HUNTINGTON BEACH — Ryan Doherty is always measuring himself up against Phil Dalhausser.
At 7-feet-1, Doherty, known as the “Avatar,” admits “it’s not exactly a pleasure to have to play two times in a tournament” up against the Olympic gold medalist.
“He does raise my level of play but he’s an absolute force.”
In turn, the 6-foot-9 Dalhausser says of going eye-to-eye at the net with Doherty: “It’s not a lot of fun. There are not many guys I have to block like this (with his hand up high) instead of this (with the palms of his hands facing down). He knows he can get away with hitting it off the top.”
The pleasure Sunday, as it was Saturday, turned out to be Dalhausser’s. Again.
Known as “The Thin Beast,” Dalhausser recorded his 50th AVP career win and, with partner Nick Lucena, won the tale of the tape against against Doherty, paired with veteran John Hyden, in a 21-16, 21-17 big-boy session for the men’s championship at the Huntington Beach Open.
It was also a record fifth Huntington Beach title for Dalhausser, but since he won it in 2010 with Todd Rogers, he managed only a 13th place in 2013 and ninth last year.
The strategy for the Sunday final was set up on Saturday, when the third-seeded Dalhausser-Lucena wrestled away a 22-20, 21-19 victory against the seventh-seeded Doherty-Hyden in the winner’s bracket. That sent Doherty-Hyden into the challenger’s bracket.
“We learned from that (Saturday) match that they are a really good side-out team and we had to serve a little tougher than we did yesterday,” Lucena said. “(Sunday) was a high-level match and we got them into passing trouble and that was the difference.”
With the morning chill still in effect Sunday, Doherty-Hyden had to get past top-seeded Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb 21-18, 22-20 to reach the title game. In the other semifinal, Dalhausser-Lucena kept winning, eliminating second-seeded Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner, 21-17, 21-19.
As the sun finally broke…