American teams had a chance to sweep the gold medal games at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, but they were ultimately no match for their Brazilian foes.
Second-seeded Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt won the men's bracket with a hard-fought 21-16, 20-22, 15-13 victory against Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. The score was 9-9 in the third set before Cerutti and Schmidt were able to put some distance between themselves and their opponents.
"They're good," Lucena said. "They've been playing at a high level; they don't make too many mistakes. Great blocking, great defense. You've got to play perfect to beat them."
The first-place finish for the Brazilian duo was their fourth in a row on the World Tour. The last time that happened was in 2010, when Dalhausser and Todd Rogers did it.
"It's a dream come true for me for sure, especially against one of the most dominant players that you've ever seen play, Phil Dalhausser," Schmidt said. "We're happy to see him back on the tour, because he's really good for the sport. He made our final even more special."
Dalhausser and Lucena weren't pleased with the officiating, particularly after Dalhausser was called for touching the net during the decisive third set. Though he was joking around while speaking with reporters afterward, Dalhausser also made his opinion known.
"It's my fault that it got to me as much as it did, but I did not touch the net," Dalhausser said. "If we convert on that play, it's 10-7 instead of 9-9. So it was a big momentum shift, and it's all because of a stupid ref."
The women's gold medal game featured second-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca against April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings. Antunes and Franca hadn't lost a set in the elimination bracket going into the championship, and that didn't change on Sunday, as they won 21-18, 21-16. The Americans threatened to take control at various points, but the Brazilians stayed poised and calm, attacking Walsh Jennings as she continues to recover from a dislocated shoulder.
"We got to see them at full strength, and they didn't get to see us at full strength," Ross said. "I think we learned a lot from that match. I still think we should've won, but there were a couple things we did that we're going to fix for next time."
Walsh Jennings said the right shoulder is her "best-feeling body part" because she "barely used it," but she won't be swinging with her right arm for the remainder of the year as she rehabs. She did, however, find some positives in playing with a limited skill set.
"This whole situation has brought us closer together," Walsh Jennings said. "Communication is tighter, we're using all of our resources, we're leaning on our coach, and we're trusting each other."
Though she ended up with the silver medal, Ross was picked as the MVP of the women's bracket.
"It was very nice of them to point it out, but I don't really believe in MVP," Ross said. "It's a two-person sport. I think it's one of the hardest courts to play, and you've got to have two people playing at a high level to get to the spot that we got to in this tournament."
"That being said, so well deserved," Walsh Jennings added.
Ross and Walsh Jennings have plenty of work left to do to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but they spoke confidently about clinching a spot — and getting a rematch against Antunes and Franca.
"There's always just more on the table when we play them," Ross said of facing Brazilian teams. "I think it's been like that even before the Olympics got announced in Rio. But yeah, the stakes are big whenever we come up against Brazil. We're going to for sure face them in Rio."
In the bronze medal games, Spain's Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera beat Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands, and Germany's Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst defeated Australia's Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy.