With family, friends and an enthusiastic American home crowd rooting them on, U.S. Olympians Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser recently struck gold in the Beach Volleyball Major Series tournament in Fort Lauderdale.
Lucena and Dalhausser came through with a convincing 21-12, 21-17 victory over 2016 Olympic silver medalists Paolo Nicolia and Daniele Lupo of Italy at the Red Bull Beach Arena.
The Beach Volleyball Major Series event in Fort Lauderdale opened the 2018 FIVB (International Volleyball Association) World Tour and attracted the best men and women beach volleyball players in the world to compete for $600,000 in prize money. Over the course of six action-packed days, there were 160 matches going on both during the day and at night on the main court and four side courts.
Lucena and Dalhausser captured the bronze medal at this event last year, but gave a golden performance this time around as the duo won six matches without dropping a set. Their connections to South Florida run strong.
Lucena, a native of Cooper City, attended Western High School and Florida State University; while Dalhausser grew up in Daytona and graduated from the University of Central Florida. Both players developed their game playing in local tournaments in the Fort Lauderdale area and played their first Fort Lauderdale AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) tournament together in 2003.
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With a packed house in the 5,000-seat arena pulling for Team USA, the local partners did not disappoint. Dalhausser and Lucena, both age 38, are still performing at the top of their game and are always one of the favorites going into any tournament.
At 6-foot-9 and with tremendous shot-blocking skills to go along with a strong service and setting game, Dalhausser is arguably the best player in the world. Lucena, a top defensive specialist, is one of the quickest players on the tour.
“We’re older now and take care of our bodies,” Lucena said. “Our experience of playing in all kinds of situations and having a good game plan has been a big advantage. Winning and seeing (family and friends) after a championship is the best. Being an Olympian was never even a dream and I’m fortunate and grateful and hoping it will last a couple more years.”
Having a home crowd pulling for you is always an advantage, and the importance of having that support can never be overstated.
“It’s great coming to Fort Lauderdale, because my family can come down from Daytona and Nick has like a million family members and friends here,” Dalhausser said. “Having that great energy out in the stands helps.
“This is the first tournament of the year and you never know how well you’re going to perform,” he continued. “My partnership with Nick is like a healthy marriage. We keep getting better and better, while adding layers to our game. We want to stay on top of the rankings.”
The women’s division featured an all-Brazilian final, with Barbara Seixas De Freitas and Fernanda Alves topping Taiana Lima and Carolina Horta Maximo 21-16, 21-13. In the bronze-medal match, the American team of Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross defeated the German team of Isabel Schneider and Victoria Bieneck 21-17, 21-13.
Sweat is another Floridian making a name for herself on the tour. The USA Olympian is from Fort Meyers and developed her game on the beach courts in Fort Lauderdale.
“When I first started playing beach volleyball, I played in a lot of Dig the Beach events in Fort Lauderdale, so it’s special to win the bronze medal at a major international competition here,” Sweat said. “I never dreamed of being an Olympian and I’m very humbled to wear the red, white and blue proudly.”
Article courtesy to Sun Sentinel
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