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Rogers-Dalhausser start FIVB season with a title in Brazil

Todd Rogers let the beach volleyball world know that he is back at full strength.

Nine months after a knee injury ended his 2011 season, Rogers and 6-foot-9 partner Phil Dalhausser won the opening event on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The Santa Barbara duo defeated fellow Americans Matt Fuerbringer and Nick Lucena to capture the $380,000 Brasilia Open in Brazil on Sunday. The set scores were 21-17, 21-18.

The title clinches a berth in the London Olympics for the defending gold-medal champions.

Top-seeded Rogers-Dalhausser took a long route to their 22nd FIVB gold medal. After suffering a second -round loss, they won seven straight matches, including four against teams from Brazil.

“We had a tough week, especially losing in the second round and having to come back in our first tournament of the year, and me coming off a serious knee injury,” Rogers said.

Rogers injured his knee last August in a tournament in Aland, Finland.

After their performance in Brazil, the rest of the world got the message that Rogers-Dalhausser are still the No. 1 team.

“We had a long way to go to win the title, including beating four teams from Brazil, which isn’t easy, and we had to play nine games in the tournament, which (for us) doesn’t happen often.”

On returning to tournament play after the injury, Rogers said: I can say any questions I had about our off time from the tour are gone.”

The Santa Barbara team put itself in a deep hole when it was upset by 16th-seeded Moises Santos-Vitor Felipe in the second round, 18-21, 21-18, 15-9.

“I struggled to side out,” Rogers said of the difference in the match.

Rogers-Dalhausser shook off the early loss and went on to beat Soderberg-Hoyer of Denmark (21-18, 21-17); Huber-Seidl of Austria (21-13, 21-19), Marcio Araujo-Pedro of Brazil (20-22, 21-14, 15-13); Alison-Emanuel of Brazil by forfeit; Harley-Evandro of Brazil (21-17, 21-17) and Brazil’s Ricardo-Cunha in the semifinals (24-26, 21-13, 15-10).

Rogers said the forfeit win was due to an injury suffered by Alison.

“He ran into a metal banner while chasing a dig and cut his arm up really bad. It was a bloody, gory mess,” Rogers described. “He will be out for one to two weeks.”

Rogers-Dalhausser split $30,000 while Fuerbringer-Lucena share $21,000.

Rogers-Dalhausser were playing in their 50th FIVB World Tour event. The title was their third in Brazil.

The second-place for Fuerbringer-Lucena increased their points lead over Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibb in the battle for the second U.S. berth in the London Olympics.

Rogers-Dalhausser return to the tour April 30-May 6 for a grand slam tournament in Shanghai China.