FIVB Vienna Major

FIVB Vienna Major: Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena Last Team Standing as Americans Fall Flat

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A momentous comeback for Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb on Thursday afternoon backfired, in the strangest way possible. Down 11-12 in the third set to Austrians Robin Seidl and Philipp Waller, Crabb jumped into the line for a block then swatted an angle shot, going up 13-12. It was a lead they’d protect, winning 16-14, breaking pool, taking the minimum finish at the Vienna Major from 17th to 13th, with a good, draw, too, the next morning.

In the first round, they were to meet Nils Ehlers and Lars Fluggen, a team they had just beaten in the first round at World Champs in Hamburg, only this time they wouldn’t see the Germans at home. A win would have put them in the ninth place match with Chileans Marco and Esteban Grimalt, a team that has cooled significantly since a spectacular start to the season.

Instead, Bourne and Crabb were forced to forfeit. After Austria missed a cut shot into the net on match point, Bourne, who had been playing defense, allowed his momentum to carry him into the ref stand, which Bourne thought was padded. It wasn’t, and when Bourne hit the stand in celebration, he broke his hand, forcing the Americans to forfeit their match against Ehlers and Fluggen, and the chance to move forward in Vienna.

“It’s hard to believe that my team will suffer the loss of this Five-Star opportunity because of something so stupid but it is what it is,” Bourne said. “I can only take responsibility and move forward.”

While only one American team was forced to forfeit due to an unusual injury, it’s sort of how this tournament has gone for the U.S. The women, typically the strong point of American beach volleyball, have all been eliminated, with Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman losing to Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado in the quarterfinals.

Prior to that, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat lost in the first round, to Dutch Joy Stubbe and Marleen Van Iersel, 21-15, 20-22, 17-15. Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil were bounced by Stockman and Larsen for ninth, and April Ross and Alix Klineman were upset by Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova, 13-21, 21-19, 16-14.

Vienna marks the first bigger international event – “bigger” meaning Four- and Five-Star FIVBs – since Las Vegas, in October, that the U.S. has not had a women’s team at least in the semifinals.

The hope for a Major medal, then, falls to Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who beat Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi and exorcised their Dutch demons with a three-set win over Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, to move onto the quarterfinals. On Saturday, they’ll see Ehlers and Fluggen, while, blessedly, Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum are on the opposite side of the bracket.

A medal in Vienna would mark Dalhausser’s and Lucena’s first since Doha in March, where they took silver, and it would be their first podium in a Major since Fort Lauderdale of 2018, where they didn’t so much as drop a set.

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