AVP New York City

Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena are Making Beach Volleyball Look Fun Again


If they hadn’t been miced up, with a match to watch and commentate, it’s quite possible Stafford Slick and Dain Blanton would have fallen over when they saw Phil Dalhausser, the Thin Beast, the quiet beast, the nonchalant beast, engaging with the crowd during the semifinals of AVP New York City.

Phil Dalhausser? Asking the crowd for more?

“Phil is actually talking to the crowd!” Blanton said on the Amazon Prime broadcast of those semifinals, where Dalhausser and Lucena were leading Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, 4-1, in the third set after a Dalhausser block. “What is going on? I’ve never seen that. This is unbelievable. Phil is into this one. Look at Phil, having a great time.”

It wasn’t the first time in the match the two had shown a little pizzazz, a bit of charisma that’s somewhat uncharacteristic of the two. Earlier in the match, Lucena had hit a ball so straight down that it bounced clear over Crabb’s head. He took a victory lap to drink it in and was awarded the “Hammer Award” immediately after, which he didn’t put down during the entire post-match interview.

“I’m gonna hear about that hit,” Dalhausser said after, “all season long.”

Not too long after, stuck at the net, Lucena blocked Crabb and celebrated by doing pushups.

“A wise man once said,” Dalhausser said afterwards, laughing, “a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.”

It was fun. It was a throwback to the 2005 team that won the Austin finals and celebrated like the up-and-coming kids they were.

Since then, the pair has not become known for, say, dancing on the court, as Casey Patterson has, or trash talking, as Trevor Crabb has. It is vital to note, of course, that there is nothing wrong with this. They don’t need to dance or talk trash or mingle with the crowd.

Dalhausser and Lucena expect to win, as they should. For the past three years and change, they have been the most formidable team the United States has had to offer. They act like it. It works for them.

Sports fans have this tendency where they don’t seem to know what they’d prefer in their athletes. When some celebrate, many cry that the athlete should act like they’ve been there before.

How dare they bat flip?

These end zone dances are ridiculous!

Shut up and dribble.

And then, of course, when they act like they’ve been there before, as Dalhausser and Lucena typically do, many ask for some emotion, a celebration – something. Just look at Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson, a pair of athletes at the peak of their sport who simply go about the business of being at the peak of their sport.

It was, admittedly, quite the treat when Dalhausser and Lucena showed a bit of charisma on the court, as it is always a treat when Leonard chuckles at a press conference or Thompson gives Drake lip in post-game run-ins. It helps, too, that Dalhausser and Lucena finally beat the team that has vanquished them from the previous two tournaments, just as it helps that the semifinal win pushed them to their first final, which they also won, which also happened to be a Gold Series event, with Gold Series prize money and Gold Series competition.  

It’s fun watching this team have fun again. It’s fun watching the best in the world play at a level only few teams on Earth can match.

So raise up the crowd, Phil. Pump out those pushups, Nick.

In New York City, beach volleyball looked quite fun again.