CUT SHOTS: CALF CONCERNS
By Tom Feuer
The current status of Phil Dalhausser’s left calf injury incurred at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open is not fully known but he did begin practicing on it July 26th, which is a full 11 days before the Rio beach volley tournament begins. To recap, it was ten all in the first set of an early Sunday morning semifinal match against Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson when he started to feel some pain shortly after serving. The good news is that he has had this injury before and therefore he knows how much rest and what kind of treatment is most successful. Also, the Olympic tournament is different than any other in that there is a match every other day and in Dalhausser and Lucena’s pool is a team from Tunisia that should give them no problem.
It will, however, be potentially a different story when they face off against Ontiveros/Virgen of Mexico and Nicolai/Lupo of Italy their other pool mates. They are 1-2 against the Mexican contingent including losses in the two most recent matches which were the last two international tourneys that the Americans played. They are 2-1 against Nicolai and Lupo who knocked a hobbled Dalhausser and Rogers out of the Olympics in London in 2012. If you recall, though, Dalhausser had a blood clot a couple of months before those Games and was dealing with arthritis in his knee while in London. Rogers was also less than 100% physically.
Interestingly enough, Phil and Nick’s play in the Manhattan Beach quarterfinal, before their fateful match, was nothing short of stunning. They absolutely dominated Tri Bourne and John Hyden 21-18, 21-12 with all of the hallmarks of what should make them a formidable team if they are hitting on all cylinders in Brasil. Lucena was siding out with a vast array of shots that kept Hyden guessing. Dalhausser’s serve, perhaps the most important and critical weapon this team will need in Rio de Janeiro, was on fire including at least three that nicked the tape and rolled over for aces.
The Dalhausser dramas that have occurred over the last few years (dominance, injuries, partner switching…) have to a degree overshadowed some excellent work being put in by Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb. One thing that amazes me in watching this team is just how good a defender Patterson is. This despite the fact that he stands a very tall for a defender, 6-6 and has such excellent mobility. Time and again he can take an opposing hitter’s line or angle and dig a flawless ball. As you watch the Olympic tournament take note of his abilities in this area. The other interesting aspect of this partnership is that most teams on the world tour have a player in the that receives all or most of the serves. This is not the case necessarily with Jake and Casey which can be an advantage while opposing teams try to figure out whom to serve in any given match.
Gibb and Patterson have been THE most consistent team on the World Tour. Since April they have finished fourth or fifth in every single event they have played. On the AVP tour they have won three of the five events. In their Rio pool they have a huge advantage in that two of the teams that they play: Herrera/Gavira of Spain and Huber/Seidl of Austria are known quantities. They have long standing partnerships and are unlikely to show too many variations in Rio. Gavira and Herrera have played together since 2009, while Huber/Seidl have been a unit since 2010.
However, the last seed in their group, the Qataris, Jefferson Pereira and Cherif Younousse are dangerous. They have a win already, albeit an open, in Kish Island, Iran. You would always prefer to play the devil you know than the one you don’t and Gibb/Patterson have never faced the Qataris.
This week Klagenfurt hosts one of the world’s truly great international tournaments. According to Patterson, the event may be on its last legs which would truly be a shame. If so, it will certainly go out with a bang judging just by what has happened in the pools. Fresh off their win in the World University Games, Kelly Claes and Sarah Hughes have done it again defeating top seeds and Olympic medal favorites Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.
When considering how long their collegiate season was, Hughes and Claes’ ability to hold and maintain a peak is extraordinary for two that are so young. It will be very interesting to see how the Trojan pair will do when they play in the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach (August 23-28) directly after the Olympics. Given their recent results including pushing Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross in a quarterfinal at the AVP San Francisco Open, I would not be surprised to see the young Trojans playing on the final Sunday in Long Beach. My next post will be from Rio.
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.