USA Olympic Men's Volleyball Team Falls to Italy in Quarterfinals
Bill Kauffman, USA Volleyball
The U.S. Olympic Men's Volleyball Team, ranked fifth in the world and defending Olympic Games champion, had its dream of repeating history stopped on Wednesday afternoon with a 28-26, 25-20, 25-20 loss to Italy in the quarterfinal round at Earls Court in London.
Team USA finishes the 2012 Olympic Games with a 5-1 overall record and in a tie for fifth after finishing atop Pool B. Italy, the fourth seed in Pool A and ranked No. 6 in the world, advances to the semifinals to face top-ranked Brazil.
The U.S. was attempting to become the first country to win the Olympic Games men's volleyball competition for a fourth time.
The U.S. recovered from a 21-19 deficit in the first set to take three set points, only to have Italy save all three and serve its third ace of the set for the 28-26 victory. The Americans tallied eight blocks in the opening set. Italy used a 7-1 scoring run to come back from a 16-15 deficit in the second set and benefited from three aces and eight Team USA errors to win 25-20. Italy built a 10-6 advantage in the third set with a 6-0 scoring run on aggressive serving to recover from an early 6-4 hole en route finishing the match with a 25-20 set win.
"It was frustrating for us," U.S. Olympic Men's Volleyball Coach Alan Knipe said. "When we look back at this we will see we had lots of opportunities to win the first set. We came in with a really good game plan and when we were in our game plan and executing it, we were winning points."
Clay Stanley (Honolulu) led the U.S. with 16 points via 12 kills on 28 attacks, three blocks and an ace. Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) added eight points on five kills, two blocks and an ace. David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) totaled seven points on four kills and three blocks. Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) tacked on seven points, all on kills. Russell Holmes (Fountain Valley, Calif.) turned in seven points with five kills and two blocks. Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) rounded out the scoring with a kill in a reserve role.
"We weren't as crisp as we were throughout the pool," Stanley said. "We've got a lot of work to do. This is a growing experience. A lot of players have got experience. I look forward to playing some more."
Anderson, in his first Olympic Games, was credited with 17 excellent receptions on 27 attempts, but with three faults. Donald Suxho tallied 33 running sets and seven digs, while Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) provided six digs and nine excellent receptions.
"Italy played great and found their rhythm," Stanley said. "They turned it up a notch and we turned it down. We worked four years for this. It's kind of tough."
Knipe started Anderson and Priddy at outside hitter, Lee and Holmes at middle blocker, Stanley at opposite and Suxho at setter. Lambourne is the U.S. designated libero for the Olympic Games. David McKienzie (Littleton, Colo.) was a serving sub in all three sets, while David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) came on in the first and third sets. Rooney was a sub in the second and third sets.
The Americans had faced Italy four times in 2012 -- all during the FIVB World League Intercontinental Round -- and walked off the court winners the last three meetings.
"As much as we have played each other, there are no surprises," Knipe said. "It just came down to execution tonight."
But on this day in the Olympic Games quarterfinals, Italy's serve proved to a major difference in the match with a 9-2 ace advantage and consistently keeping the American offense out of system. Team USA converted 41.0 percent of its attacks into points, but 14 errors led to a .241 hitting efficiency. In contrast, Italy converted 42.4 percent of its attacks with a .253 hitting efficiency. The U.S. managed a 10-8 advantage in blocks for the match, but eight of those blocks came in the opening set.
"We had some chances tonight, including the first set, but we didn't capitalize on them," Lee said. "Italy served us tough, and I give them credit for that."
The U.S. defeated Italy in three of four matches during the 2012 FIVB World League Intercontinental Round.
Italian captain Cristian Savani produced a match-high 19 points including four aces, while Ivan Zaytsev totaled 16 points with 15 kills on 28 attacks. Italy's setter Dragan Travica's serve netted four of the team's nine aces.
Italy's results were mixed during Pool A with a four-set loss to Poland to open the Olympics. The Italians bounced back for a four-set win over Argentina a sweep of Great Britain. On the fourth day of competition, Italy was extended to a fifth set by Australia before winning. Italy entered the final day of pool play still with a chance to win the pool, but lost to Bulgaria in straight sets to fall all the way down to fourth place.
The U.S. opened the 2012 Olympic Games by defeating Serbia and Germany in straight sets. The Americans upset No. 1 Brazil in four sets and were poised to pull a second straight upset by leading No. 2 Russia 2-0 with a match-point in hand before losing in five sets. Despite the loss, the U.S. picked up an important point in the standings allowing it to clinch the pool after a victory over Tunisia on Aug. 6.
