Packing for China last week, Phil Dalhausser had mixed feelings.

Yes, the Mainland High graduate and one of the most imposing beach volleyball players in the history of the sport was excited to begin another season. But this time, the idea of leaving home left a knot in his stomach.

For the first-time in his 11-year career he was beginning a season as a father. Dalhausser and his wife Jennifer have a 10-month-old son, Sebastian. And preparing to leave his family behind in Thousand Oaks, Calif., after a blissful off-season, left a damper on his enthusiasm for yet another new start.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he said in a phone interview last week. “I have a kid at home now. It will be tough to leave him, but I’m tired of practicing. I want to play for something.”

One might look at Dalhausser’s record over the past two seasons, and conclude that his career is on the decline, that the 6-foot-9 “Thin Beast” has been domesticated and retirement might be in his near future.

But Dalhausser, now 34, believes he and new partner Sean Rosenthal have what it takes to be the top team in the world for several years to come, and he’ll rattle off a long list 40-year-olds on the FIVB World Tour who are still on the top of their games, starting with Brazil’s Emanuel Rego and Dalhausser’s former partner, Todd Rogers.

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