The fourth straight final for the newly formed American tandem Lucena-Dalhausser and their second title meant that Nick Lucena, 36, had never experienced a more fecund year in his career. The silver medal winners at the recent Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals came flying out of the blocks against Brouwer-Meeuwsen on Sunday to win the Mexican Puerto Vallarta Open.
Moreover, this has been the sixth event for Lucena-Dalhausser since they teamed up and they appeared in their fifth final match, having missed the gold medal encounter only at the Olsztyn Grand Slam when they lost to compatriots Gibb-Patterson in the quarterfinals. It is the same twosome they eliminated in Round 2 on Friday in Puerto Vallarta en route for achieving seven consecutive wins.
Having won the tie-breaks of each of their previous four matches, Lucena-Dalhausser started the gold medal game impressively and were soon back on the bench with the opening set in their bag (21-12). The Dutchmen Brouwer-Meeuwsen, fourth at the Finals in Fort Lauderdale a week ago, made a series of errors in the first set and changed their concentration tangibly for the second one. Having lost the semifinal in Fort Lauderdale namely to Lucena-Dalhausser, the 2013 world champions were kept up with the Americans until 18-18 before the opponents scored the last three points of the match, thus claiming the win (21-18).
Dalhausser said after the match, “Our plan is to make it to the Rio Olympics and as long as we keep this up I’m sure we can make it to Brazil. We both played well this week, but Nick was phenomenal, as far as I’m concerned. Nick had about 400 serves this week when you count our four three-set wins and with this hot weather he did an incredible job this week. I’ve known him for many years and I have never seen him as focused as he has been since we became a team.”
The bronze medal match was an all-German affair and it ended with unexpected heroes. Böckermann-Flüggen, the best and most decorated international German team on the circuit in 2015, lost to the Poniewaz family, Bennet and David. The 22-year-old twins, whose greatest achievement on the Tour had been two fifth-place finishes in 2014 at the Doha and Parana Opens, came back from losing the first set to eventually stepping on the podium (16-21, 21-18, 15-12). And the twins seemed out of focus when they were trailing by five points at 10-5 in the tie-break against their fellow Germans.
The defender Bennet Poniewaz related afterwards, “We changed our serving strategy in the third set. I stopped serving short and I think that made us attack more on the serve and be more aggressive, but also the stadium was cheering for us. The crowd was amazing and they encouraged and excited us during the match. This is a tremendous experience for us to get our first FIVB podium finish.”