Brief chants of “USA! USA!” began in the stadium court for the last match of the day, featuring the only Americans left, John Hyden and Theo Brunner.
But the cheers faded, along with the hopes of Hyden and Brunner, as the late afternoon wind toyed with their sets and the sun set on the U.S. in the FIVB Huntington Beach Open.
American teams on Friday defended their home sand well, but on Saturday, the U.S. men and women failed to advance to Sunday’s semifinals. Hyden and Brunner lost 21-10, 21-17 to Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands.
“We wanted to do it for the fans, so we could have a U.S. team in the semis … we didn’t get it done,” Hyden said. “I wish we could have.”
This year’s Open is a FIVB event, in partnership with the AVP and AVP players. For perspective, the only time an AVP tournament had no Americans in the men’s final was in 1998, according to an official.
Hyden, from San Diego, would have been a great story as the oldest remaining player in the field at 45, but it didn’t pan out in such a huge tournament.
“The caliber of the world international tour is just crazy,” Hyden said. “I mean, everybody’s good. You could take it 25th [seeded] and you can win the tournament.”
Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, the last hope for the U.S. women, lost 21-16, 21-18 to Chantal Labourer and Julia Sude of Germany. Hughes didn’t mask the letdown.
“We wanted to be that team in the semis,” Hughes said.
Hughes broke with longtime partner and former USC teammate Kelly Claes to play with Ross. They fit well and even finish each other’s sentences, but a successful partnership has to build over time.
“I think it’s hard for us because we are a new team, and looking at fifth place, that isn’t bad, but for us, it’s disappointing because we know we can do better and we know we can get on that podium,” Hughes said.
It could be an all-Brazilian women’s final — Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado against Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Alves — if the teams advance from opposite sides of the semifinals bracket. On the other side of the bracket are Labourer and Sude along with Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.
On the men’s side, Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola of Brazil will play Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera of Spain, while Brouwer and Meeuwsen will face Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs of Latvia.
All four of the Latvians’ wins are against 2016 Olympians, including an elimination of top-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. Asked if it was one of the more difficult tournaments, Smedins said, “No, because we are winning. If you lose, then it should be tough. But now, we just play for games. I thought there was tough [opponents], but somehow we managed to beat them.”
Dalhausser and Lucena lost in two sets and never seemed to find their game.
“We were just kind of flat all weekend,” Dalhausser said. “Just couldn’t really get going. Our energy was low. Basically that’s it … there’s so many good teams out here, that if you play like we did this weekend, you’ll be sent packing early.”