World Volleyball Championships

U.S. women's volleyball

U.S. women’s volleyball wins breakthrough World Championship (video)

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The U.S. women’s volleyball team captured the biggest title in program history Sunday, beating China 27-25, 25-20, 16-25, 26-24 in the World Championship gold-medal game in Milan.

The Americans won their first major international championship after three previous Olympic silver medals (1984, 2008, 2012), two World Championship silver medals (1967, 2002) and one World Cup silver medal (2011). They’ve gone 50 years with zero Olympic golds and broke a 62-year World Championship drought.

They are coached by Karch Kiraly, a two-time Olympic indoor volleyball champion and 1996 Olympic beach volleyball champion.

“We came here to make history,” an emotional Kiraly said on court on Universal Sports. “The USA was due. I kept saying it. I know we’re going to win one of these. I don’t know if it’s 100 years from now or today. I told the team there’s just been this obstacle, this wall, but I could feel it cracking between us and that goal, and that gold, that color. I could feel it like the Berlin Wall. It was cracking and fracturing. We just had to keep hurling ourselves, as a team, at that wall, until we burst it down.”

Kiraly compared this title with the Olympic gold medals he won as a player.

“I don’t feel much different, actually, to be a part of an effort like this,” he said.

Kim Hill was named tournament MVP and best spiker. Alisha Glass was named best setter.

Captain Christa Dietzen celebrated not only the team gold but also her 28th birthday Sunday.

“I constantly think about how this is bigger than us,” said Dietzen, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist who underwent knee surgery in December. “I think it represents the past players of USA Volleyball and everybody that has built this program from the bottom up. And it represents the present players, and not just the 14 of us who are here, but all 25 to 40 of us who have come through the gym this summer and made each other better.”

The U.S., ranked No. 2 in the world, shocked top-ranked Brazil in a semifinal sweep Saturday to set the final with China, ranked fifth. Brazil, which beat the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals, downed Italy for bronze earlier Sunday.

Olympic qualification tournaments start in 2015 for nations to join host Brazil at Rio 2016.

Rio Olympic indoor volleyball final tickets are tied for the priciest of any sport. The World Championship is held once every four years, meaning the U.S. kept Brazil from claiming the biggest global title before its home Olympics.

“I think it’s just set the tone [going toward the Olympics], and I think it’s built our confidence,” Dietzen said. “But we still have a lot of business and a lot of work to do. But I think it’s made us hungrier.”

Poland did the same in the men’s World Championship that it hosted three weeks ago. The U.S. men, who have won three Olympic titles, were seventh there.

The U.S. lost its final match to Brazil at the last four Olympics.

“We know, two years from now, the headwinds will be great in Rio,” Kiraly said on Universal Sports. “Brazil will have the home-court advantage. We love headwinds. Bring ’em on.”

NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed reporting from Milan.

U.S. women upset No. 1 Brazil in World Volleyball Championships semifinals

U.S. women's volleyball
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The U.S. women’s volleyball team ousted top-ranked Brazil from the World Volleyball Championship on Saturday, advancing to the gold-medal match Sunday with an opportunity to win its first World title.

The U.S., which lost in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold-medal matches to Brazil, prevailed 25-18, 29-27, 25-20 under the tutelage of head coach Karch Kiraly, a two-time Olympic indoor volleyball champion and 1996 Olympic beach volleyball champion.

“It was relentless by us,” outside hitter Jordan Larson-Burbach said on Universal Sports. “We’re not finished yet.”

It will play either Italy or China in the gold-medal match. Italy swept the U.S. on Wednesday.

Brazil entered Saturday 11-0 in Milan, including sweeping the U.S. in a match where both teams rested regular starters last Sunday.

The U.S. women have won three Olympic silver medals and two World Championships silver medals, but a victory Sunday would give the program its greatest title ever.

Landon Donovan and the Olympics

Poland wins World Volleyball Championship at home, pandemonium (photos, videos)

World Volleyball Championship Poland
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Poland completed an epic run to the World Volleyball Championship gold medal at home on Sunday, setting off bedlam inside the Spodek Hall in Katowice and on the streets throughout the nation.

It came back to upset three-time reigning World champion Brazil in the gold-medal match, 18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22.

Brazil, where Rio 2016 indoor volleyball final tickets are tied for the priciest of any sport, was trying to become the first nation to win four straight World Championships. The World Championships are held once every four years, meaning Poland kept Brazil from claiming the biggest global title before the Rio Olympics.

Poland won its first title since 1974 and became the first host nation since Czechoslovakia in 1966 to prevail. Poland was fifth at the 2012 Olympics and ranked fifth in the world before the tournament. This was a monumental victory.

The win came one month after the 2014 World Championship trophy was reported stolen in, of all places, Rio de Janeiro, during a pre-Worlds tour. The FIVB had to act quickly to have a replacement created.

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

The entire tournament shattered attendance records. A recorded 563,263 watched the 103 matches from Aug. 30 through Sunday, about 240,000 more than the previous mark set in Italy in 2010.

Vines of match point and the initial celebration:

https://vine.co/v/O7qMpmExT7d

https://vine.co/v/O7qiAXrDTxr

Polish newspaper front pages Monday:

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