FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Florida guys are going for gold.
Top-seeded Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena play fifth-seeded Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy in Sunday’s 1 p.m. Eastern final of the FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major with $40,000 on the line for the winners. The losers split $32,2000.
It comes a day after Americans Brooke Sweat — also from Florida — and Summer Ross won the women’s bronze.
Dalhausser and Lucena beat Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia, sweeping the 12th seeds 21-14, 21-12. Lupo and Nicolai got past Brazilians Pedro Solberg and George Wanderley 24-22, 25-23.
“They’re really good,” Dalhausser said. “That’s a tough match for sure. Lupo is one of the toughest side-out players in the world, and Nicolai is one of the best blockers.”
But they’ll have to beat an American pair that is playing extremely well in their first tournament of the year. They are 5-0 here and haven’t lost a set.
“I thought that was my best passing game, by far, and Phil’s going to score points, so as long as I side out, I feel like we’re going to have these games,” Lucena said. “Janis and Aleks are a great team, it’s hard to win on this score, it’s one of the better games we played for sure.”
Lucena lives in Tallahassee, where his wife, Brooke Niles, is the beach coach at Florida State and he’s on staff. The Seminoles were back at home Saturday where they went 3-0 in their own tournament.
“I’m excited we’re here, I have a lot of family and friends here,” Lucena said. “It’s fun to play in front of them, you never want to let them down. We’re in the finals, but Nicolai and Lupo are a tough team. They’re one of the best teams in the world, so it will be fun.
Dalhausser, who grew up on Florida, moved back last year and lives in Orlando.
“We’re doing a great job,” Dalhausser said. “Our coach, Jason Lochhead, needs a shout out. He’s doing a great job scouting and we’re putting them in spots where they don’t feel comfortable, and that just makes defense a little easier.”
The women’s gold was an all-Brazilian affair. Ninth-seeded Fernanda Alves and Barbara Seixas of Brazil beat 20th-seeded countrywomen Carolina Horta and Taiana Lima 21-16, 21-13.
“Happiness. Pure happiness, joy, pride and gratitude. It couldn’t be better,” Seixas said. “I just want to thank my team, Fernanda, and all of the staff that was working behind us because their work was really important for us, and also the major series for creating such a great event.”
“It means a lot, because this event is really important,” Alves said. “We were thinking that all of the pools were really balanced, all of the teams were very prepared for this event, so it was really important for our confidence to win. We learned a lot from last year.”
But Alves and Seixas got all they could handle from Sweat and Ross in the semifinals before pulling out a 21-18, 26-28, 21-19 victory.
“We’re really excited to medal. I think we came out and executed well and it means a lot to do it in Florida in front of my family and friends, and on the beach where it kind of started,” said Sweat, who is from Fort Myers, on the west coast of Florida.
“We happy to come back after such a heart-wrenching loss in the semis.”
Sweat had plenty of fans on hand.
I’m just happy they could be here,” she said. “It just motivated us even more, especially after coming in fourth last year. They just built us up all week and got us ready for this moment. “
Horta and Lima beat Germans Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider in the other semifinal 21-13, 12-21, 15-11.
The other American team left Saturday, Theo Brunner and John Hyden, lost a tough match in the quarterfinals to Solberg and Wanderly 21-23, 21-11, 15-13.
“We blew it,” Hyden said. “We were up, they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, we couldn’t get it at the end. We were up, I think, 12-8, and we got one point from there, so we just have to side out better. No matter what, we (expletive) have to be aggressive.
“I gave it away at the end there,” Brunner said. “That’s a tough one to swallow. Not a lot of words. I was out of rhythm for a lot of that match, then I got into it, and got back out of it at the end.
I tried to be a little too cute, I saw a couple of shots open, maybe tried to make them a little too perfect instead of getting it in and forcing them to make a play. That’s all my bad, I’ll never do that again.
“If you would have told me that we’d finish fifth at the start of the tournament, given that I haven’t been able to train all off-season, that’s great, but given the way the match went, it doesn’t feel good at all.
“I wish we were playing for a medal tomorrow.”