There was something in the air in Rio on Monday and it smelled like upsets on the men’s side of the beach Olympic volleyball. Among the casualties were the top-seeded Brazilians and Americans Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson.
First a look ahead to Tuesday, with tough challenges for the USA pairs.
No. 3 Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (USA) face No. 15 Juan Virgen/Lombardo Ontiveros (Mexico) and face a gritty Mexican team that is brimming with confidence, coming off an upset win over Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo of Italy. Virgen, a 6-foot-6 blocker, is undersized for the top level of international volleyball. Ontiveros, a 6-2 defender, is one of the most intense and fiery players on the tour.
If Lucena sides out consistently, the Dalhausser block/Lucena defense will score enough points to carry the Americans through.
“Ninety-nine percent of our focus is on our side of the net,” Lucena said. “That’s what we can control the most. We know what we’re going up against, but the better we are on our side of the net, the better chances we have of being successful.”
No. 13 Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat (USA), who lost to Poland in their first match, play No. 1 Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes (Brazil)
“Larissa and Talita are the No. 1 team in the world, and they’ve earned that spot and deserve that spot,” Sweat said. “In Croatia last year we played them tough and lost a heartbreaker in three. We controlled that match and let it slip away.
“You’ve got to play your best game in order to compete with those girls, so we’re looking to get out there and put the pressure on. They’re going to be playing at home in front of their fans, and it’s going to be a hostile crowd, but all the pressure will be on them, we’re hoping to catch them off guard a little bit.”
In the late-night last match of Monday, No. 3 Kerri Walsh-Jennings/April Ross (USA) dominated No. 15 Fan Wang/Yuan Yue (China) 21-16, 21-9.
Ross’s serves kept the Chinese out of system, while Walsh cleaned up at the net with block after block. The win clinches an elimination-round berth for Walsh/Ross who face No. 1 Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland Wednesday at 8 Eastern to conclude pool play.
Men’s play started with No. 23 Nikita Liamin/Dmitri Barsouk (Russia) taking down No. 11 Bartosz Losiak/Piotr Kantor (Poland) 21-14, 21-17, in 34 minutes.
Then No. 19 Jefferson Santos Pereira/Cherif Younousse (Qatar) upset No. 7 Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira (Spain) 13-21, 21-18, 15-12, overcoming a 13-21, 6-10 deficit.
Then the shocker, when No. 13 Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst (Austria) defeated No.1 Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (Brazil) 23-21, 16-21, 15-13. The Brazilians came out flat, made hitting errors at critical times, and paid the price.
That was followed by No. 18 Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl (Austria) overcoming No. 6 Gibb/Patterson (USA) 21-18, 21-18. All four teams in pool F (Patterson/Gibb, Huber/Seidl, Jefferson/Younousse, and Herrera/Gavira) are tied 1-1 in matches, with Wednesday’s matches to determine the final results. Austria’s Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl currently rank first with a 3-2 game record.
In an almost upset, No. 2 Alexander Brouwser/Robert Meeuwsen (Netherlands) escaped No. 14 Marcus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen (Germany) in a tightly contested 21-19, 17-21, 16-14 match. The Germans’ serve was on fire, and gave the Dutch all they could handle.
No. 12 Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri (Italy) defeated No.24 Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter (Canada) 21-18, 14-21, 15-11. Both teams played aggressively and had their share of digs, blocks, and aces, while scoring the same number of points. Binstock acknowledged their lack of consistency.
“We know we can beat anybody in the world, we just have to play consistently,” he said. “We have spurts of greatness there, but we need to find more rhythm and consistency at the end and make the right adjustments.
“As you saw today it was a battle and I wasn’t very efficient offensively and I put our team in trouble. So we’re happy with the win because to go deep in the tournament you need to win these type of matches, the one where you don’t play well.”
On the women’s side, it was largely business as usual. No. 2 Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas (Brazil) defeated No. 23 Ana Gallay/Georgia Klug (Argentina) 21-11, 21-17. Brazil played a nearly flawless first set in this matchup of South American rivals.
No. 10 Forrer/Verge-Depre (Switzerland) defeated No. 22 Mariafe Artacho Del Solar/Nicole Laird (Australia) 19-21, 21-16, 21-19, as Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre pulled out the win in a see saw battle against Del Solar/Laird where both teams had four match points. The Swiss were the beneficiaries of two hitting errors by Del Solar to finish the match.
No. 6 Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel (Netherlands) controlled No. 18 Natalia Alfaro/Karen Charles (Costa Rica) 21-16, 21-16. The scrappy Costa Ricans challenged the Dutch pair, but ultimately weren’t consistent enough to put away the match.
No. 11 Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez (Spain) defeated No. 23 Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova(Czech Republic) in straight sets 21-15, 21-19. Both teams made key digs down the stretch, but Spain’s transition setting generated points, while the Czech’s created errors.
No. 7 Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy (Australia) overpowered No. 19 Olaya Pazo/Norisbeth Agudo (Venezuela) 21-9, 21-14 in 32 minutes.