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In what was expected to be their toughest match in Olympics beach volleyball group play, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser held off Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera in three sets to win Tuesday night at Horse Guards Parade.
Rogers scored the deciding point on one of his patented deep shots over the blocker to give the reigning gold medalists a 19-21, 21-15, 15-13 victory. Their second win in group play virtually secures the Americans a spot in the knockout round. They have one more preliminary match on Thursday against the Czech Republic. The loss was the first for Spain.
A Dalhausser kill gave the Santa Barbara team a 12-8 lead in the third set. But Spain battled back behind the net play of Herrera, a 2004 silver medalist. He won a joust with Rogers to cut the deficit to 12-11.
Spain was down 13-12 when the Americans got a break on a controversial play. Rogers was blocked and the ball bounced off his shoulder and then his arm and popped into the air. Dallhausser bumped the ball and Rogers hit an off-balance, fall-away backhanded shot to the open deep court for a two-point advantage. Herrera argued that a double-hit violation should have been called against Rogers. Herrera was given a yellow card.
“I told him (the referee) I thought it was a double-hit,” Rogers said in the postgame press conference. “He said it was all one motion. … It’s a judgment call.”
Herrera sided out with a cut shot to make it 14-13 and Rogers finished the match with a deep shot over Herrera.
The first set was tight from the start. Rogers-Dalhausser built a three-point lead at 14-11, but the Spanish wouldn’t fold. They outscored the Americans 5-1 and took a 16-15 lead on a Herrera block of Rogers followed by a shot to the back line.
The Americans answered on a Rogers dig followed by a Dalhausser kill to knot the score at 16-16.
The turning point came when Rogers served into the net with a 19-18 lead. Spain took a 20-19 lead when a Rogers cut shot off of a bad set by Dalhausser rolled off the tape and out of bounds. Rogers hit into the net on the next play, giving Spain the win.
“We really made it hard on ourselves tonight,” Dalhausser told reporters. “We gave that first set away.”
The Americans regrouped in the second set and dominated the Spaniards, rolling to a 13-5 lead. Rogers took over the match with his defense. He picked up balls that led to four consecutive points.
Gavira-Herrera made a run and pulled to within four at 16-12, but Dalhausser terminated a rally on the next ball with a crushing spike to end the Spanish threat.
Rogers finished the set with a kill and a service ace.
Rogers-Dalhausser are seeking to become the first men’s team to win back-to-back gold medals in beach volleyball.
U.S. WATER POLO WINS
The Terry Schroeder-coached U.S. men knocked off Romania 10-8 to improve to 2-0 in group play.
Ryan Bailey and Peter Varellas each scored three goals on offense while Merrill Moses posted 12 saves in the victory.
Bailey’s second effort goal off a rebound of his own miss with just :50 to play sealed the deal for Team USA. The United States next match is Thursday against Great Britain.