US men ride into quarters

By Anne M. Peterson
Associated Press / August 19, 2008
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BEIJING - The United States men's volleyball team is riding five victories - and the confidence that brings - into the Olympic quarterfinals.

The US remained unbeaten in Beijing by defeating Japan in three sets (25-18, 25-12, 25-21) yesterday to wrap up preliminary pool play. The men finished atop their pool and will face Serbia in the quarterfinals tomorrow.

"The goal was to peak in Beijing, and I think that's what we're doing," coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

The US was playing only its second match with McCutcheon on the sideline. The coach missed the first three after his in-laws were attacked on the second day of the Games.

The US cruised through the first set, winning it on David Lee's block. Japan's errors cost the team in the second, won easily again by the Americans. Match point came on Riley Salmon's successful spike.

Japan (0-5) rallied in the third, evening the set at 16-all, but the team could not pull ahead.

"We played good today," middle blocker Ryan Millar said. "We might have overwhelmed Japan a little bit. It was tough for them. They were already out of it."

Millar led the US with 10 points with four blocks. Tatsuya Fukuzawa led the Japanese with 10 points. "We were really trying our best to fight hard and present the spirit of the Japanese team," Fukuzawa said.

The US team has shown resilience in Beijing despite facing adversity.

McCutcheon's father-in-law, Todd Bachman, was fatally stabbed and his mother-in-law was badly wounded at a popular tourist site in Beijing the day after the opening ceremony. The assailant, who authorities say was despondent over family matters, then killed himself.

McCutcheon comforted his wife, former Olympic volleyball player Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon in the days following the attack. Only after Barbara Bachman had recovered enough to be taken back to the US by air ambulance did he rejoin the team.

If anything, the tragedy brought the US team closer together.

In the day's earlier matches, Italy held off China, 3-2, and Serbia defeated Egypt, 3-0, to stay alive. Serbia stayed alive as the fourth-place finisher in its pool.

After Brazil defeated Germany, 3-0, German coach Stelian Moculescu formally stepped down.

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