Setting up for a final volley
US tops Russia, gets shot at gold
BEIJING - David Lee was right on top of Maxim Mikhaylov's spike. His outstretched hands sent the ball back over the net before the Russians could do anything to stop it.
And, with that, Lee pumped his fists and was mobbed by teammates.
The United States men's volleyball team beat Russia in a five-set semifinal yesterday, assuring the Americans their first Olympic medal since 1992.
They will play for the title tomorrow against Brazil, which defeated Italy, 3-1, in the other semifinal.
"I came alive," said Lee, who accounted for his team's final 4 points. "All match long I didn't think I played my best volleyball. I got it going in the end."
The Americans won, 25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 22-25, 15-13, and remained undefeated in Beijing despite playing without their coach for three matches.
"David Lee just came up with some huge blocks - MVP right there," wing spiker Reid Priddy said. "That was huge, huge for us."
Captain Tom Hoff called the match an "awesome team performance."
This marks the first time since the 1984 Los Angeles Games that both the US men and women will play for the volleyball gold. The women face Brazil for the title today.
The men won gold in 1984 and 1988 before winning the bronze in Barcelona. The closest they've come since was fourth in Athens in 2004.
"We've got so much motivation, we've got motivation coming out of our ears," said setter Lloy Ball, who is playing in his fourth Olympics.
In a tight first set, the US went up, 17-16, on Clayton Stanley's ace, then added another point on Sergey Grankin's errant spike. The US won it when Mikhaylov's spike went long.
Russia took a 16-13 lead in the second, but the Americans made three straight points in the end to take the set. Priddy scored with two spikes before Yury Berezkho's spike went into the net to give the US the set.
Alexey Kuleshov's block put Russia ahead, 17-13, in the third set. The Russians extended the lead to 20-15, but the United States rallied again to even it at 24 before Russia won on Alexander Volkov's block.
That led to a tense fourth set. Russia was up, 19-16, and won it on Sergey Tetyukhin's spike, sending the pro-Russian crowd to its feet.
Priddy's spike put the US in front, 6-3, in the deciding set, but the Russians kept pace and briefly went ahead until Lee's block made it 13-12 for the US. Lee took care of the rest.
Hoff said coach Hugh McCutcheon was a big factor.
"Hugh came over to us and said, 'Here's what we're going to do on this serve,' It had a great calming effect on us."
Before competition started, McCutcheon was called away from practice. His father-in-law, Todd Bachman, had been fatally stabbed at a Beijing tourist site. Bachman's wife, Barbara, was badly hurt. Assistant Ron Larsen coached the first three matches until McCutcheon returned.