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The Thin Beast and the Professor Regain Form

Aug. 11, 2008, 10:58 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING – Under the lights at Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground on Monday night, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers snapped a two-match losing streak that the world champions hadn’t experienced in a year.

Prior to departing for China, the top-seeded US Olympic pair had been defeated by their compatriots Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal at the last AVP tour stop in Long Beach, Calif., and were upset by Latvia in their opening match here on Saturday.

Needing a victory to keep their hopes alive for automatically advancing out of pool play, the 6-foot-9 Dalhausser (alias “The thin Beast”) and Rogers (a.k.a. “The Professor”) required only 42 minutes to find their form and defeat the Swiss team of Sascha Heyer and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Patrick Heuscher, 21-15, 21-10.

After the match, Rogers attributed the victory to having “more confidence,” compared to Saturday’s upset. “Unfortunately, [our bad match] was on the biggest stage in sports. I think it was a bit of a wake-up call.”

Dalhausser distinguished himself on Monday night by scoring repeatedly and spectacularly at the net with his trademark block.

After the match, neither player could analyze specifically how they were able to rebound from two straight losses. The last time they had suffered back-to-back defeats was in early August 2007, in pool play at the FIVB international stop in Klagenfurt, Austria, immediately after the American pair won the 2007 FIVB World Championships.

“I’m pretty good at not dwelling on things,” Dalhausser said.

The duo has no formal coach but they brought their strength trainer, Bob Alejo, to Beijing and sought his advice after the Latvian upset.

Alejo had spent 10 years as the strength and conditioning coach at UCLA where he had worked with athletes such as two-time Olympic heptathlon gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee and former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. More recently, Alejo worked with Jason Giambi for at least nine years – seven of them in Oakland and two in New York – but Alejo takes little credit for his athletes’ successes.

“The truth is, it’s not that challenging to work with [Dalhausser and Rogers] because when you have great athletes, you become a great coach. Honestly, what we do is not that unusual: Olympic style lifts, squats, bench presses, and several supplemental exercises for small muscle groups. The game is essentially a lower-body game; it’s jumping and moving on every plane. The ‘expert’ part is what to do and when, and when to up the intensity level with they’re training 52 weeks a year.

“These are not fancy, not complex exercises. I don’t know that [if anything they do can be called] extraordinary, but I can tell you some things that are unusual. Todd can squat 400-plus lbs and his body weight is 190. Phil can get into a full squat position at 6-foot-9. Again, it’s difficult to say that anything I’ve done has turned them into who they are.

“We lift heavy throughout the year and alternate intensities in exercise to that we peak at the right time. The program we started this year in December/January was geared for these two weeks,” Alejo said.

“Also, we’ve been injury free for the entire season, if not the last three,” Alejo added. “The key is that it not only allows you to play, but it lets you practice the whole time. And there’s no luck in [staying healthy]. It’s planned and accounted for.”

Now that Rogers and Dalhausser are back in form, they have one more match in Pool B. At press time, all four teams in their pool were tied with one win and one loss apiece. The top two teams after pool play will automatically advance to the single-elimination round of 16. Two third place teams will also have a chance to advance based on match points, point ratio, and/or Olympic Qualification ranking, and two more may advance from a two-match “lucky loser” round.

The other American men’s team, Gibb and Rosenthal, will play its second match (of three) in pool play Tuesday night at 10pm Beijing time. They are 1-0 after defeating the Netherlands on Sunday.

Aimee Berg is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This blog was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.