Competition is heating up for the male athletes at the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Vienna. Pool play has come to an end and 32 of the 48 teams in the men's field earned spots in the elimination rounds.
If you haven't been following along, now is a great time to start tuning in. We'll catch you up on everything that's happened so far.
1. All four USA men's pairs advanced into the bracket.
Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who are currently ranked No. 1 in the world, earned a first-place finish in Pool C, losing only one set to fellow Americans John Hyden and Ryan Doherty. That loss to Dalhausser/Lucena was Hyden/Doherty's only setback, and they finished in second place in Pool C.
Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb went 2-1 to finish second in Pool G. The duo's only loss was a 21-17, 21-23, 18-16 battle with Poland's Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor, who have won three silver medals on the World Tour so far this season.
A sole loss in three to Brazil's Pedro Solberg and Guto Carvalhaes put Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner in second place in Pool H.
2. Dalhausser/Lucena earned a first-round bye.
The top-ranked American pair will take the rest of the day off after earning a first-round bye in the tournament. Tomorrow, they'll take on the winner of Crabb/Gibb and Australia's Christopher McHugh and Damien Schumann.
Cubans Nivaldo Diaz and Sergio Gonzalez, Brazilians Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola, and Qataris Jefferson Santos Pereira and Cherif Younousse also earned byes into the round of 16.
Diaz/Gonzalez did so with and upset of Brazil's Saymon Barbosa and Alvaro Filho in pool play, while Santos Pereira and Younousse took down Germany's Bockermann and Fluggen -- who just a couple weeks ago won the Olsztyn Four Star even -- and Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins.
3. Another USA vs. USA match looms on the horizon.
As previously mentioned, when Dalhausser/Lucena play their first match in the elimination bracket, it will be against the winner of Crabb/Gibb and McHugh/Schumann. We may be a little biased, but we think Crabb/Gibb stand a pretty good chance of winning that first round match-up and setting up the third all-USA match of the World Championships so far.
Here's how the two teams stack up: McHugh/Schumann are the 35 seed in the tournament, while Crabb/Gibb are the 18. Gibb has played in six World Championship tournaments, finishing fifth twice. McHugh has played in two World Champs, taking ninth both times, while Schumann has only played in one, taking a 37th-place finish.
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The match between Crabb/Gibb and McHugh/Schumann will take place at 6:30 AM ET on August 3.
4. Brunner/Patterson and Hyden/Doherty have tough first-round matches ahead.
Brunner/Patterson drew Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria as their first-round opponents. Doppler/Horst, the No. 12 seed in the tournament, will be favorites of the crowd in Vienna, and No. 17-seeded Brunner/Patterson will have to bring some mental toughness, along with their A-game, to take down this veteran squad that has 13 World Championship appearances between them.
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Hyden/Doherty have the misfortune of matching up against tournament No. 2 seed Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia. Although the Latvians have had an uncharacteristically rough season so far, they lay claim to nine FIVB gold medals, five silvers, and four bronze in five years playing together.
USA Men Elimination Round Schedule: FIVB World Championships
August 3, 2017
5:30 AM ET: John Hyden/Ryan Doherty (USA) vs. Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins (LAT)
6:30 AM ET: Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (USA) vs. Christopher McHugh/Damien Schumann (AUS)
11:30 AM ET: Casey Patterson/Theo Brunner (USA) vs. Clemens Dopplers/Alexander Horst (AUT)
TBD: Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (USA) vs. Winner of Crabb/Gibb vs. McHugh/Schumann