Beach Volleyball teams from Brazil, Latvia, Spain and the United States gained spots in the men’s quarterfinal round Friday after posting two wins each at this week’s FIVB World Tour event at the Huntington Beach Pier courts.
“Roaring” into the quarter-finals with the biggest wins Friday were Aleksandrs “The Lion King” Samoilovs and Janis “Simba” Smedins as the ninth-seeded Latvians posted upset wins over eighth-seeded and reigning Olympic champions Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil and top-seeded Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena of the United States.
Other teams posting two victories in the winner’s bracket Friday were second-seeded Evandro Goncalves/Andre Loyola of Brazil, 12th-seeded Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera of Spain and 14th-seeded Theo Brunner/John Hyden of the United States. While the Spaniards are the most experienced team in the competition (96 FIVB World Tour events together), the 46-year old Hyden ranks as the oldest player in the men’s field.
With 11 other teams still in contention for the Huntington Beach Open men’s gold medal, Samoilovs and Smedins will play Gavira and Herrera in the first men’s quarterfinal with the Latvians holding a 5-3 edge in FIVB World Tour meetings between the two teams. The Brazil-USA winner’s quarterfinal match will be the first meeting between the two pairs.
After posting a 2-1 (19-21, 21-10, 15-12) win in 49 minutes over Alison and Bruno Friday morning, Samoilovs and Smedins scored a 2-0 (24-22, 21-18) victory in 43 minutes over Dalhausser and Lucena. The Latvians have now won six of 11 FIVB matches with Alison/Bruno and snapped a three-matching losing streak with Dalhausser/Lucena.
“It feels good. Huntington is a good breeze for us, the wind helps us a lot,” said Smedins, who captured the bronze medal with Martins Plavins at the London 2012 Olympic Games. “Alison and Bruno and Phil and Nick, they like the high sets and we are getting the advantage with that because the set is not always good. Then we can start to play block-defence because if it is normal conditions without wind, it is tough because Phil is setting very good sets. We played a little faster, they played the same like without wind and I think that’s why we had better position.”
Smedins also noted that, “the most important thing was the reception because Nick wants to pass high and it’s not working. I have not seen Phil do so many bump sets ever. The ball was going about 2 meters to the side and that’s why we tried to keep our reception right in front of us and then we can play our game.”
Gavira and Herrera opened play Friday with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) win in 35 minutes over 28th-seeded Julian Azaad/Nicolas Capogrosso of Argentina before upsetting fourth-seeded Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak of Poland 2-1 (21-19, 17-21, 15-10) in 50 minutes.
Brunner and Hyden started Friday with a 2-0 (21-13, 21-16) victory over third-seeded Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst of Austria before advancing in the winner’s bracket with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) win in 36 minutes over 27th-seeded Marco Caminati/Enrico Rossi of Italy. The Italians joined Azaad/Capogrosso as the most surprising winners’ bracket contestants this week.
The reigning FIVB world champions, Evandro and Loyola’s advancement to Friday’s quarterfinals were highlighted by a 2-1 (19-21, 32-20, 15-11) win in 66 minutes over 18th-seeded Anders Berntsen Mol/Christian Sandlie Sørum of Norway. The Brazilians advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 (2-18, 21-18) victory in 38 minutes over compatriots Pedro Solberg/George Wanderley.
The inaugural Huntington Beach Open continues through the weekend where the men’s and women’s semi-finals and medal matches will be played Sunday with the winning teams netting the $20,000 first-place prizes. The second of two FIVB World Tour events in the United States this season, the Huntington Beach Open is a partnership between the FIVB and the United States’ premier Beach Volleyball tour – the AVP.