New “jewel” winners seek FIVB World Tour medals

Manhattan Beach, Calif., Aug. 16, 2015 – Two new teams captured the grand jewel of American volleyball Sunday in the AVP Manhattan Beach Open.

Now we get to see how one of those newly formed duos will fare in the international challenge that the FIVB poses. The other team will part ways, even after consecutive championships on the domestic tour of the United States.

In their second tournament together, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena took the coveted Manhattan title and will now go all out to try to nab one of the two U.S. spots for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The quest begins this week at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, in which the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam will be played.

“We’re going to try and use this momentum going into Long Beach, try and win one tournament at a time,” said Lucena, who began his career with Dalhausser a dozen years ago when both were newcomers from Florida. “Myself, I’m going to try and get better and be a better partner for Phil and see if we can make a run.”

The second-seeded duo won all six of their matches without dropping a game and capped their weekend with a 21-19, 21-17 win over fourth-seeded John Hyden and Tri Bourne before a standing-room-only crowd that included about two dozen FIVB players in town for the Long Beach event.

The 6-foot-9 Dalhausser and the defensive devil Lucena finished second the previous week in Seattle and their chemistry has clicked, though they’re curious to see how it will play out as they take on a grueling international circuit in the coming months.

“I’m learning to be aware of every single hit or shot by the other team, that Nick has a very good chance of touching it,” said Dalhausser, who won Olympic gold in 2008 with a similar defensive star, Todd Rogers. “A couple times it caught me off guard and on one I made a mistake at the net. The shot was so good, but Nick was on it and it kind of caught me off by surprise and I poked it right into the net.”

Lucena has few worries.

“Phil’s the best player in the world. It’s easy to gel with him,” he said. “I think us having a little bit of history helps some but we’re both good ball control players.”

It Dalhausser’s fifth Manhattan title and second in a row. He won last year with Sean Rosenthal, his partner until just a few weeks ago. It was the first Manhattan crown for Lucena in three tries.

Ross also scored her second championship in Manhattan when she teamed with Jennifer Fopma to defeat fifth-seeded Nicole Branagh and Jenny Kropp, 21-15, 26-24.

Ross has played with Fopma for five tournaments after Kerri Walsh Jennings was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Since joining forces, Ross and Fopma took fourth in the FIVB Yokohama event, then a fifth in the AVP New York event before winning last week in Seattle.

Jennings Walsh and Ross will hook up again starting this week in Long Beach. Fopma will team with veteran Brittany Hochevar this week.

“I know, I have to give April back. I’m devastated,” Fopma said with a smile. “But I’m excited for April and Kerri on their road to Rio. I’m just going to take a great experience and try to absorb everything that (coach) Marcio (Sicoli) told me, everything that April has taught me, and hopefully I can keep winning with my partner.”


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