U.S. women's volleyball misses chance for gold medal
The U.S. women's volleyball team will not be making history in Rio.
The No. 1 ranked team in the world left the Maracanãzinho arena in tears Thursday afternoon as Serbia pulled off an upset in five sets (20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13).
Serbia was playing in its first semifinal in history and will now advance to the gold medal match Saturday in Rio.
The American women have never won a gold medal and they'll now have to wait another four years for their next shot.
Team USA had 18 service faults in the match, too often committing unforced errors to hand momentum back to Serbia. Late in the fifth set, U.S. middle blocker Rachael Adams committed a service fault to hand Serbia match point and the eventual victory.
Serbia faced a 10-7 deficit in the deciding fifth set, but rallied for eight of the final 11 points and rushed the court in jubilation.
"Serbia played a great match and we also played a great match," USA coach Karch Kiraly told FIVB. "After falling to 2-1, we put ourselves in a position to make it possible, but Serbia made great plays in the key moments of the fifth set."
The Americans were dealt a huge blow early in the match when star middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo suffered a knee injury and had to come out in the middle of the second set. She never returned to the court.
At the time she went off, Akinradewo had already tallied eight points and three key blocks, including a kill block to end the first set.
In the second set, the U.S. had no answer for Serbia and Brankica Mihajlovic, who absolutely took over in the middle two sets and finished with 22 points and five blocks.
Kiraly, the volleyball legend at the helm of the U.S. women's team, kept delivering his message during timeouts: "This is what we built this for, to withstand this adversity. Everything we have, everything we need is already inside us."
The U.S. ended up losing the third set and started out the fourth set by handing Serbia two more points on unforced errors.
The Americans eventually heard their coach's pleas and finally executed in a fourth set with Karsta Lowe providing a big boost as the world's best team got its swagger back and started to develop a rhythm again. Led by Lowe (13 points in the match), USA finished 12-of-18 on spikes and picked up four blocks in the fourth set.
Kiraly won a clutch challenge in the fifrth set to flip a one-point lead into a three-point USA advantage at 10-7, but things spun out of control from there. A U.S. net violation made it an 11-9, then a Lowe service fault allowed Serbia to draw even at 12-12 before the U.S. women jumped out of the way of a Serbia serve, expecting it to sail out of bounds only to watch it catch the back of the court and hand the Serbians a one-point advantage.
The two teams traded service faults before a Serbian spike bounced far off Kristy Robinson's hands and the U.S. women were left with nothing to do but watch helplessly as the ball sailed out of play to end the match.
"Serbia played phenomenal with great defense," U.S. captain Christa Harmotto-Dietzen said. "We have some grieving, but we will be back together to go after the bronze."
The U.S. can still take home a medal, moving on to the bronze medal match Saturday to face the loser of China and the Netherlands.