As the United State men's volleyball team fell to a tough Russia squad in the 2012 Olympics, the chances of a gold medal look diminished.
Russia overcame a two-set deficit to deliver a striking blow to America's hope at another gold medal. However, beating the top-ranked Brazil team shows that this team still has the fight and heart to deliver for their country.
The defending gold medalists from Beijing and 2012 World League runner-ups drew a tough group of opponents in Brazil and Russia—the top two ranked teams in the Olympics.
This U.S. team is still right there with the best, however. The Americans were able to defeat Brazil in the 2008 Beijing gold-medal game and the Russians in the semifinal game. Brazil was able to get some revenge on the U.S. in the World Cup last year.
As the U.S. opened the 2012 Olympics campaign, there was uncertainty on how this squad will be able to compete with the two perennial powers of Brazil and Russia.
Well, the Americans started off strong, defeating No. 7 Serbia and No. 10 Germany. In both games, the No. 5 U.S. team did not drop a set.
The Americans followed their strong play with an upset over top-ranked Brazil, 3-1. The U.S. team was aggressive throughout the first three games. Next up was the No. 2 Russian team.
After a two-set lead for the Americans, the Russians stormed back to even it up. After being one point away from sweeping Russia and clinching the group title, the Americans lost three consecutive points. With that, the match would be leveled at two sets apiece.
Russia was able to continue its play in the final set, taking the match 3-2. The loss left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Americans and all the U.S. supporters. After all, the squad was one point away from knocking out the two favorites in Brazil and Russia.
Now, the Americans have to face No. 20 Tunisia. Following that match will be the elimination rounds.
Guys such as Matt Anderson and Clay Stanley will have to continue to be strong. The first-time Olympian Anderson had 18 points against No. 7 Serbia. Captain Stanley had 19 points against the Brazilian team.
If the two continue to be productive, the chance for gold is still there. The team must be mentally strong in order for victory. Just expect some more nervous encounters when rooting for the U.S. men's volleyball team.