Lausanne, Switzerland, August 5, 2015 - As the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball approaches with the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam as the centerpiece, the intrigue for the United States men’s teams chasing Olympic will take a new turn.Former Olympians Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal will be on the TrueCar Court at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach, Calif. That was to be expected, of course. The difference? They won’t be on the same side of the court.The team that captured three FIVB events in 2014, including Long Beach, announced their split last month. Dalhausser now moves on with his original partner, Nick Lucena, and Rosenthal picks up with Theo Brunner, the emerging 6-foot-7 protégé of Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers.It would appear that the big winners in the shuffle would be the team of Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, currently the top American team in the standings, or John Hyden and Tri Bourne, who took the Berlin Grand Slam last year.Not so fast, if you listen to Gibb. He and Patterson might be the current frontrunners, but Gibb – a two-time Olympian with Rosenthal – is taking nothing for granted.“There’s still a long time to go,” Gibb said, refusing to characterize Rio de Janeiro 2016 as the looming light at the end of the tunnel. “There’s so much movement that can be made. We have a few good finishes, but there’s so much to be done. I don’t look at it that way, maybe stat guys look at it that way, but I don’t feel it at all. I feel we’re in the middle of the qualification process.“I know the game. We were quite a ways behind in 2011 then in 2012 we came out the No. 1 team in the world and passed people up. That can happen real easily. If Phil comes out and wins a couple tournaments, all of a sudden it’s a totally different ball game. There’s a lot to be done.”The Dalhausser-Lucena pairing might be a dangerous one. The duo came out of nowhere when they arrived in Southern California from Florida a dozen years ago. “I did play against them early and then I played against them when they got together for one tournament in Florida,” a wary Gibb said. “I lost to them in the final.
“They just fit, they’re good friends, Nick’s got fire, they’re going to be very good.”In seven FIVB events this year, Gibb and Patterson finished fifth twice, then came back to American sand and captured the St. Petersburg, Fla., Grand Slam in June. Needless to say, they like their chances in Long Beach.“I hope so. If we can just win at home, that’s two wins, that’s more than I had last year so I’d be stoked,” Gibb said with a smile. “We’ve had a good year. We’ve lost to guys that have made the final or won the tournament almost every tournament. We’re playing well. “I like where we’re at and we’re improving. We have a couple things we’re improving on this week especially in practice so I think we’re going to be ready. We’re going to be firing on all cylinders.”Part of the optimism for Gibb and Patterson is that the 6-foot-6 Patterson has improved his defense. The team admits to borrowing a few tricks of the trade from ageless veteran Hyden, also a taller defender,“People are seeing his defense,” Gibb said of Patterson. “He’s become a top 10 defender in the world, which is crazy because he really wasn’t that for the first few years. That’s pretty impressive considering all the defenders out there.“We watch John Hyden a lot, actually. His defense, his game management is really good, his scheming, we’ve watched him a lot.”It will be a big two weeks of volleyball in Southern California. The week preceding the Long Beach Grand Slam is the event that put the sport on the map, the Manhattan Beach Open. “Two big weekends,” Gibb said. “We train for this. We train to peak during this time period. That’s what we’ve been doing with our strength coach and (technical coach) Tyler Hildebrand. We’re ready. This is what we’ve been playing for.”