The last two days in Klagenfurt saw some great match ups.
The quarter final between Harley-Alison and Benjamin-Pedro was a classic encounter. As much time was spent discussing the rules with the referee as actually playing volleyball. Benjamin tried every trick in the book, including an injury time out at 4 – 8 down in the third set, but in the end just couldn’t control the onslaught of power side out and massive blocking from Alison. Final score: 2-1 (27-25, 18-21, 15-7) to Harley-Alison.
It was good to see the Aussie boys taking notes at the back of the court as the Brazilians showed us how to do it.
The best match of the quarter finals had to be Switzerland Vs Russia. Our old friend Sascha Heyer playing along side Patrick Heuscher. They faced last years Klagenfurt Grand Slam winners, Kolodinsky-Barsouk.
Heyer-Heuscher took the first set 21 – 18 and had plenty of chances to close the game out in the second set, which was an epic. Kolodinsky-Barsouk finally winning 33 – 35. Sascha was clearly frustrated, and probably quite rightly. That set seemed to take the fire out of the Swiss boys, and the Russians took an early lead in the thrid set and held onto it.
In the other two quarter finals, Rogers-Dalhausser cleaned up Marcio Araujo-Fabio Luiz – 2-0 (21-18, 21-14) in 42 minutes and Nummerdor-Schuil NED did it even faster against Herrera-Gavira ESP in 35 minutes.
The match of the semis was Harley-Alison BRA Vs Nummerdor-Schuil NED. This was the first time that I saw Richard Schuil troubled by any ones block. If you haven’t seen these guys play, they are worth checking out just for their unusual style. Schuil, who seemed to be the preferred service target for most teams this week was in the Dutch Olympic team that won gold in 1996. He stands mid court to receive, takes the ball early, then Nummerdor bumps the set low and a little wide, and with almost no approach, Schuil hits over the top of the block… angle or line depending on where the defender is. Not very pretty, but extremely effective.
Harley and Nummerdor were both amazing in defence, and on the few occassions when Nummerdor needed to hit, he made it very obvious why no body wanted to serve at him. But the game was a front court affair, and perhaps it was just that extra agro from Alison that got the Brazilians over the line. The Brazilians came out on top in just over an hour 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 17-15).
In the other semi, Rogers-Dalhausser USA did another great job of boring their opponent to death by playing near perfect volleyball winning 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) against Kolodinsky-Barsouk RUS.
Rogers-Dalhausser came to this final without having lost a set, and to be honest, not looking like they ever would. Harley – Alison on the other hand had gone around the block with a few teams, and were ready to go again. It was obvious in warm up that they were there to play, out on the sand early, bouncing balls in warm up. Rogers-Dalhausser on the other hand, shuffled out with about 5 minutes left before the first serve, hit one or two ball, and then went to the ref for the coin toss.
In the quarter final, Dalhausser had crushed Fabio Luiz, block after block, and we were wondering if the same fate awaited Alison, but Alison was too pumped. He received most of the ball, and had a very obvious side out tactic. High and hard over Dalhausser… and he did it. Powering off the top of Dalhaussers fingers again and again. The Brazilians were serving on Rogers, and took an early lead with some great blocking by Alison and a few great digs from harley. The Brazilians got to the end of the first set with the momentum, but a timely block from Dalhausser and some magic from Rogers and the Americans got out of jail to win 19 – 21.
The Brazilians powered through the next set 21 – 12.
Although the Americans lost the second set badly, I have a theory that Rogers used it to set up his side out game for the third set. About half way through, he switched from hitting an outside set to a high inside set, which opened up the possibility of a chip shot back to the line, a deep line shot that would be moving away from Harley in the back court, and an option to hit power to the middle of the baseline inside Alisons block. He didn’t play any of those shots in the second set, just kept chipping away at the angle to keep Harley over there.
The Brazilians were consistent, playing as they had. Aggressive and dynamic. While the Americans just sided out. Not looking solid, but always scrambling to make the points they needed. Dalhausser made a couple of really ugly jump serve errors that hit the net about half way up, Rogers berated him, then went back to drop a float serve into the net himself… but they kept siding out. Every time they got into trouble, there seemed to be an answer. Dalhausser peeling and scrambling, Rogers going over on two, and then digging Alison straight back over, to the deep corner on one. And sure enough, out came the deep middle and line shots from Rogers. It seemed that no matter how well the Brazilians played, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser had just enough to keep the scores level. Then at about 9 all, Dalhausser hits a jump float at Harley, and roofs him straight down. Next ball, Alison tries to hit the second ball, and Dalhausser provides another roof, then another jump float at Harley and a shank into the crowd. From there it was just a few side outs and the USA won comfortably.
There is no question that Rogers-Dalhausser were the best team this week.