Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 11, 2017 - When Brazil’s top men’s team bowed out before reaching the final four of the Fort Lauderdale Major, it could have been easy to think that the volleyball-mad country would not have much to celebrate on the final day.
Look out, world. Here comes the next generation.
Hours after two young and new teams dispatched their American rivals in the semifinals, Centre Court became a celebration of the verde-amarelu-azul (green-yellow-blue) and when the sand settled, it was Alvaro Filho and Saymon Barbosa who took the top prize with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) victory over compatriots Evandro Gonçalves and Andre Loyola to capture their first FIVB World Tour gold medal as a team.
You couldn’t wipe the smiles off the faces of Alvaro, 26, and Saymon, 23 as they celebrated on the court, hugging practically anyone they could find. It was the third title for Alvaro and the second for Saymon.
“The happiness we showed inside the court was the most important thing for us,” Saymon said. “We are a new team for only a few months and we still have a lot to improve but it’s good to know our hard work is paying off.”
Saymon had seven blocks, they each threw in an ace and they navigated the minefield that Evandro’s serving can present. Alvaro, the recipient of most of those serves, put away 18 kills to help offset Evandro’s five aces.
“They served well today but Saymon helped me a lot with the set and this was the difference because they chose to serve me,” Alvaro said. “I made some mistakes but Saymon all the time was correcting my pass, so this was the difference. We played together as a team and he helped me a lot.”
It was the second time during the tournament that Alvaro/Saymon topped their compatriots. They scored a 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) victory during pool play earlier in the week. They never trailed in the championship match.
With the win in the first event of the FIVB World Tour, Alvaro/Saymon could be considered the world’s hottest team. On the Brazilian domestic tour, they’ve reached the final in five of the six events with two gold medals, three silvers and one bronze. Ironically, they have yet to face Evandro/Andre in Brazil.
“We’ll definitely get back to the sand more motivated,” Saymon said. “Next week we will play for the national tour so we can’t stop working. We want to work as hard as possible to be one of the best teams in the world.”
Evandro/Andre advanced to the final with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-19) win over top-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, a day after the Americans topped Olympic gold medallists Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Alison Cerutti of Brazil.
Yet the future looks just as bright for Evandro, 26, and Andre, 22. Evandro went to the Olympics with Pedro Solberg, then they parted ways.
“I’m not happy it was a silver medal but at the same time, I’m happy because we didn’t know if we would be able to be here because I injured my shoulder,” Evandro said. “So coming here and winning silver is good for us.
Evandro (right) and Saymon compete at the Swatch Major Series net.
“We have a lot to improve. This is our first tournament here and we’ll take it step by step as we did here and made it to the finals here so if we keep consistently improving we’ll get to where we want.”
Alvaro/Saymon reached the final with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-9) win over John Hyden and Ryan Doherty of the United States. The Brazilians benefited from searing conditions inside the stadium, which caused Doherty to falter late in the first set.
The Fort Lauderdale Major podium - Evandro, Andre, Saymon, Alvaro, Lucena & Dalhausser
In the bronze medal match, Hyden/Doherty started fast but Dalhausser/Lucena outlasted their compatriots for a 2-1 (14-21, 21-13, 15-10) victory.
“I didn’t have to do much but set and serve a couple balls,” Dalhausser said. “Nick did all the work. Our plan was to tire out Ryan and it worked. It was hot on the court.
“It’s a little bittersweet. It’s nice to finish the tournament with a win, but I’d rather finish with gold rather than bronze.”
“Obviously we’re disappointed but it could have been a lot worse,” Lucena said. “We only had about 3 1/2 weeks of practice. We kind of relied on our experience and I’ll take a third any day on 3 1/2 weeks practice.”
Since Doherty was a last-minute replacement for an injured Tri Bourne, the other Americans had only about an hour of practice before they stepped on the court together for the first time.
“We put it together pretty quick,” Hyden said. “I thought we could play well and getting to the semis, that’s pretty big. I’m always thinking I can get there and with Ryan, he played so well we were able to do it.”