"It's kind of hard to put things into perspective straight after a loss," Rooney said. "We put together a great performance in pool play, and it was about putting ourselves in the best position to win gold."
Following the 2012 FIVB World League, the U.S. and Italy went in opposite directions in the world ranking. Team USA moved up one spot to fifth place after finishing with the silver medal in the premier annual international men's volleyball tournament. Italy ended the World League in 11th place and dropped three spots in the ranking to No. 6 after entering the year ranked No. 3 in the world.
During the 2011 FIVB World Cup, Italy won a marathon 41-39 opening set over the Americans on Nov. 25 and went on to win in four sets in the only meeting of the year. Italy maintains a 40-27 record over the U.S. since 1981.
In the first quarterfinal match, Brazil defeated Argentina 25-19, 25-17, 25-20 in an all-South American clash to advance to the semifinals. Murilo Endres totaled a team-high 14 points in the victory, followed by Sidney dos Santos with 12 points. Brazil converted 44 of 67 attacks into points.
Later today Pool A second-place Poland challenges Pool B third-place Russia at 7:30 p.m. local time (11:30 a.m. PT) and Pool A winner Bulgaria plays Pool B fourth-place Germany at 9:30 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. PT).
Other quarterfinal matches include Pool A winner Bulgaria versus Germany at 9:30 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. PT), Pool B second-place finisher Brazil versus Pool A third-place finisher Argentina at 2 p.m. local time (6 a.m. PT) in an All-South American battle and Pool A second-place Poland versus Pool B third-place Russia at 7:30 p.m. local time (11:30 a.m. PT).
Priddy and Holmes scored the first two points of the match with blocks. Stanley served an ace after a Priddy kill to push the American lead to 4-1. Italy immediately squared the set at 4-all and went in front 6-5 on an ace. Team USA regained the lead at 7-6 with a Stanley kill and Italy attack error. Lee and Stanley put up a monster blocks on back-to-back plays after an Anderson kill to extend the gap to 10-7 heading into an Italy timeout. Priddy scored back-to-back kills to inch the American lead to 12-8. Italy narrowed the deficit in half at 13-11 with consecutive points. Italy scored the first two points out of the second technical timeout to move to within one, 16-15. Lee put up a block after an Italian service error to put a three-point cushion in place at 18-15. Italy responded with three straight points with an ace at 18-all prompting a USA timeout. Italy scored a fourth straight point out of the break to take the lead at 19-18. Italy expanded its lead to 21-19 prompting a second USA timeout. Stanley put up a block after an Italy service error to tie the set at 21-all. Priddy served an ace after a Holmes block to reverse the lead and give the Americans set point at 24-23. After a minute of protesting the call, Italy called timeout. Italy saved three set points and gained its first set point at 27-26 and promptly served an ace at 28-26. Stanley tallied six points to lead the Americans in the opening set.
Italy reached the first two-point cushion of the second set at 6-4 following a USA attack error. Team USA squared the set at 6-all with an Anderson kill and Lee block. Italy answered by taking the next two points for an 8-6 margin at the first technical timeout. Zaytsev served an ace out of the break to increase Italy's advantage to 9-6. The U.S. closed to 12-11 on back-to-back Italy errors, then squared the set at 12-all with a Priddy kill off the block. Italy won a joust at the net to increase its margin to two at 15-13. Team USA answered with a Holmes kill and followed by consecutive Italy attack errors to provide the Americans a 16-15 advantage at the second technical timeout. Italy scored the first two points out of the break to reverse the lead to 17-16. After a USA timeout, Italy scored a third and fourth straight point at 19-16. Italy added a fifth point on a block after a second USA timeout to a 20-16 advantage. Team USA fell behind 22-17 on back-to-back Italy points. The U.S. trimmed the gap to 22-19 with a Stanley kill and Priddy block. Italy finished off the set at 25-20 on an ace.
The U.S. gained a 5-3 margin in the third set after consecutive Italy errors. Italy scored four unanswered points to take an 8-6 advantage at the first technical timeout. Out of the break Italy served back-to-back aces to increase the lead to 10-6. Italy continued its charge at 12-7 with back-to-back points. Stanley and Anderson slammed consecutive kills after an Italy service error to slice the deficit to 13-11. Savani served an ace to send Italy into the second technical timeout leading 16-12. The U.S. scored the first two points out of the break with Italy errors to close to 16-14. Italy reached a four-point cushion at 21-17 at a USA timeout, then completed the match at 25-20.
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