U.S. men end volleyball worlds medal drought; Poland repeats as champion

AP
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The U.S. men’s volleyball team heads into the Olympics as a world championship medalist for the first time since the Atlanta Games, taking bronze at the quadrennial tournament that wrapped Sunday.

The Americans, after losing to eventual world champ Poland in the semifinals, came back to beat Serbia 23-25, 25-17, 32-30, 25-19 in the bronze-medal game, its first world medal since 1994.

The U.S. played Serbia 17 hours after its five-set semifinal loss that ended at 11:53 p.m. in Torino.

“It’s really hard to play bronze-medal matches; we unfortunately know that,” said U.S. coach John Speraw, referencing the Rio Olympics, where the U.S. blew a two sets-to-one semifinal lead over Italy but overcame a 2-0 deficit to down Russia for bronze. “I didn’t get to sleep until 4 in the morning.”

The U.S. roster of 14 included eight Rio Olympic bronze medalists. Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament. Matt Anderson was best opposite.

Later Sunday, Poland repeated as world champion, sweeping Olympic gold medalist Brazil in the final. The Brazilians reached the final of the last five worlds and the last four Olympics.

In 2014, Poland had an epic run to gold, claiming its first title since 1974 and becoming the first host nation since Czechoslovakia in 1966 to prevail. Poland was fifth at the 2012 Olympics and ranked fifth in the world before that tournament.

More than 12,000 spectators watched that gold-medal final inside Spodek Hall, including the Polish president. More than 15,000 followed it outside the arena on big screens, according to the FIVB.

This Olympic cycle is the first for the U.S. men without any ties to its 2008 Olympic champion team (so far). The two gold medalists who made the Rio roster — David Lee and Reid Priddy — spent the summer playing beach volleyball on the AVP tour.

The U.S. last earned a world title in 1986.

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