An almost unbelievable match in Rio saw the USA women’s volleyball team fall 3-2 after a valiant comeback fell just short at the Olympics on Thursday.
The Americans will now face China or the Netherlands for bronze on Saturday after losing 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 13-15.
The United States took the first set 25-20, but quickly found itself wobbling after an injury to star Foluke Akinradewo.
WATCH: Full match replay
Serbia dominated the second set 25-17 and blazed out to a 8-1 start in the third set. The Americans wouldn’t go away, and forced leading Serbia into a timeout at 22-20. That settled them down, and it finished 25-21.
At that point, it seemed Serbia’s Brankica Mihajlovic and Tijana Boskovic would be living in USA volleyball’s nightmares for a long, long time. The spikers were dominant in two sets that gave Serbia a 2-1 lead en route.
Karch Kiraly’s Yanks were not bowed, though, coming back to decisively win the fourth set 25-16. But Serbia rallied to win despite some final set heroics from Karsta Lowe.
The U.S. women’s volleyball team won the FIVB World Grand Prix for the fourth time in six years, claiming the international title in its first time as final round host in Omaha, Neb., this past weekend.
The Americans, the reigning World champions, Olympic silver medalists and top-ranked team in the world, won all five of their matches against five of the top seven ranked teams in the world — Olympic champion Brazil, Olympic bronze medalist Japan, China, Russia and Italy.
The six nations in the final round combined to win every medal at every Olympics and World Championships dating to 2008.
The U.S. is rolling under coach Karch Kiraly, an Olympic indoor and beach volleyball champion. The Americans won their first World Championship last year, sweeping then-No. 1 ranked Brazil in the semifinals, and eye the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro next year.
The U.S.’ next major tournament is the FIVB World Cup, where the top two finishers qualify for the Olympics (though there will also be later chances to qualify for Rio). The World Cup runs from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6 in Japan.
“My first summer [on the national team], so I don’t know that much, but this seems hard to beat,” tournament MVP Karsta Lowe, a 6-foot-4, 22-year-old All-America outside hitter at UCLA, said on NBC. “We played some strong teams, but I think we’re going to play some even stronger teams at World Cup. People are going to put their best rosters out there.”
Video: U.S. women’s volleyball team wins breakthrough World Championship