FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross, who first knocked out fellow Americans Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes on Friday and then pulled off a major upset, are in Saturday’s women’s semifinals of the FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major.
On the men’s side, top-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, playing in their home state, and 20th-seeded Theo Brunner and John Hyden, are in the quarterfinals and on opposite sides of the wiinners bracket, both hoping to play in Sunday’s men’s final.
Saturday’s women’s final will be decided at 4 p.m. Eastern and the match will be shown on ABC.
Sweat and Ross, seeded 13th, beat second-seeded Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 22-20, 25-23.
“Oh my gosh, it was so intense,” Ross said. “I had to stay focused, I had to dial it in. Brooke was amazing. It was so much fun. We’re looking for bronze now! I’m kidding, we want gold.”
While Ross is from San Diego, Sweat is from Fort Myers, Fla.
“Oh my gosh, the home crowd is everything,” Ross said. “I’m kind of a down player, but with the crowd, with Brooke, we both just come alive.”
Sweat said they practice with the Canadians a lot in California.
“So we’re not too surprised. Mel is a great defender, Sarah is a great blocker, so I knew there were going to be great rallies,” Sweat said. “We’re both going to be getting stuff up back there, it’s just a matter of staying in it, and not getting discouraged in those long rallies and staying steady.”
Now Sweat and Ross play Brazilians Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Alves in the semifinals. In the season-opening FIVB event in January in the Hague, Seixas and Alves won in three. The Brazilians, seeded third, knocked out Czechs Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova.
“It was back and forth. It’s always a good match against Brazilians, it’s really heated, and really intense, so it should be a really fun match,” Sweat said.
The other semifinal pits 20th-seeded Carolina Horta and Taiana Lima of Brazil against 24th-seeded Germans Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider.
Earlier Friday, Sweat and Ross beat Claes and Hughes 21-15, 21-13.
“They were playing great, they were picking up everything, playing fiery, and we couldn’t play our game and had no energy,” Hughes said. “We wanted to do a lot better than we just did. Back to training and get after it the next tournament.”
Ross was certainly glad to move on after playing her good friends.
“I’ve been playing against Sara and Kelly since I was a kid. It’s just another day at the beach,” Ross said. “We both want to win, and off the court we’re best friends, but on the court we’re enemies. It’s good.”
Friday also was the end of the line for Branagh and Fendrick, who lost to Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa 21-16, 21-17, who in turn were knocked out by Bieneck and Schneider.
For all the women’s results for not only Friday but the entire tournament, click here for the BVBinfo.com report.
Dalhausser and Lucena made short work of Braziliana Gustavo Carvalhaes and Vitor Felipe Brazil 21-17, 21-17 and will play the 11th-seeded team from the Netherlands, Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuswen.
It was for the winners to play at home.
“It’s hot and humid. The last two weeks it’s been like 85, so I guess it’s an advantage over those other American teams,” Dalhausser said. “It gets us ready for these type of conditions.”
Lucena lives in Tallahassee, where his wife, Brooke Niles, is the women’s beach coach at Florida State, while Dalhausser, originally from Florida, moved back last year and lives in Orlando. They’re about a four-hour drive apart.
“This tournament’s always meant a lot because I played so many amateur tournaments here,” said Dalhausser, who was born in Switzerland but grew up near Daytona Beach and went to the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “We have a lot of friends and family here and it’s always nice to play in front of them.
“We haven’t gotten a win here yet, but hopefully this year.”
Most of the players, of course, live and train in southern California, but Dalhausser had visitors this winter.
“Ricardo (Santos) actually lives in Orlando and Sam and Sam from Canada came out for a week and Billy Allen and Ryan Doherty came out for a few days before this tournament, so there are players to play and train against,” Dalhausser said.
Brunner and Hyden had a tough and exhausting route to the quarterfinals. First they beat Canadians Grant O’Gorman and Ben Saxton 15-21, 23-21, 15-11 and then ousted fellow Americans Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb 14-21, 21-19, 18-16.
“It always sucks. On the court, we’re not thinking about it, but I call it a cannibal match, we have to cannibalize each other,” Brunner said of beating fellow Americans. “It sucks, especially in Florida. We wish we were more spread out, had more teams en route to a different semifinal appearance, but it is what it is.”
Brunner, who sprained his ankle on vacation in Greece, likes playing in Florida.
“I think it’s easier to play here. I have friends and family here. It’s our first tournament as a team, just trying to stay relaxed and have fun,” Brunner said. “I had a weird off-season this year, so I don’t have super-high expectations, and it’s easy to play that way.”
They play ninth-seeded Pedro Solberg and George Wanderly of Brazil.
“I don’t know why we keep doing this in our matches, giving away the first, barely winning the second, and winning the third. We’re just trying to ride the wave,” Brunner said.
Hyden was so tired, he had to sit to do post-match interview.
“I don’t know what it is about this place,” he said. “We always have to go three.
“Theo said it. We’ve got to figure out how to come out better in the first set. We can’t continue to take the entire first game to figure things out. We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure out how to do that, but the great thing is, we do figure things out.
“We come down to the end, we fight the whole way, even though we give up the first game and we’re playing kind of shitty. We stick with it, we stay positive, and like I said, he’s working hard. He’s getting a lot of serves, blocking, and that takes a lot of energy. I’m proud of him.”
For all the men’s results, click here for the BVBinfo.com report.
The men’s final is at 1 p.m. Sunday.