Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser spent last week trying to convince anyone who would listen that they are not the men's team to beat on the AVP tour.
But after defeating Brent Doble and Ryan Mariano, 21-17, 21-18, Sunday in the final of the Huntington Beach Open for their third consecutive title, there was no denying the proverbial bull's-eye on their backs.
"There is now," Dalhausser grudgingly acknowledged. "I don't think we can escape that one anymore."
Rogers and Dalhausser, who joined together at the beginning of this year, cruised through the weekend at Huntington Beach, losing one game in six matches. Dalhausser had a tournament-best 32 blocks, Rogers was fifth with 57 digs and combined they left opponents with gaping mouths.
"They're tough," Doble said. "You have Phil putting up the biggest block on the tour and Todd is the best defender on the tour. That combination, I don't know what the answer is."
Early in the second game, the answer was Mariano's devastating jump serves. He helped his team to a 4-0 lead, but Dalhausser and Rogers rallied back and tied the game at 8-8.
Their victory makes them the top-seeded team in the AVP's complex seeding system, and Doble called them "untouchable" right now. The scary part for those trying to knock them off is that they said they haven't played their best.
"Untouchable? I don't want to say that," Dalhausser said. "To be honest with you, we didn't play that well this weekend and we didn't lose a match, so if we play well I think we'd be tough to beat. It feels pretty good to have two off days and still win some matches and the tournament."
The victory was especially sweet because it was part of the Cuervo Gold Crown Series, which came with a bonus that doubled the winner's checks to $25,000 per player.
The three-tournament run has helped Dalhausser earn $48,225 for the season, nearly as much as the career-best $50,038 he earned last year when he played with Nick Lucena and had one win and a second.
"This has definitely been a dream season," he said. "Coming in to the season, our goal was to win three tournaments and now we've already done that."