World Championships Day 7 Recap
By Tom Feuer
It may have been the 4th of July back in the U.S. but all of the fireworks were occurring in Hamburg, Germany 5,600 miles from Los Angeles and the host of the World Beach Volleyball Championships. The much maligned American men won all four of their matches and the U.S. now has more teams in the Sweet 16 than any other country, and twice as many as Brazil. On the women’s side, two of the three U.S. teams alive advanced to the Elite Eight. The only American team of either gender to lose was the young duo of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil.
In the very first match of the day at 11:00 am with temperatures more suited to ice fishing than volleyball, the biggest upset of the tournament took place with Stafford Slick and Billy Allen showing a great deal of poise and patience taking down medal favorites Evandro and Bruno in straight sets, 21-19, 21-18. Between them, Bruno and Evandro have two golds and a bronze in World competition and came into the tourney on a hot streak beating the world’s best team the Volley Vikings from Norway (Anders Mol/Christian Sorum) in Warsaw the last tournament before the Worlds.
“We watched a lot of film and the big focus was to fight off the serve,” Allen said. “We knew the both of them had great serves. And they got us a few times but we hung in there and I think the balls that we got up we bettered it with the set and still got a swing and it was a big thing for us.”
Allen, 37, who has played professionally for 16 years called today’s win the biggest of his career, even sweeter than the two AVP titles he won in Seattle in 2016 and 2017. Allen and Slick only got into the Worlds through the labyrinth of the NORCECA circuit. “A lot of teams can get into the Worlds through different routes,” Slick said. “We’re not a team that these guys have seen out here. So we might have had a few tricks up our sleeve and maybe we played to a level that they did not expect,” said Slick, who called the win on the 4th of July “poetic.”
By moving into the round of 16, Allen and Slick picked up a minimum of 800 Olympic qualifying points, the equivalent of winning an FIVB four star. Next up for them tomorrow is a match up with Olympic silver medalists Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo.
However, Slick and Allen did not make up any ground on the other leading American men’s teams as one after the other they came out victorious. Next up on the docket was Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb who had no trouble dispatching the experienced Spanish team of 2004 Olympic silver medalist Pablo Herrera and his partner Adrian Gavira. “To be honest I have to give all the credit to our coach, Rich Lambourne. He came up with a game plan that was stellar,” Gibb said. “It had to do with my line of approach and our line up on defense and lets leave it at that.” Gibb and Taylor Crabb will next face reigning Worlds bronze medalist, Viacheslav Krasilnikov and partner Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia, the third seeds.
Taylor Crabb was hurrying through the media area so that he could see his brother Trevor Crabb who had a date on Center Court with the host German team of Lars Fluggen and Nils Ehlers shortly after Taylor and Gibb played their match on court two. After some opening game jitters led to a loss, 21-15, Bourne and Trevor Crabb controlled the Germans and their loud partisans outlasting Fluggen and Ehlers, 21-19 before a game three blowout 15-10. Next up for them is a date with Russia’s Konstantin Semenov and Ilya Leshukov.
Finally, a team that was given up for dead after only advancing only via the Lucky Losers, 39-year-olds Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena looked terrific taking down the fourth seeds from Qatar, Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan in a thoroughly dominating beatdown, 21-18, 21-15, a match not nearly as close as the score would indicate. So what changed in the 48 hours since Dalhausser and Lucena got beaten by Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands after a prior loss to Canadians, Grant O’Gorman and Ben Saxton? “Well USOPC sent a sports psychologist and we sat down with him as a team with our coach and we talked about our feelings,” Dalhausser said after the match. “And men don’t want to talk about their feelings. But we laid it all out and we feel now like we are playing with house money and have got nothing to lose.” Dalhausser and Lucena will hope another roll of the dice will lead them to victory against the third of the Russian teams the USA teams will face tomorrow, ’17 Worlds bronze medalist (with Krasilinkov) Nikita Liamin and Taras Myskiv.
Meanwhile, the remaining women’s teams will play two matches and we know at least one American team will be playing for medals as both April Ross/Alix Klineman and Summer Ross/Sara Hughes have advanced to play each other in what has been a wildly unpredictable tournament. Both of the top Brazilian teams, Agatha and Duda and Ana Patricia and Rebecca fell in three sets today and now the top four seeds in the women’s draw have all bit the dust. Klineman and April Ross, seeded fifth are the highest team left in it and there is only one Brazilian team alive, 2015 World silver medalist Fernanda Alves and her partner Barbara Seixas. The Brazilian women have never left a World Championships without at least one medal.