Beach Volleyball Journal from FIVB Challenger Series

July 23, 2008, 1:25 p.m. (ET)

NOTE: The U.S. men’s beach volleyball team of Mike DiPierro (Pompano Beach, Fla.) and Mark Van Zweiten (Pompano Beach, Fla.) played in the FIVB Chennai 2008 Challenger on July 17-20 in Chennai, India. FIVB Challenger tournaments allow teams to gain points toward qualifying for the SWATCH FIVB World Tour.

The team finished fourth after having to pull out of the bronze medal match when DiPierro injured his finger.

Ranked 24th, DiPierro and Van Zweiten did not lose a set until the fourth round, when they fell to Brazil’s 13th-seeded Klepper Feitosa and Luizao Correa of Brazil (19-21, 17-21).

They came back in the consolation bracket to defeat the seventh-seeded Austrian team of Simon Nausch and Mario Steinoker (21-14, 21-10) and advanced to the semifinals. However DiPierro and Van Zwieten lost to Italy’s third-seeded Andrea Tomatis and Ivan Zaytsev (30-32, 21-15, 12-15) in the longest match of the tournament at 1 hour, 15 minutes.

This is a journal entry the team sent back to the United States:

July 20, 2008

We had two days of trying to get used to India and then headed into competition.  The first two days have been an experience....  The streets always are crowded, even at 4:30 in the morning when we first got here.  The driving here is crazier than any place either of us have ever been…each time we have been in the car we have thought that we were going to be in an accident. There appear to be no traffic laws; when there is a red light cars only slow down a bit and if they think that they can make it through the intersection they will go through it!  There have been times when there were five cars side by side in a three lane road with no more than a foot between any of the cars.  So far we have seen at least four cows walking along the side of the road.  Everyone else did not even seem to notice that they were there, including the shuttle driver who quickly went around them. 

Our first day of playing was a bit shaky.  We played India the first game and played a bit flat, they were not a bad team by any means.  One of the local newspapers had even said that none of the teams would be able to be competitive  but there have been several good wins by the Indian teams.  They are definitely indoor players and can pass and hit well but their defense was not all that good.  Both games were close the first half, but after the technical time out we to go ahead.
Our first match was at 9:00 am and the second one was at 7:00 pm so after the first match we went back to the hotel and were watching TV.  We were planning on heading back to the site at 4:30 just to make sure that we had plenty of time, but we both fell asleep.  I set an alarm on my phone but that ended up on the floor somehow and neither of us remember waking up to shut it off.  When we finally woke up at 5:45 We rushed downstairs in five minutes, when the person in charge of the shuttles told us that the next shuttle would "be here shortly, ten or fifteen minutes".  We kept waiting for the shuttle and asking every few minutes if it was on the way and the answer was always "yes, it will be here shortly", at 6:30 we gave up on the shuttle and got a cab which got us there with only two minutes to spare.  When we got there we used our timeout right away to get a little extra time to warm up.  Israel was a good team but both games we started off with big leads but they would slowly get closer and closer. After their slow start they came back to 18-17 and then we ended up closing out game one.  In the second game they were yelling at each other and we went up 5-1, they kept getting closer and closer then we scored the last three points of the game to win 21-18, 21-17.

The next days we finally shook the rust off and started playing better. We beat number one seeded Japan 21-16,21-11. The food here is really spicy and that is not helping us feel too good. Even the milk is spicy. J/K. We played late last night and had to play Brazil in the morning to get to the semis and we lost 21-19,21-17. The refs don’t call hands no matter how bad they are. So that put us in the losers and we played Austria. We beat them 21-14, 21-10. After we had a nice lead I (Mike) wanted to see if the ref would call a really bad set so I put as much spin as possible and he didn’t call it at first and the other team complained and he ended up calling it. Now we play Italy in the semis. So hopefully we can play our best against them and move into the finals.