Xiamen, China, September 25, 2015 - With the hot and humid weather conditions continuing with the “feels like” temperature approaching 100 (°F) here Friday, Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena advanced through their fourth-straight quarter-final appearance in the last five weeks to post their third success in reaching a FIVB World Tour semi-final at the US$150,000 Xiamen Open.
One of three Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals participants competing in the last points event on the 2015 FIVB World Tour schedule, Dalhausser and Lucena fared better than the other two pairs set to compete next week in the inaugural $500,000 event in the United States at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
On the women’s side of the Xiamen Open competition, Swatch participants Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude of Germany and Emily Day/Jen Kessy of the United States were ousted after dropping opening elimination bracket matches Friday to pairs from Kazakhstan and Argentina, respectively.
Seeded second in the competition with a first-round “bye” for the 24-team elimination bracket, Dalhausser and Lucena scored two-set wins Friday over tandems from Venezuela and Canada to advance to an early Saturday morning semi-final match with ninth-seeded Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza of Latvia.
It will be the first FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams as both pairs have played the same team in the Xiamen Open - Grant O’Gorman and Sam Pedlow of Canada. While Dalhausser and Lucena advanced to the semi-finals with a 2-0 (24-22, 21-16) win Friday over the Canadians in 39 minutes, Plavins and Regza dropped a 2-0 (23-21, 21-13) pool play match to the 25th-seeded O’Gorman and Pedlow.
"We played pretty good. They played well, too,” said Dalhausser after the match with O’Gorman and Pedlow. “It was a high-level match, a lot of siding-out." With five-straight wins in the competition, Lucena “thought that was the best game for us at this tournament."
Dalhausser and Lucena opened play Friday by eliminating sixth-seeded Jesus Villafane and Jackson Henriquez of Venezuela 2-9 (21-16, 21-13) in 34 minutes. Including the win over the Canadians, Dalhausser and Lucena have now won 22 of 28 FIVB World Tour matches since rekindling their partnership in August. The Americans started the starting the 2015 season with different partners as Dalhausser teamed with Sean Rosenthal and Lucena was playing with Theo Brunner.
Playing in their fourth FIVB World Tour event together this season like Dalhausser and Lucena, Plavins and Regza captured the European Games gold medal in mid-June at Baku, Azerbaijan. Plavins also captured the bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Janis Smedins, who reached the Xiamen semi-finals with Aleksandrs Samoilovs.
Smedins and Samoilovs netted their third-straight FIVB World Tour semi-final appearance as the top-seeded Latvians will play Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen of Germany in the second men’s “final four” match Saturday. It will be the fourth meeting this season between the two teams on the FIVB World Tour with Smedins and Samoilovs defeating the Germans for the gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic “test” event on Copacabana.
Two weeks after winning the Rio Open, Smedins and Samoilovs defeated Dalhausser and Lucena 2-0 (24-22, 21-19) in the 44-minute gold medal match at Sochi, Russia. A month earlier in the United States Grand Slam in Long Beach, the Americans eliminated Smedins and Samoilovs from the southern California event by posting a 2-1 (17-21, 21-11, 15-12) win in 54 minutes.
Since losing in the quarter-finals at the Polish Grand Slam at the end of August in Olsztyn, Smedins and Samoilovs have won 18 of their last 19 FIVB World Tour matches with their only blemish being a three-set loss to Bockermann and Fluggen in a Rio Open pool play match. For the season, the Latvians have a 39-13 match mark for eight-plus FIVB World Tour event. Smedins and Samoilovs also won the European continental championships in August in Klagenfurt, Austria.
With Dalhausser and Lucena concluding Xiamen Open play Saturday with a semi-final and medal match, Day/Kessy and Laboureur/Sude board flights Saturday and travel half-way around the world to compete in the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals where play begins Tuesday (September 29) and concludes October 4. Dalhausser and Lucena return to the United States Sunday to prepare for their opening match in the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals.
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.