TOKYO (AP) Micah Christenson gave coach John Speraw a long, tearful hug as his American men’s volleyball teammates crumpled to the floor and the victorious Argentines celebrated.
Instead of relying on the bronze medal won in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, Americans are returning early from the Olympics for the first time in more than 20 years.
It’s heartbreaking, Christenson said after the straight-set loss to Argentina on Sunday night, which robbed the United States of a place in the quarter-finals.
We have worked very hard for this. We have delayed another year to work as hard as possible for this. This is not the way we wanted to end it outright. It is heartbreaking.
The Americans won two of their first three matches in Tokyo before falling to Brazil and Argentina to drop to fifth place in Pool B and miss the quarter-finals for the first time since losing all five. matches in Sydney 21 years ago.
The United States brought back eight players from the team that won in 2016, but never returned to full form after the long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Americans struggled in a tune-up tournament in Italy, and that hasn’t changed in Tokyo. They started well by sweeping France in the first game but have lost three of their last four matches.
It’s almost impossible to treat him right now, said Matt Anderson after his third Olympics. It will be difficult to think about it a few weeks after this tournament. I think it’s part of our process as athletes and part of what we’ve been forced to do when something matters so much to you. It will hurt. It takes time to process this and move on.
Argentina fought back after losing the first two games of the Olympics to move up to third in Pool B with three consecutive wins. Argentina will face Italy in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Argentina took advantage of the Americans’ foul on five of their last six serves at the end of the third set to close the game. Christensons serves in the net at 23-all gave Argentina match point. The match ended when Taylor Sanders’ block got wide.
Mistaken serves has been a recurring problem throughout the Olympics, as the United States has had the most service errors at 97, many of them at key points late in sets.
It makes me wonder if they were just trying to do too much at this point, Speraw said.
The United States was fighting uphill most of the game. Argentina were the best serving team early on, securing three aces from Facundo Conte in the first set to pull him off 25-21.
The United States scored five straight points to climb 21-19 in the second set, but couldn’t close it. Bruno Limas’ peak after a long rally gave Argentina a set point and he closed it on a block by Martin Ramos against TJ DeFalco.
The United States were then unable to close the third set and are now heading home earlier.
This team is a great team, said Speraw. Honestly, I think we could win the world championships next year. It obviously wasn’t worth thinking about now, but we just had to learn and build on that experience. That’s all you can do now.
Earlier today, France forced Brazil in five sets before losing 20-18 in the fifth. But by gaining a point in the match thanks in part to an epic 39-37 victory in the second set, the French clinched a place in the quarter-finals as a team in fourth place in Pool B.
The Russian Olympic Committee team took first place in the pool ahead of Brazil after sweeping Tunisia.
The other place for the quarter-finals was decided when host Japan beat Iran in five sets to take third place in Pool A. Japan will face Brazil in the quarter-finals.
Poland swept Canada to improve to 4-1 in the tournament and win the pool, winning a game against France on Tuesday.
The Canadians have always qualified for fourth place in the group and will face the Russians in the quarterfinals. Italy swept Tunisia to finish second in Pool A.
More AP: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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