Holly Stein
Todd Rogers reaches for a shot.

Leaders of the pack

Dalhausser, Rogers rule men’s circuit


The Patriot Ledger

When the AVP Crocs Tour rolled into Chicago for the first weekend in August, the top team in the men’s standings didn’t roll in with everyone else.

But by the time the tour left Chicago for the Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Open last weekend, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser were still No. 1 in the standings, and by a pretty good margin.

 
Holly Stein
Todd Rogers, left, and Phil Dalhausser in 2006.

Vacation? Hardly. Rogers and Dalhausser, who had spent an open weekend on the AVP schedule winning the FIVB World Championships in Switzerland, stayed in Europe not just because they had such a nice cushion in the Crocs Cup standings, but because they’re forward thinkers. As much as they’d like to finish first on the AVP tour, Rogers and Dalhausser are trying to pile up points on the international beach volleyball circuit to play in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so they skipped Chicago to play in Austria.

Exactly how much energy they’ll have by the time they reach Marina Bay for the inaugural AVP Bob’s Stores Boston Open might be in question, but once they hit the sand, there’ll be no doubting their goal: Rogers and Dalhausser play for championships, not for points.

“It’d be great to win the Crocs Cup,” Rogers said, “but things like that mean different things to different people.

“You can give yourself a chance to win it if you’re consistent, week in and week out. But if I’m playing in 10 tournaments, I’d rather win eight and bomb in the other two, no matter what happened with the points, than to win one or two, finish second in three or four, and just make it to the semis in the others. I’m more the type to go to a tournament to go for it - to win it.”

That’s why Dalhausser - who, following the team’s July 22 AVP tournament win at Long Beach, Calif., stated “If the ball goes out, the ball goes out; I just go for it” - is the perfect partner. After winning a total of 10 AVP tournaments through 2005 with former teammates Dax Holdren (that partnership that began when they were high schoolers in Santa Barrbara) and Sean Scott, Rogers, 33, asked the still-developing Dalhausser if he’d like to form a new team for ‘06.

"I’m more the type to go to a tournament to go for it
— to win it."

—Todd Rogers
“Everyone knew Phil had tremendous talent,” Rogers said of the imposing, 6-foot-9 Floridian. “It was just a matter of when and how he’d take that talent to the next level. I thought our respective skills might make us a good team, so I called him.”

The rest of the AVP men probably wish Dalhausser hadn’t answered the phone. The new duo won eight events last season - tops on the Tour - plus an FIVB Grand Slam tournament. Dalhausser was named Most Improved Player by both the AVP and FIVB, earned AVP Best Offensive Player honors for the second year in a row, and was also named Best Blocker by FIVB. Rogers, meanwhile, was selected Most Valuable Player on the AVP circuit, was named the AVP’s Best Defensive Player for the third year in a row, and took the same honor from FIVB.

Rogers and Dalhausser can get blisteringly hot. They won four straight tournaments as a first-year team at the start of last season, which they closed by winning the last three events of the year. They took the lead in the 2007 standings by winning five of the first six Crocs Cup stops; the Long Beach victory - No. 6 of the season - ended a four-tournament title drought.

“We had a few events where we weren’t at our best,” Rogers said, “but other teams picked it up, as well. This is a very competitive tour. Nobody’s going to let you win every week. We had to bring our level up, as well.”

The 2007 season is going about as well as Rogers and Dalhausser could have hoped. Leading the Crocs Tour in points heading despite not playing in Chicago, the team was also well-positioned to make it to the ‘08 Olympics - a potential career first for both. A team must be ranked within the top 22 in the world by FIVB to be considered; Rogers-Dalhausser were tied for eighth through their trip to Austria, despite playing only five of 11 FIVB beach events. They were also the top team from the United States, which can only send two men’s pairs to Beijing.

The new stop in Marina Bay comes during a busy stretch. The team has played an AVP or FIVB event every week since the first weekend in May.

“This is kind of the big grind,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of tournaments, a lot of travel, a lot of jet lag. You just have to push through it all and play.”

Mike Loftus may be reached at mloftus@ledger.com.

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Holly Stein
Phil Dalhausser