CUT SHOTS: MAMMOTH WINS FOR BRASIL
By Tom Feuer
News flash: The Floridians are back together again! Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena who teamed up in the early stages of their careers, 2003-2005, will reunite for the FIVB World Series of Beach Volleyball Grand Slam in Long Beach, Augsut 18-23, which promises to be one of the most intriguing tournaments in years. Phil and Nick won their only AVP event in Austin in 2005 but their other results were checkered. However, this was back in the day when Lucena was a hot head. His increased maturity, combined with even more refinement in court coverage and consistent siding out has me very excited about their potential. Meanwhile, their old partners, Sean Rosenthal and Theo Brunner will pair up in the LBC…Much more on this next week, below is this week’s blog…
Alison Cerutti, the “Wooly Mammoth,” gets most of the attention, but there is no one in the world playing better beach volleyball right now than Brasil’s Bruno Oscar Schmidt. After a dominating run in Yokohama this past weekend together, Alison and Bruno have won three consecutive FIVB events, the first pairing to pull that trifecta off in four years. Back then, in 2011, it was a young 25-year-old Alison playing with the legendary veteran Emanuel. Now, Alison is the veteran, even though Bruno, at 28, is only one year younger.
Perhaps even more impressive than the win streak, Alison and Bruno have won 22 of their last 23 matches and in only four of those 22 have they been extended to three games. In this era of parity on the men’s FIVB tour, these numbers are truly extraordinary.
Bruno is only 6-1, but at the World Championships of Beach Volleyball earlier this month he won the award for best spiker. “I didn’t expect that all,” Bruno said afterwards. “It couldn’t be better, I am so stoked. But it made me laugh too. The Dutch player has more than 2.10 (Christiaan Varenhorst 6-11), Evandro is 2.10, Alison 2.05 (6-8) and I have 1.85 and get to be best spiker. Very funny.”
Not a lot of the world’s players are laughing at the enhanced offensive arsenal that Bruno has developed. He is very effective at reading the block and also hits a very heavy ball, which belies his size. As a right side player, Chris Marlowe mentioned on one of the Universal Sports World Championship broadcasts that Bruno was an imposing hitter as he had ever seen when he would have to switch to hit from the left side.
Already Bruno was considered the premiere defender in the world, voted so by the FIVB in 2013 and 2014. The Brasilian is also a gifted setter. I remember five years ago he was playing in gale force winds in the finals of a tournament in The Hague and set almost every ball with his hands. I have never seen a demonstration of hand setting like that and probably never will again.
Bruno and Alison are peaking at the right time for selection to next year’s Olympic Games. Alison played with Emanuel in 2012 and captured the silver but it was ultimately bittersweet. Emanuel hit a ball just slightly out on match point and the Brasil duo lost a tense exciting final to Germans Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann, 21-23, 21-16, 14-16.
Although the World Championships did not count towards Olympic qualification, and despite a sluggish start to the season, Alison and Bruno are still in the catbird’s seat. They have played six tournaments towards selection for Rio with a fourth, a ninth and a first in Grand Slams, and a 17th, ninth and a first in Majors. One would assume that Evandro and Pedro have one of the two spots fairly close to being locked up by virtue of their second and two ninths in Grand Slams and a more impressive, first and two fifths in Majors. The Long Beach Grand Slam August 18-23 will be mission critical for both of these teams, especially given there is only one more Slam left on the schedule in a qualification process for Brasilians that takes in 2015 results only.
Things look infinitely bleaker for the old warhorses, Emanuel and Ricardo, the 2004 Olympic champions who reunited late last year and then took the Brasilian domestic tour by storm. They will need to really get on their bicycle and ride as they have a fifth, a ninth and a seventeenth in Slams, and two fifths and a ninth in the Majors. It is not an insurmountable mountain to climb but they must perform exceptionally well in Long Beach and Olsztyn, Poland the following week or the prospect of a sixth Olympic Games for Emanuel and a fifth for Ricardo could be in serious jeopardy.
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.