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Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena take long road to beach volleyball semifinals

Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena take long road to beach volleyball semifinals
Nick Lucena, who was not happy that he and partner Phil Dalhausser had to play three matches Friday, spikes the ball past Clemens Doppler during a match Thursday at the World Series of Beach Volleyball. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

After winning three matches in one day to secure a spot in the semifinals of the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, you'd think Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser would be happier.

But fresh off defeating John Mayer and Ryan Doherty, the other remaining American pair, in Long Beach, Lucena and Dalhauser had a bone to pick about the number of matches played and the amount of time in between them.

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"The way this tournament is being run is crazy, let me just go ahead and say that," Lucena said. "To win three games in a day is hard . . . but we did it, and I'm proud of Phil and I for doing that, and we look forward to playing tomorrow."

Dalhausser wasn't quite as annoyed as Lucena but expressed similar sentiments.

"I know why they're doing it, because they have to make their TV time to get the semifinals in at a certain time for TV," Dalhausser said. "But they could figure something out. The five-day tournament, for us to play three matches in one day is pretty silly."

One court over, second-seeded Brazilian duo Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt were dealing with their own fatigue-related issues, as Schmidt suffered cramps that required medical attention at the conclusion of their 21-17, 21-13 victory over Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen. Cerutti and Schmidt played only two matches Friday, however, so they didn't have the same beef as the Americans.

More than anything, Friday's action showed how much parity there is on the men's side.

The top seeds, Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb, didn't even make it out of pool play after going 1-2. The semifinalists include 24th-seeded Dalhausser and Lucena (who lost their standing mainly because Dalhausser missed two months with an injury), Cerutti and Schmidt, 10th-seeded Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera and fifth-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen.

"The men's side of the tournament is always just so nasty," Doherty said before his match against Dalhausser and Lucena. "There's 15 teams at any given tournament that can win the tournament, and there's 40 teams that could medal."

Doherty and Mayer entered the tournament ranked 26th, and had to win two qualifying games Tuesday just to advance to the main draw.

"Physically, it's tougher, but I kind of relish in the adversity," Mayer said. "It's a challenge, but to get to play volleyball in Long Beach in an international tournament — we've traveled all over the world to play these, and to get to be home and experience this, I could be on one shoulder and play as hard as I could."

"I'm no stranger to the guys in the medical tents," Doherty said. "We're all on a first-name basis right now. But that's what you train for."

Doherty and Mayer had little left against Dalhausser and Lucena, losing, 21-15, 21-12. It was still a solid finish, considering they were a longshot to end up as the second-best American team at Long Beach.

"That's a great tournament for those guys," Lucena said. "They beat some really good teams, and we had to play pretty dang good to beat them."

Doherty, who is 7 feet tall, also gave world-class blocker Dalhausser a run for his money at the net.

"I used to be the tallest guy out here, but that's not the case anymore," the 6-foot-9 Dalhausser said. "I'm like the 15th tallest guy out here. I've got to flex my muscles a little bit, what little muscles I have."

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Now that it's down to the final four, Dalhausser and Lucena — winners at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open last weekend — will have to dig deep to bolster their Olympic hopes and advance to the finals.

"There's 64 really good teams, and every game, you can't get away with playing poorly," Lucena said. "This is the hardest I've seen it. It's only going to get better, I think."

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