The U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team's bid to win its first-ever Olympic gold came up two points short in the semifinals on Thursday as it fell to Serbia 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13 in Rio de Janeiro with one of its prime starters, Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo, on the bench midway through the second set due to an injury.
Akinradewo, perhaps the team's most consistent performer through the Olympics, had six points in the opening set, including three of the team’s six blocks before she went down with an injury early in the second set.
“We left everything out there,” USA's Jordan Larson said. “Foluke came down with something with her knee and I thought we did a good job rallying around each other. Serbia is a great team. We stuck with them. We are excited for another chance to medal, and that is what we came here to do. Again, congratulations to Serbia.”
Team USA came back from a 16-14 deficit in the opening set, scoring three unanswered points breaking an 18-all tie en route to a 25-20 victory with seven of the final nine points.
Serbia raced out to a 7-3 lead in the second set and never allowed the Americans back into it, winning 25-17.
Serbia continued the momentum into the third set with an early 8-1 lead and hung on for a 25-21 victory to go up 2-1 in sets.
“It took everybody,” Christa Dietzen said on Team USA getting back into the match. “We’re two of the best teams in the world and we are going to expose all the weaknesses. I love the way that girls can come off the bench and be called to do any number of things. It was tough when Foluke went down. I think we were a little distracted there for a second just because we care so much for her. Obviously we wanted to turn this around for her and for everybody that’s a part of this program. We have a chance in the next 48 hours to do so.”
Team USA regained composure in the fourth set with some personnel changes and used a 10-4 scoring run to establish a 17-10 advantage in the fourth set and forced the tiebreaker with a 25-16 victory. In the tiebreaking fifth set, Serbia battled back from a 9-6 deficit to win 15-13.
“This one stings for sure,” Dietzen said. “But we had a great example set for us. Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross responded really well after their semifinal loss so we plan to take that same approach. Of course, yes, the next hour or so there is some grieving. But then we will see after 10 p.m. tonight who we will face in the bronze-medal match. We’re going after the bronze. That’s our next goal.”