The United States men’s volleyball team went into Friday’s Olympic semifinal against Italy looking to avenge losses in the group stage and the 2012 Games.
In an often enthralling match, the United States couldn’t get it done. In a game with so much back-and-forth, it would be Italy who won the critical fifth set in a 30-28, 26-28, 9-25, 25-22, 15-9 win.
The Italians advance to face the winner of Brazil and Russia in Sunday’s gold medal game, with USA facing the loser for bronze. The U.S. fails in its bid to reclaim Olympic gold after failing to medal in 2012 (They’ve won gold in 1984, 1988, and 2008).
The match didn’t take long to live up to its billing, with the first set going to tiebreaks. The Americans held a 23-20 lead only to see it move to 24-24. Italy would battle through multiple American match points to win 30-28.
The second set went to tiebreaks, too, this time with the Americans rally to force the extra session with a 28-26 win.
Then, a decisive throttling of the Italians by the Americans gave the match a whole new feel. The U.S. won 25-9 in a set that took just 21 minute (compared to the 34- and 35-minute opening sets).
But it was Italy’s turn to rally, thanks again to superstar Ivan Zaytsev (son of USSR gold medalist Vyacheslav Zaystev). Italy won the fourth set 25-22.