At this point, it is safe to assume that Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena will play Robert Meeuwsen and Alexander Brouwer of the Netherlands in every FIVB World Tour event.
They’ve played the last three tournaments, with the Dutch duo defeating Dalhausser and Lucena all three times, twice knocking them out in the elimination rounds.
But finally at the five-star competition in Vienna, the Americans turned the tide back in their favor, winning 21-18, 16-21, 15-13 Friday to advance to the quarterfinals.
“Service pressure was the main difference,” Lucena said. “The last two times they beat us they served us off the court and today they made a lot of service errors. That obviously helped us and we were able to apply more service pressure on them too, especially with Phil, who was jump serving for part of the match.”
Dalhausser and Lucena now face Nils Ehlers and Lars Fluggen of Germany — who lost to the Norwegians in the finals of last week’s four star in Tokyo — in the quarters on Saturday.
“We trained with them before the World Championships in Hamburg,” Lucena said. “Nils is a huge guy, has got some broad shoulders and is picking up the game really fast. And Lars has been around for a while, has a lot of experience and has won in the World Tour. We’ll need to play great.”
With the men’s field whittled down to eight teams, Dalhausser and Lucena are the only American pair still standing.
Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb defeated one Russia team (lya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov, 21-19, 21-14) only to fall at the hands of another (Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy 17-21, 11-21), leaving Vienna with a ninth, their fourth ninth-place finish of 2019.
Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb ended their tournament with a forfeit after Bourne broke his hand on the final point of a pool play match on Thursday versus Austrians Robin Seidl and Phillip Waller. Bourne launched a serve, stepped into his defensive position and then Seidl went to hit a cut shot from the right and Bourne followed the ball to the line as it dribbled along the top of the tape and ultimately failed to go over, giving the Americans the point and the match.
“On the last point my momentum took me face to face with the ref stand and out of excitement I hit the stand pad/cover with my fists, only to realize that it wasn’t padded like I had expected,” Bourne wrote on Instagram. “It’s hard to believe that my team will suffer the loss of this 5-star opportunity because of something so stupid but … it is what it is. I can only take responsibility and move forward.”
An X-ray on Friday morning confirmed that the hand was in fact broken, so Bourne and Crabb made the decision to forfeit their first-round match. They finished 17th.
On the women’s side, three of the four semifinalist teams hail from Brazil, so the South American country is guaranteed at least two medals in Vienna. Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes round out the remaining women’s contenders.
Talita Antunes, playing with Taiana Lima, makes her return to an FIVB semifinal for the first time since the birth of her son Renato in June 2018, getting there by eliminating Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic in the quarters 21-16, 21-16.
“Returning wasn’t easy and I knew it would be this way,” Talita said. “Everything seems very different to me now, but we were very patient with the process. We felt we were getting better at each tournament and that in the last ones we lost to some great times due to very little details. I think that now we turned that corner and really figured out how to handle these key moments.”
Maria Antonelli, on the other hand, credited her and partner Carolina Salgado’s route through the qualifier for some of their success thus far in Vienna, which included knocking out Americans Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen 21-19, 12-21, 15-11 in the quarters.
“I think that the qualifier can be a blessing in disguise at times,” Antonelli added. “I feel that every time we play in a qualifier we start the tournament one step ahead of all other teams just because we’re better adjusted to the conditions. Of course those extra matches can be tough on your body, but we had a day off here on Thursday, so we feel great and ready for more.”
Maria Antonelli and Carol will play Talita and Taiana in Saturday’s first semifinal. Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa, the No. 4 seed, take on No. 2 Humana-Paredes and Pavan in the second semi.
Earlier in the elimination rounds, Larsen and Stockman sent fellow Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil home with a 14-21, 21-16, 15-10 defeat, dooming the latter team to a ninth-place finish. April Ross and Alix Klineman, the No. 1 seed in Vienna, suffered an upset at the hands of Hermannova and Slukova in the second round to also head back to the states with a ninth. Larsen and Stockman took a fifth.