An Olympic champion and an Olympian who twice has been tantalizingly close to the podium highlight a deep quartet who will comprise the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Beach Volleyball Team.
Led by Phil Dalhausser, a two-time Olympian who won gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the team is an balanced blend of veterans and first-time Olympians. Dalhausser and partner Nick Lucena comprise one of the duos who will compete in Rio, while two-time Olympian Jake Gibb will be joined by Olympic rookie Casey Patterson.
Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser
The two played together for two international matches in 2005, then reunited a decade later in 2015. They won silver at the Long Beach Grand Slam in their first international after rejoining forces, starting a roll of 12 consecutive top-five finishes that included five gold medals, four silvers and a bronze. Prior to 2015, Lucena had a total of 26 top-five international finishes over 10 years with six different partners.
During the Olympic qualification period, they have won six gold and three silver medals, including a win at Sunday’s Hamburg Major in Germany. They end the qualification period ranked third in the FIVB Olympic rankings.
Lucena, 36, is a two-time AVP Best Defensive Player, earning the honor in 2008 and 2014. He was named USA Volleyball’s 2015 Men’s Beach Player of the Year, and he and Dalhausser were USAV’s Beach Team of the Year. It was the fourth time Dalhausser has earned the award after winning it twice with long-time partner Todd Rogers (2008, 2010) as well as in 2014 with Sean Rosenthal. Lucena earns his first trip to the Olympic Games after narrowly missing out on qualifying as the second U.S. entry with Matt Fuerbringer in 2012.
Dalhausser and Rogers won the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where Dalhausser earned Most Outstanding Player honors. It was the high point of a successful six-year run from June 2006 through August 2012, when they competed in 57 international tournaments, winning 23 golds, seven silvers and 10 bronzes, while logging 49 top-five finishes. Along the way they set an FIVB record for most consecutive match wins (40).
The list of Dalhausser’s international honors could fill a library shelf. In addition to being named FIVB’s Sportsperson of the Year in 2008, the 36-year-old has been named FIVB’s Best Setter and Best Blocker six times each, it’s Best Offensive Player award four times, Best Hitter four times, Most Outstanding Player three times and Best Server once.
Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson
After back-to-back fifth-place finishes at the past two Olympic Games with then-partner Sean Rosenthal, Gibb is ready to take another shot at a podium finish with Casey Patterson. The two finished the Olympic qualifying period sixth in the provisional rankings, the No. 2 U.S. duo.
In 41 international matches since they teamed up in April 2013, they have won two golds, four silvers and a pair of bronzes while logging 19 top-five and 36 top-10 finishes. Their two golds were won at the Shanghai Grand Slam event in May 2013 (only their second match together) and at the June 2015 St. Petersburg Grand Slam. They were named the USA Volleyball Team of the Year in 2013 and two-time AVP Team of the Year (2013 and 2014). After placing 17th at the 2013 world championships, they improved to fifth at the 2015 worlds.
A two-time cancer survivor, Gibb, 40, was recognized as the FIVB’s Most Inspirational Athlete in both 2013 and 2014. The 2005 FIVB Rookie of the Year, he and Rosenthal won the FIVB World Tour in 2012 and were named Team of the Year. After winning the AVP Most Improved Player award in 2004, he backed it up with the 2005 AVP MVP trophy, which he earned again in 2013 and 2014. While it may seem prescient that his parents gave him the middle name “Spiker,” it turns out be an accident of fate: It was his mother’s maiden name and is the middle name for all 11 Gibb children. He did not begin playing volleyball until he was 21 years old.
Patterson broke into the international circuit in 2011, playing that season with Brad Keenan, husband of 2012 Olympic silver medalist and Patterson’s 2016 Olympic teammate April Ross. He has had only three partners in his international career: Keenan, a one-tournament turn with Casey Jennings at the end of 2011, then Gibbs from 2013 to present. He was named the 2013 Male Beach Volleyball Player of the Year in a public vote on the FIVB Facebook page.