Fort Lauderdale, Fla., October 4, 2015 - It was a thorough clinic in Beach Volleyball, but when the last ball hit the sand in the US$500,000 SWATCH World Tour Finals on Sunday, Brazilian Bruno Oscar Schmidt knew it was more than hitting a ball around that brought him and Alison Cerutti another FIVB title.
“We learned a lot and the main point for us was our relationship, our friendship, we put that in front of everything,” Bruno said after their 21-13, 21-15 win over Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. “It was a smart way to play the season.
“When you have a relationship, you like to separate inside the court and outside the court. When you try to be more strong, more together, try to help each other even more than yourself, things just happen for you. When you act like this, you take more advantage of everything, especially in tournaments like this.”
The World Champions and No. 1 team in the world captured their sixth championship of the season and took home an international record of $100,000 in prize money.
Just as important, they solidified themselves as the favorite heading into the 2016 season, which includes the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Having lost earlier in the week to Dalhausser and Lucena in the inaugural event featuring 10 of the top teams in the world, the Brazilians took charge from the outset and never let go of their grip.
“They played well, man,” Lucena said. “We didn’t get them in any passing trouble, they served tough. One Bruno serve - I thought I was on it and it just dropped right in front of me. Hat’s off to them. They made adjustments from the first time we played them.”
One of the adjustments had little to do with strategy. Dalhausser and Lucena outlasted Bruno and Alison on a hot, stick day in a match that went three games.
“I give them the credit - they played amazing, especially in the tiebreak,” Bruno said of the first meeting. “But in the end of the second set the humidity and the heat were insane that day. Today was so much fresher.
“We know when we play against Phil, we need to start strong. That was our mentality today.”
Bruno and Alison jumped out to a 5-2 lead by scoring four consecutive points. Lucena and Dalhausser tried to gain traction but couldn’t find the formula. It didn’t take long before the Brazilians had a 17-10 lead.
The second game was much the same. A hit by Lucena off of Alison’s block pulled the Americans within 6-4, but Alison came right back with a hit for a point and errors from Dalhausser and Lucena made it 9-4.
Only four times in the match did the Americans score consecutive points. The Brazilians had two runs of four points and two more runs of three points.
“That’s what top teams do,” Lucena said. “They’re a top team and they did a good job. I didn’t pass that well, so we’re not passing good, we couldn’t run our system and they took advantage of that. They sided out really well.”
“We came out kind of flat and could never really work our way out of it,” Dalhausser said. “They were just from the very first point showed why they’re the best team in the world. They played great.”
In the middle of the week, Dalhausser and Lucena tried to serve at the 6-foot-8 Alison to wear him down in the heat. They tried it again Sunday but the Brazilians were ready.
“Test him out,” Lucena said. “Phil’s got a big block but he hit some gnarly angles and so we were just trying to serve a little tougher. Any time we got them in trouble, they got out of it. They played better than us today and we’ll get them again.”
Lucena and Dalhausser, who just joined forces this summer, earned $60,000 for the silver medal. But since they are behind in the FIVB point standings in the chase for Olympic qualification, they still are planning to play in three events this year, which are part of the 2015/2016 season and resume their schedule in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico next week.
Having already qualified for the Olympics Alison and Bruno are looking forward to putting their feet up and soaking up a dominant season.
“I’m so happy about this,” Bruno said. “I haven’t had such a successful season like this. This was my first Olympic run and we qualified right after Poland. Everything’s special for me right now. I want to try to chill at this moment as much as I can, but on the other hand I’m so excited to try everything again and try to be even better.”
Check out other articles on Alison and Bruno at http://olympics.nbcsports.com/2015/09/30/alison-cerutti-bruno-schmidt-beach-volleyball-olympics-brazil-rio-2016-world-tour-finals/