Xiamen, China, September 24, 2015 - It was a hot and humid day here Thursday as Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals participants Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the United States won a three-set match over a team from France to capture their pool to earn a “bye” to the first round of elimination play at the US$150,000 Xiamen Open.
Being played on the southeast China coast on the Taiwan Strait, Thursday’s action in the Xiamen Open featured temperatures (°F) and humidity (%) in the high 80s as Dalhausser and Lucena were playing in the FIVB World Tour event with two other teams that will be competing in next week’s Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals in the United States - Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude and Emily Day/Jen Kessy of the United States.
Seeded second in the competition, Dalhausser and Lucena posted a come-from-behind 2-1 (18-21, 21-14, 15-9) win in 59 minutes over 15th-seeded Jean-Baptiste Daguerre and Yannick Salvetti of France to top Pool B. On Wednesday, Dalhausser and Lucena defeated pairs from Austria and Belarus to guarantee their spot in the elimination rounds while Thursday’s victory netted the Americans their first-round “bye”.
With Dalhausser and Lucena leading 9-7 in the third and final set, the match was halted for a medical timeout after Daguerre showed signs of dehydration in the hot and humid weather. When the match resumed, the French team struggled with Dalhausser and Lucena closing out the set with a 6-2 run.
"It's very hot, maybe the hottest place that I've ever been,” said Lucena, who celebrated his 36th birthday Tuesday. “But it's a good game. We are gonna play tomorrow, hopefully we will recover."
The 35-year old Dalhausser said “it's basically about who wants it more, who is doing the hardest in this heat. France is a good team. They played well until everyone is super tired. It doesn't really become volleyball, it just becomes kind of whoever are the toughest, basically like who wants it more."
Dalhausser and Lucena, who started the season with different partners and earned a “wild card” for the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals to be played in their native Florida at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, are playing in their fourth international event since rekindling their partnership last month.
With two seconds and a fifth in their previous three FIVB World Tour starts in the United States (Long Beach), Poland (Olsztyn) and Russia (Sochi), Dalhausser and Lucena have won 20 of 26 matches this season. With the Americans needing two elimination wins to reach their third international “final four” this season, Dalhausser and Lucena’s opening match Friday will be against the winner of a confrontation between sixth-seeded Jesus Villafane/Jackson Henriquez of Venezuela and 32nd-seeded Peng Gao/Yang Li of China.
On the women’s side, both the fifth-seeded Day/Kessy (Pool E) and sixth-seeded Laboureur/Sude (Pool F) dropped opening matches Thursday to compatriot teams before rebounding with victories over pairs from Japan and China, respectively.
Day and Kessy dropped a 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) decision in 42 minutes to American rivals and 28th-seeded qualifiers Kim DiCello and Kendra Van Zwieten in their first match Thursday before rebounding with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-13) win in 38 minutes over 21st-seeded Sayaka Mizoe and Takemi Nishibori of Japan. Day and Kessy play Pool E leaders and 12th-seeded Victoria Bieneck and Julia Grossner of Germany Friday.
After losing 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 15-12) in 52 minutes to German rivals and 11th-seeded Teresa Mersmann and Isabel Schneider, Laboureur and Sude scored a 2-1 victory in 52 minutes to 27th-seeded Yuanyuan Ma and Xinyi Xia of China. In their final Pool F match Friday, Laboureur and Sude meet 22nd-seeded Nicole Betschart and Nicole Eiholzer of Switzerland.
The men’s semi-final and medal matches will be played Saturday with the women’s “final four” confrontations being held Sunday. The podium-topping teams for each gender will share the $11,000 first-place prizes along with netting 500 Olympic qualifying points for the Rio 2016 Summer Games on Copacabana beach.
Once Dalhausser/Lucena, Day/Kessy and Laboureur/Sude conclude play in Xiamen, the Beach Volleyball tandems will board flights and travel half-way around the world to compete in the US$500,000 Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals where play begins Tuesday (September 29) and concludes October 4.
A non-points event, the winning teams will share the $100,000 gold medal prize for the biggest FIVB World Tour paycheck for a winning team since the start of international competition in 1987 for men and 1992 for women.