Olympic Profile: Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena

Though Jake Gibb is justifiably getting all the notoriety for being the oldest competitor in Olympic Beach Volleyball history, his male counterparts have him beat on the oldest overall USA team in Tokyo. 

Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, both 41 years old, started and will end their spectacular careers together. Fittingly, their first pro event was in Florida, both of their home states. Phil and Nick met through playing against each other in college, Phil attending UCF and Nick FSU. 

After graduating, they moved to Myrtle Beach to train with a friend – Adam Roberts. As broke college grads, they’d drive all night to get to tournaments they had to win in order to pay for food and drinks and slept on the beach instead of forking up prize money for a hotel. True disciples of the game. 

But they were really, really good. Eventually, they moved to Santa Barbara to dive deeper into the game. Their first career win came at the Austin AVP in 2005, two years after that Ft. Lauderdale AVP. Going from not qualifying to winning in just two years is pretty spectacular. But the world had no idea what force Phil Dalhausser would be on our sport. 

Phil, who was born in Switzerland, spent most of his childhood in Daytona Beach, FL. Though he grew up near the beach, Phil didn’t play volleyball until his senior year of high school. That’s right – both Jake Gibb and Phil, two of the most dominant blockers in the last twenty years in beach volleyball, both didn’t play until later in life. It’s never too late, kids! 

After beginning his career with Nick on the East Coast and then moving to Santa Barbara, Phil played with a handful of other partners, including our own Dain Blanton. But Phil’s career really picked up when Todd Rogers called him up in 2006. Todd, known as The Professor because of his cerebral approach to beach volleyball, won three AVPs in 2005 with partner Sean Scott, the same year Phil and Nick won their first. As soon as Todd and Phil partnered, they both reached heights they hadn’t previously known. 

Commence one of the greatest partnerships in beach volleyball history. They won nine AVPs in their first season. In 2008, they medaled in all seven events they played and entered the Beijing Games at the top of the Olympic Ranking (OR). They lost their first match in pool, but we all know they rallied back and ended up with the Gold. 

Between 2008-2010, Phil and Todd won 15 FIVBs and 20 AVPs. In those years, the FIVB awarded Phil: Best Offensive Player, Best Hitter, Best Blocker, Best Setter, and Most Outstanding Player, along with Team of the Year in 2010 when they won nine FIVBs (and five of the six AVPs they played). Phil was an absolute beast, dubbed the Thin Beast in fact – just a dominant force in every match he played. They also qualified in 2012 as the highest-ranked USA team (we’ll get to the 3rd-ranked USA team in a minute). The 2012 London Olympics didn’t hold the same magic as 2008, and Phil and Todd finished with a respectable but disappointing 9th place. 

Credit: FIVB

Remember when I mentioned the third-ranked team in 2012? Well, that was Phil’s former/future partner, Nick. After a few seasons with different partners (making the AVP Semifinals with almost all of them), Nick paired up with Matt Fuerbringer in 2010. They had great success as a partnership, making the podium internationally a handful of times and winning an AVP. In the lead up to the 2012 Olympics, Nick and Matt finished as the 7th-ranked team in OR, but they were the 3rd-ranked USA Team. They missed out on London 2012 just barely to Jake Gibb and Sean “Rosie” Rosenthal

So it’s 2013, and Phil and Nick are looking for new partners. Phil picks up Rosie; Nick picks up Theo Brunner. Despite the extremely talented players they paired up with, neither experienced the success they wanted. So in 2015, after trying to make it work with other people, the duo reunited for the first time since 2005. I love it so much. 

And so did they. Immediately, The Thin Beast and Nick the Quick started winning. In those six years, they’ve won 13 AVPs and 9 FIVBs. They qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics and earned 5th place. They’re formidable opponents with incredible chemistry. Nick is the fiery, loud one. Phil’s the calm, cool, collected one – the silent killer. They’re very different, but both extremely witty and laid back. Interviews featuring them are pretty fun.

During the 2020 AVP Champions Cup, Phil and Nick were in full form. Winning two out of three events, they only dropped one match, the very last one to Trevor Crabb and Tri Bourne. But it was their demeanor for me. They looked like they were having more fun than ever. They were also in phenomenal shape for having been couched for the first time in their adult lives. Oh, and for being the oldest team on Tour at 40-years-old a piece.  

They then entered the 2021 Olympic Qualification Period with poise, even though they were the 3rd-ranked USA team. (was that triggering for Nick? Didn’t look like it.) It wasn’t long until they settled themselves nicely in qualifying range, and eventually tied Jake and Taylor at the top of the USA’s OR. With Tokyo being Phil’s fourth Olympics and Nick’s 2nd, this duo has more experience and wisdom than nearly any other in the Games. And their history with each other is even more in-depth. Theirs is a nearly two-decade-long friendship. Tokyo 2020 is their last Olympic run; you better believe they’re going for Gold.