Rio Olympic medal winners to meet top American team for Fort Lauderdale Major gold


Daniele Lupo (right) and Paolo Nicolai celebrate a Fort Lauderdale Major semifinal win on Saturday evening over a Brazilian pair.

Fort Lauderdale, USA, March 3, 2018 - Late morning and early afternoon matches conclude the $600,000 Fort Lauderdale Major here on Sunday as Italians Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai meet Americans Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena for the gold medal at this week’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event.

With the $40,000 first-place prize at stake in the first of three Beach Majors events on the 2018 FIVB World Tour calendar, the fifth-seeded Lupo and Nicolai challenge the top-seeded Dalhausser and Lucena as both teams won a pair of matches on Saturday to advance to the sixth men’s FIVB World Tour gold medal match between the two countries.

The last meeting between the two teams occurred at the Rio 2016 Olympics where the Italians placed second on the Copacabana podium with Dalhausser and Lucena finishing fifth after being eliminated by eventual Summer Games gold medal winners Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt.

Lupo and Nicolai were the first to advance to the Sunday’s gold medal match by posting a 2-0 (24-22, 25-23) win in 52 minutes over ninth-seeded qualifiers Pedro Solberg/George Wanderley of Brazil.

Dalhausser and Lucena completed the matchup with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-12) victory in 37 minutes over 12th-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins of Latvia.

Three-time American Olympian Phil Dalhausser celebrates a point against Latvia Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Major

 “They played good, but we played good as well. It’s incredible,” said Nicolai after the match with the Brazilians. “I like so much to play in the night session with a big crowd and a lot of sound. We are happy and now we have to think about the final tomorrow.  Maybe it will be Phil and Nick with all the fans in their hometown."

After his match with the Latvians, Dalhausser said “this was our best match of the tournament so far. Nick is siding out great, playing good defense. I felt we served really tough. We’re putting them in spots where they don’t feel comfortable and that just makes defense easier. Hopefully we can play like that (tomorrow) and we can win. They (Italy) are a different type of team than Latvia, they are more traditional, big guy and small defender. Lupo is one of the best setup players in the world and Nicolai is one of the best blockers. So we’ll watch some video tonight and hope we can find some weak link.”

To advance to Saturday evening’s semifinals, Dalhausser and Lucena posted a 2-0 (22-20, 21-16) win in 37 minutes over 11th-seeded  Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands and Lupo and Nicolai eliminated 13th-seeded Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera of Spain 2-1 (24-22, 19-21, 17-15) in 54 minutes.