The United States triumphed over Poland, 25-23, 25-22, 25-20, in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games men's volleyball quarterfinals at Maracanazinho on Wednesday.
USA clinched an improvement on their 2012 London 2012 finish of fifth, as the win over Poland gave it entry in the Rio 2016 top four. USA have won a total of three gold medals and can earn their fourth at Rio 2016.
The Americans play Italy in Friday's semifinals. The Italians swept Iran on Wednesday.
USA's Aaron Russell notched 15 points, while Poland's Bartosz Kurek recorded 11 points. Russell got some help from team-mates Matthew Anderson and Taylor Sander, who scored 11 points each.
USA edged Poland in blocks 5-2 and in aces 6-2. Russell and David Lee ruled the net with two blocks each, and then Sander reigned at the service line with two aces.
Winning 3-0 against Poland, as good as they are, is really remarkable," U.S. coach John Speraw said. "Our serves gave us a lot of scoring opportunities and we battle with energy. Now we are set to play for a medal in Rio."
USA and Poland fought hard for each rally in the opening set, resulting to a close score until the end. USA collected a lot of points from the offense of Anderson and Russell, while Poland gathered their markers from captain Michal Kubiak and Mateusz Mika. USA could not get a steady lead, as Poland constantly challenged them. USA reached set point at 24-20, but not until Poland scored three more points before conceding the set 25-23.
Poland jumped to an 8-4 lead in the second set, as Kurek showed excellent court sense. Kurek guided Grzegorz Lomacz to set the ball to him in tight situations and amazingly scored in these plays. USA got back on its feet and wiped out the Polish lead, then made a run to completely overtake their rivals, as Kubiak committed a net fault 25-23.
"We won the match from the service line, giving Poland few opportunities of get their offensive going," Lee said. "That was the key for us. The guys kept bombing serve after serve and I hope to continue this way."
After a tough exchange of spikes at the start of the third set, USA got to break away first to build a five-point cushion. USA maintained its intensity on the attack and defense to get them to within five points from taking the match 20-15. Poland tried to get back, but USA hustled well on defense for the counter-attack. Russell sealed set and match victory with a spike 25-20.