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Local Olympians: US men exit Olympics with volleyball loss to Italy

Posted: August 8, 2012 7:30 a.m.
Updated: August 8, 2012 7:30 a.m.

Italy's Cristian Savani (11) drops a shot over USA player and Saugus High alum David Smith (20) and Russell Holmes (12) during a men's volleyball quarterfinal match on Wednesday in London.

LONDON (AP) — The defending Olympic champion U.S. men's volleyball team was eliminated from the London Games with a straight-set quarterfinal loss to Italy on Wednesday.

The fifth-ranked United States struggled to defend Italian captain Cristian Savani, who had 19 points in the 28-26, 25-20, 25-20 victory for the sixth-ranked Italians.

U.S. setter Donald Suxho bent over with his hands on his knees and shook his head as Italy celebrated the win at Earls Court. And after congratulating the Italians, the Americans turned to applaud the many U.S. fans in the crowd.

The United States won the gold medal in Beijing, upsetting favorite Brazil 3-1. It was their third gold inmen's volleyball, which became and Olympic sport in 1964. Russia is the only other nation with three.

Italy has never won the Olympic gold, but the teams has won silver twice, most recently at the 2004 Athens Games.

The two teams split their previous Olympic meetings, each winning two.

The Italians will face Brazil in Friday's semifinals. The top-ranked Brazilians defeated Argentina in straight sets (25-19, 25-17, 25-10) earlier in the day.

The United States was led by captain Clay Stanley with 16 points. But ultimately the team was thwarted by Italy's powerful serves. Savani and Dragan Travica each had four aces.

Stanley couldn't stop Michal Lasko's kill for match point.

The United States took a 13-9 lead in the first set on David Lee's kill, but Italy leveled it at 18-all on Travica's ace and took the lead on Ivan Zaytsev's spike.

The Italians denied the U.S. set point three times before claiming it on another ace from Travica that the Americans thought would sail long.

Inspired, Italy only briefly surrendered the lead in the second set and pulled ahead 20-16 on Lasko's block.

Italy won match point when Matt Anderson misplayed the return on Savani's serve for ace. The United States argued the point but to no avail.

With Italians at Earls Court wildly cheering them on, Italy went up 13-9 in the third when Stanley's serve sailed out.

The U.S. team went 4-1 in the preliminary round to capture the top seed going into the quarterfinals. They defeated top-ranked Brazil 3-1 in a rematch of the Brazil finals, but lost in five sets to Russia — snapping an 11-match winning streak in Olympic play, dating to the Beijing Games in 2008.

The team's undefeated run in Beijing was emotional after coach Hugh McCutcheon's father-in-law was stabbed to death at a Chinese tourist site a day before the opening ceremony. McCutcheon missed the team's first three matches but rejoined them to guide them to the gold.

After victory, McCutcheon moved over to the U.S. women's team and Alan Knipe took over the men's team.

The United States wasn't considered among the medal favorites at the London Games, but they claimed silver in the recent World League tournament and they played well in the preliminary round.

They finished the Olympics 4-1.

Italy went 3-2 in preliminary-round matches, losing to Poland and Bulgaria, the winner of the pool opposite from the Americans. They beat Argentina, Britain and Australia.


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