Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena staged a tremendous rally Saturday to advance to Sunday’s men’s semifinals of the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg, Germany.
They will be seeking a gold medal like the one Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst took home Saturday as they finished their 2017 pro-beach season by winning the last two events of the summer.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst, who earlier in the month won the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Vienna, took gold again by defeating Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Duda Lisboa 21-17, 19-21, 15-10.
“Olympic champion is cool, world champion is pretty cool as well, but winning the World Tour Finals here is just awesome,” Ludwig said. “It will take us a few days to realize what we’ve achieved this season. Hamburg loves beach volleyball and we could feel it in the court throughout the week. I’ve never had that somewhere else.”
Both Ludwig and Walkenhorst struggled with shoulder issues that sidelined them for a chunk of the season. They played only three international tournaments together this year.
“It’s been crazy,” Walkenhorst said. “We knew that Laura’s shoulder injury would take some time to heal but when she came back then I was injured so it was a bit frustrating.
“But to now sit here and win the World Champs and now the World Tour Finals is really amazing. It gives us a lot of self-confidence and I think a big reason for that is the team we have behind us helping us.”
The bronze went to Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, who beat Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan 21-17, 21-19.
Dalhausser and Lucena play Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland in the first semifinal at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. Eastern) followed by Italians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai challenging the reigning FIVB world champions, Brazilians Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola.
Saturday, top-seeded Dalhausser and Lucena won their quarterfinal match by ousting Canadians Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk 21-23, 25-23, 15-12 after trailing 19-15 in the second set and facing elimination.
With a four-point deficit, Lucena dug the Canadian attack and put away an ensuing cut shot, and followed that up with two service winners to close to 18-19. Schalk sided out to reach match point at 20-18, but a Lucena crosscourt spike sideout kept the Americans alive.
Dalhausser put together two critical blocks, the first at 20-all to even things up, and at 25-23 to cement the set-two comeback.
In the deciding third set, the Americans took a nearly immediate 2-0 lead on a Dalhausser crosscourt spike. The Americans would never trail in earning the 15-12 victory.
“I’m very disappointed. We gave it to them,” Schalk said. “We had the complete control in the second set and just made some mental errors. It’s super frustrating, this should have been our game. We had our opportunities to win the match and that’s going to stink for a while.
The Canadians were seeded 12th.
“They’ve been playing well, hats off to them,” Lucena said. “We got lucky but I’ll take it. Anytime you’re down 19-15, 99 percent of the time you are going to lose the game. But we are capable of scoring points and that’s what we did. And we carried it over to the third.”
“We’ve just been around for so long and we knew anything could happen,” Dalhausser said. “And something just happened there and we ended up winning. These guys are good, they’ve been in finals before. Anybody can win on a given day.”
The gold-medal match is set for 3 p.m. local. Click here for all the Saturday scores from BVBinfo.com.