditionally, they’ve relied on Dalhausser’s jump-serve blasts to keep teams off-balance, but he said he’s trying to add a few more float serves into his game to take advantage of the unpredictability of the FIVB’s Mikasa ball.
And Lucena, normally an off-speed server to get the ball in play and allow Dalhausser’s blocking to take over, said he will add some jump serves to his game – even if his partner remains a bit skeptical.
“He’s crazy if he thinks he’s going to jump serve,” Dalhausser said, laughing.