US 3, Serbia 2

US remains in control

Rallies past Serbia to stay unbeaten

By Anne M. Peterson
Associated Press / August 21, 2008
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BEIJING - Trailing in the deciding set against Serbia, the US men's volleyball team took a timeout so that coach Hugh McCutcheon could do some micromanaging.

It was time to concentrate on the little things and not the possibility of losing.

The US men responded to their coach and rallied to beat Serbia in five sets last night. The 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12 victory propelled the team into the semifinal round against Russia.

McCutcheon had returned to the team Saturday after his father-in-law was killed and mother-in-law injured Aug. 9 at a popular Beijing tourist site. He missed the team's first three matches in Beijing.

The US team marked their shoes with the initials of Todd and Barbara Bachman, and then went to work, rolling through preliminary play. "He's always said, 'Control the things we can control.' We can't control any of what happened. We just had to put our heads down and play," said wing spiker Reid Priddy.

McCutcheon's influence on the team was no more apparent than against Serbia, when he was able to refocus the team when they most needed it.

"I think that we were so wrapped up in thinking we had to do something spectacular to stop that team," Priddy said.

With the win, the United States remains undefeated in Beijing with six straight victories.

The young Serbians came out determined, jumping ahead, 8-3, early and taking the first set when Clayton Stanley couldn't stop Milos Nikic's spike.

The US team made adjustments in the second and led for most of the way until Riley Salmon's unsuccessful spike put Serbia ahead, 19-18. The United States came out on top, however, when Nikic couldn't block Priddy's spike.

The Serbians were persistent in the third, coming from behind to win it on Dejan Bojovik's ace. But the United States regained its focus in the fourth, which was won on Stanley's ace.

In the deciding set, Serbia took a 7-4 lead, and it appeared the momentum was all theirs. But the US men took a timeout to regroup, and Stanley's key block made it 13-10. From there, the Americans finished off Serbia on Salmon's spike.

"I'd be lying if I said we weren't anxious," Priddy said. "I don't think nervous is the right word for it. I don't think there is a word for it."

Russia will be similarly difficult, veteran Lloy Ball said.

"Getting a team like Russia, it's tough to go 3-0," he said. "We feel the longer we stay on the court, the better chance we have."

The Americans won Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988 and the bronze in 1992. But the closest they've gotten since then was a fourth-place finish in 2004.

Serbia, which won the gold medal in 2000, finished 2-4 in Beijing.

"I believe we shall long have regrets about this match," Serbian coach Igor Kolakovic said. "We were close to a win and to enter the semifinals, but the US played very well at the end of each set."

Brazil plays Italy in the other semifinal match tomorrow.

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