CUT SHOTS: CONFIRMATION!
By Tom Feuer:
After years of fairly unpredictable results on the men’s side, it appears as if we are at the point now where Bruno and Alison and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena have separated themselves ever so slightly from the rest of the world’s partnerships, something which has not really happened globally since 2008 when Dalhausser and Todd Rogers were the undisputed top team in the world. Results from this past weekend’s four star FIVB event in Rio where the Brasilians won, and the AVP Austin Open, where Phil and Nick triumphed, are proof positive of this development.
First, some revisionist history: Had Bruno and Alison not lost in pool play at the Olympic Games also in Rio, 15-13 in the third, to Austria’s mediocre Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst, it would have stood to reason that Dalhausser and Lucena would have been placed in the opposite bracket with a face off likely for the gold medal. However, the Brasilian duo mucked it up instead, and when the two teams did face off in the quarterfinals, we got the windiest day of the tournament and a wacky match thus ensued with Bruno and Alison emerging in three games, none of which were competitive (21-14, 12-21, 15-9).
Now to further the point of two team separation, earlier in the Olympics, in pool play, the Americans won perhaps the most exciting match on the men’s side beating eventual silver medalists, Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai, 21-13, 17-21, 24-22.
Finally, although they did not play against each other at the Olympics, Phil and Nick defeated eventual Dutch bronze medalists Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen in the gold medal matches at Hamburg and Puerto Vallarta the last two times they squared off against each other.
So, if Bruno and Alison and Dalhausser and Lucena are the best who are nipping at their heels? Simple, Brasilians Alvaro Filho and Saymon Barbosa, and they are scary.
You might remember Filho. At age 22, in 2013, he won the silver medal at the World Championships with the “Wall” Ricardo Santos, in Stare Jablonki, Poland. That was to be the highlight of the partnership as Ricardo and Alvaro would win the following week in Gstaad and then for the most part fall off into the ether. Chemistry being what it is, it has taken the generously listed 6-1 Filho four years of his prime volleyball life (mostly playing with Vitor Felipe) to find a playing partner who can augment his defensive skills and creative shot making.
That player is Saymon Barbosa, 6-7, 23 years old, with jumping ability like Jose Loiola and who creates his own “wall” like Ricardo. In two FIVB events they have taken a first and a fifth, but what is more instructive is how well they have played on the CBV domestic Brasil stops, which is as strong as any national tour on the planet. They did not lay a single egg. Ten tournaments and all were podium finishes including three firsts and five seconds. They faced Alison and Bruno five times in finals, winning just once, but almost all of them were close. Watch out for this team. They have all the tools and by Tokyo could very well be the favorites at the Olympics.
Barbosa broke off with solid defender Guto, after a 2016 season that included a win in Cincinnati, and a second at Klagenfurt. However neither tournament had all the top principals in action. Now, Guto is paired with the mercurial Pedro Salgado, and with this outfit expect the unexpected. Their results are underwhelming so far on FIVB, a 17th and a ninth. But they fared much better on the CBV tour, where they first combined forces on the sixth stop in January. Right out of the box they finished second, then fourth, followed by two wins and a fifth in the season concluding Superpraia. In their victories they took out Alison/Bruno in one and Alvaro Filho/Saymon in the other. Pedro is still only 31, despite being a regular fixture on the FIVB tour since 2006, and the junior world circuit even before then.
Next up is the FIVB event in Moscow May 31-June 4th and EVERYBODY will be there, the first summit meeting since Fort Lauderdale in February.
Next week we will take a look at the women’s landscape domestically and then internationally.
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.