CUT SHOTS: CRUNCH TIME IN RIO QUALIFICATION
By Tom Feuer
The long, long road to a third Olympics for Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser begins this week in Japan where they will be the 19th seed in the Grand Slam in Yokohama. Dalhausser’s oblique injury caused this partnership to miss five Grand Slams/Majors already this season. Add to that their election to bypass the two Opens at the start of the season in Fuzhou and Lucerne and there can be no doubt that they are really behind the eight ball.
Phil and Sean need to complete 12 FIVB tournaments, be among the top fifteen in the world overall and one of the top two American teams by the close of qualifying June 12, 2016. Lets look at each of these scenarios separately.
There are 10 tournaments for men left this season (not counting the World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in late September/early October). Of those ten, three are Grand Slams, and seven are Opens. The Grand Slams award a maximum of 800 points, Opens 500 points. The only points Dalhausser/Rosenthal have at present are the 160 from Moscow where they placed 25th due to Phil’s injury.
There are likely to be no more than six tournaments played in 2016 before the Olympic qualification procedure is concluded. If the schedule is similar to this year, then there may be a number of Opens dotting the 2016 early season meaning Dalhausser/Rosenthal must maximize the three Grand Slams left this year (Yokohama, Long Beach and Olsztyn) and hope that that are three Grand Slams or Majors (which also award a maximum of 800 points) early in 2016.
Right now John Hyden and Tri Bourne are the 15th ranked team in the world with 2,280 points, 2120 ahead of Dalhausser/Rosenthal. If Phil and Sean were to average fourth place finishes in each of the three remaining Grand Slams in 2015 they would add 1680 points to their tally. If in the remaining seven Opens they were to average second place finishes they would garner 3150 points. All of those machinations would probably put them in the World top 15.
Now, amongst American teams they are currently tied for seventh with their 160 points. The second ranked team is Nick Lucena and Theo Brunner (10th overall) with 2560 points, 2400 ahead of Sean/Phil. The top American team is Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson at 2,720 (6th overall). This is where it gets sticky. Both teams are playing very well. Gibb/Patterson just won another AVP tourney, their fifth in a row (6th U.S. tournament win in a row when you count the FIVB event in St. Petersburg) and have a pre-injury win over Dalhausser/Rosenthal from an AVP event in New Orleans in May.
Brunner and Lucena, meanwhile, have a 4th at the World Championships and a third from St. Petersburg amongst their FIVB finishes this season. And, lets not forget the aforementioned Hyden and Bourne, who currently stand third in the U.S. points standings but are starting to come around with consecutive fifth place finishes internationally.
Long Beach will be extremely critical to Dalhausser and Rosenthal. They are the two-time defending champions of the World Series event and American teams have a tendency to play very well on home soil. However, Sean and Phil will need to not only play well, but also hope that the other American teams are in a funk in Long Beach so they can start to whittle away the considerable gap that currently exists.
There were some interesting takeaways from the AVP event in New York City. For one, there are some good young American men’s players, the most promising of which may be Hawaiian Trevor Crabb. Only 25, Crabb has been the blocker the past two seasons with partners Ty Tramblie and Billy Allen. In New York City over the weekend Crabb/Tramblie took third with a straight sets win over Todd Rogers and Stafford Slick. Last year, when playing with Allen, Crabb garnered a third and two fifths. Their most impressive win last summer was a straight set triumph over Gibb and Patterson in Manhattan Beach. Gibb and Patterson’s seventh there was the only tournament that they have lost on U.S. soil in over a year.
However good Crabb has played so far as a blocker, he projects in an FIVB future as a defender. He is just too small to compete with the behemoths who roam the sand internationally. All that being said, he has all the tools to be a great one and an on-court charisma as well.
Some might argue that I have the “wrong” Crabb when it comes to which player in the U.S. has the greatest upside. Trevor’s brother Taylor, a member of “Team 6-foot and under,” and 150 pounds dripping wet, took 13th in New York with Spencer McLachlin, but one of the losses occurred in what had to be one of the most intriguing matches of the summer, a 21-19, 17-21, 22-24 loss to eventual runners-up Ryan Doherty and John Mayer. I wish I could have seen the 6-0 Taylor Crabb, and the 7-1 ½ Doherty battle it out.
Tom Feuer has been a close observer of the sport since 1976. He currently works as the Director of Arizona State’s Cronkite Sports Bureau in Santa Monica, CA and is a Professor of Practice. Prior to that, he was the Executive Producer for Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket in Los Angeles and has won three National Emmy Awards for his work in television.