The biggest winners of Thursday’s country quota in Huntington Beach, California, were thousands of miles away, going through a stress-free practice in Orlando, Florida.
Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena did not have to compete in the United States country quota, a single-elimination qualifier between four teams for two spots in the Doha qualifier on March 8. While they are behind in the Olympic race to Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, their entry points put them safely in the main draw for Doha, meaning they could stay home in Florida, and avoid the stressful affair that is a country quota.
Bourne and Crabb, meanwhile, the team Dalhausser and Lucena are fighting to catch in the race, were in Huntington Beach, competing against the new team of Chaim Schalk and Theo Brunner for one of the two spots.
The other spot was contested by Bill Kolinske and Miles Evans vs. Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger, who reunited their partnership after a year apart.
The morning got off to a good enough start for Bourne and Crabb, who controlled the entire first set against Schalk and Brunner, winning 17-21. That was as good as it would get. Brunner and Schalk, playing in their first event together as a team, won the next two sets, 21-17, 15-11, grabbing a spot in the qualifier on March 8, eliminating Bourne and Crabb, who finished fourth at the 2019 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany.
Patterson and Budinger showed shades of the team that won the AVP Hermosa Beach Open in 2019, cruising past Kolinske and Evans in straight sets. Doha will mark the first FIVB event for Patterson and Budinger since the Jurmala 3-star in August of 2019, where they finished fifth.
On the women’s side, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil were in a similar predicament as Bourne and Crabb: it was a must-win situation.
Claes and Sponcil are currently the third-ranked team in the United States Olympic race, 320 points behind Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings. A win was imperative.
A win was had.
Claes and Sponcil beat the new team of Emily Day and Sara Hughes, 21-19, 21-16, securing a spot on the Doha qualifier. Doha will be another must-win scenario for the two.
The only team with little stress, now, is Dalhausser and Lucena, who will be getting their twelfth Olympic qualification finish in Doha. A fourth-place or better will vault them above Bourne and Crabb in the rankings. And with two 25th-place finishes and two 17-place finishes on the ledger, they’ll likely only be adding points in additional events until the June qualification deadline.
Go to: Katara Beach Volleyball Cup 2021
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