LONDON >> Defending beach volleyball gold medalist Phil Dalhausser saw the Italian points pile up on the scoreboard and knew his hopes for a repeat were over when Todd Rogers’ final Olympic touch fell short of the net.
“It’s a little bit different when you win: It takes about a month for it to sink in,” Dalhausser said Friday after the Americans lost to Italy in the round of 16 at Horse Guards Parade. “When you lose, it smacks you right in the face the second the ball hits the sand.”
Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo beat Rogers and Dalhausser 21-17, 21-19, fighting off one last rally to advance to the quarterfinals and put a surprising end to the Beijing gold medalists’ Olympic run. Although the Italians were one of the last teams to qualify for the London Games, it is the third time they have beaten Rogers and Dalhausser.
“We’ve won two times against them, but everything is a battle,” Nicolai said. “They are the best team in the world, I am sure. If we play in another match, they can win the gold medal.”
The Italians went 1-2 in the preliminary round, losing not only to top-seeded Emanuel and Alison of Brazil but also to an Austrian team that did not make the medal round.
That forced Italy to play a lucky loser match on Friday night. They beat Canada to earn a matchup with the defending champions.
That turned out to be bad luck for the Americans, who finished pool play unbeaten: The combination of 6-foot-8-inch Nicolai blocking at the net and Lupo chasing down balls behind him is a mirror image of the U.S. pair.
“People say, ‘They’re the young Phil and Todd,'” Rogers said. “I guess they ‘Phil and Todded’ us to death.”
Earlier Friday, Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross beat Switzerland’s Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr to advance to the quarterfinals of the women’s tournament.