In 2015, Phil Dalhausser got the call he always knew would come. He just didn’t expect it to come so early, at such a strange time.
Nick Lucena was on the other line. He wanted to get back with his old friend, the one with whom he cut his teeth in professional beach volleyball, with whom he won his first event, in Austin of 2005. Dalhausser had always intended to finish his career with Lucena, but Lucena was in the driver’s seat with Theo Brunner for a spot in the Rio Olympics.
“Nick,” Dalhausser recalled saying, “you’re basically throwing away an Olympic spot.”
“Man,” Lucena said, “I just want to win tournaments.”
On Sunday, they did just that again, beating rivals Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb 21-9, 21-14 in the Wilson Cup finals in Long Beach, California. April Ross and Alix Klineman also claimed their second win of the AVP Champions Cup, beating Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, 21-15, 21-19. It wasn’t just any ordinary win, either, for Dalhausser and Lucena. It was No. 100 for Dalhausser, who became just the fifth American to eclipse that threshold.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’m just really grateful to be making a living playing this sport,” Dalhausser said. “To have 100 wins is pretty darn cool. It’s pretty cool.”
Not that Dalhausser even knew, beforehand, how close he was to joining the company of Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, Randy Stoklos, and Kent Steffes. Someone told him before the match to go get his 100th.
“Oh yeah,” he replied, “that’s right. I’m playing for 100.”
They left no doubt in reaching the century mark, beating Gibb and Crabb, their most regular foes in AVP finals, by the largest margin in the rivalry’s history. They did it after a narrow semifinal win over Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner, 21-23, 21-12, 15-13. It was the closest match of their AVP Champions Cup thus far, in which they have now won the Monster Hydro Cup and the Wilson Cup.
“I told Phil to wake up: ‘Hey, Phil, this is the final now,’” Lucena said after the semifinal, forever poking fun at his friend and partner. “I thought Casey played really well in that semifinal, so hats off to him but I’ve been so used to Phil scoring bunches of points and Casey and Theo sided out at a high level.”
Whatever points he didn’t score in the semifinal — rest assured, he scored plenty — he used liberally in the final. He aced Gibb and Crabb three times, and who knows how often he put them out of system on those that weren’t aces. He added five blocks and nine controlled blocks.
Essentially: Phil Dalhausser earned every point of his 100th win.
“Every defender wants to play with Phil,” Lucena said. “That was always my goal. He was the best player in the world for so many years, a point scorer. I was trying to put myself in a position to get back with him. I thought I was confident enough to reach out. Sorry Theo, I know you still don’t forgive me. I’m just grateful to play with him. Phil separates himself.”
So, too, has Ross. Sunday marked her 69th career win, and ninth with Klineman. Just as Dalhausser and Lucena provided another chapter in the lengthy — and lengthening — series against Gibb and Crabb, so, too, did Ross and Klineman provide another chapter in their own rivalry with the Canadians. It was the fourth time in the past two years they’ve met in AVP finals, not including an epic bout in the 2019 World Championships.
Ross and Klineman reached the finals after a semifinal win over Emily Day and Lauren Fendrick, 21-17, 21-14, a new team who came out of Friday’s qualifier. Humana-Paredes and Pavan did so by winning a narrow match over Monster Hydro Cup finalists Sara Hughes and Brandie Wilkerson, 24-22, 21-19.
Next week, the Porsche Cup, is the final in the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup. It begins with Friday’s qualifier, with main draw being held on Saturday and Sunday.