RIO DE JANEIRO — It’s the match they wanted. It’s the match everyone following the men’s beach volleyball tournament at the Rio Olympics wanted: Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the U.S. versus No. 1-seeded Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt of Brazil.
“It’s going to be fun to play. Brazil in Brazil,” Dalhausser said of the match scheduled for Monday in Copacabana. “We just get them a little earlier than we expected.”
Dalhausser and Lucena advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-15) win over Robin Seidl and Alexander Huber of Austria Saturday night. In theory, they should have been on a collision course with the Brazilian powerhouse in the semifinals or even the finals. But Alison and Schmidt dropped a match to Austria’s other entry in the preliminaries, and ended up in the Americans’ bracket for the quarterfinals.
They’re going to have to beat the top-ranked team on their home sand just to play for the chance to medal.
“We got our wish. Playing Brazil, with a Brazilian crowd,” said Dalhausser, who has played Alison before in Brazil. “They get fired up, that’s for sure. But the pressure’s on. They’re the No. 1 team here, on home soil. We really shouldn’t be here. We’re playing with the house’s money. We started playing a year ago, and no one gave us a chance to qualify. But we’re here in the quarters.”
Because of an injury to Dalhausser, he and Lucena had less than a year to mesh and qualify for the Olympics. Not only did they accomplish that, but they actually defeated their Brazilian rivals in a tournament in Hamburg two months ago.
“But they didn’t play their best match. I’m expecting a way better team than they were in Hamburg,” said Dalhausser. “But if we play the way we did in Hamburg, we may win. Depending on how they play.”
Have the Americans played up to those standards in Rio? “Nah. … Hamburg was our best tournament,” said Dalhausser.
So Dalhausser and Lucena get the match they wanted, the opportunity they wanted, with nothing less than survival, the final four and ultimate bragging rights on the line.
Dalhausser did his best to lower expectations. “If we play well, and they play a little better, I’d be OK with that,” he said.
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