The United States pulled off a sensational comeback from a 0-2 deficit to claim the bronze medal of the men's volleyball tournament at Rio 2016 with a 23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-13 victory over Russia on Sunday morning at Maracanazinho.
It was the fifth men’s volleyball medal, second bronze to go with three gold medals, for the USA side in the Olympic Games. Reigning champions Russia, the most decorated team in history, were left out of the podium for the first time since Atlanta 1996.
The Americans improved from their fifth place in London after winning their third gold medal in Beijing. They also won the Olympic title in Los Angeles and Seoul before descending to third place in Barcelona.
It was also the third bronze medal won by USA volleyball at the 2016 Olympic Games. April Ross and Stanford grad Kerri Walsh Jennings won the first bronze on the beach and the U.S. women's national team, with Cardinal grad Foluke Akinradewo, beat Netherlands for bronze on Saturday.
Matt Anderson and Reid Priddy, who came off the bench late the first set to replace Aaron Russell, were the top scorers for the winners with 21 and 18 points, respectively.
“Even before this match, I came to terms with the fact that the relationships and the experiences were worth it,” said Priddy, who had announced his retirement from the indoor game. “This was just icing on the cake. Just to grind out there with the guys and get sweaty again felt really good. Finally, I used the second jersey. I won before this game started.”
Taylor Sander, Maxwell Holt and David Lee also finished with double figures for the winners with 17, 13 and 11, respectively.
Stanford grad Erik Shoji was credited with nine digs and 24 receptions, 11 of them deemed excellent.
“It’s unbelievable. Reid comes in and just makes every play imaginable,” said U.S. setter Micah Christenson. "He's such a great guy and great example for the sport. He came in and really pulled us to victory tonight.”
Kostyantyn Bakun, Egor Kliuka and Artem Volvich finished with 14 points each for Russia. Alexander Volkov and Sergey Tetyukhin had 10 and 9, respectively, in the loss.
The winners outscored the Russians, 72-52, in attacks to make up for their high number of 32 errors compared to 21 by Russia. They also led in aces, 8-5, with the losers dominating in the blocking category, 12-8.
Tetyukhin carried Russia to an 11-8 advantage in the first set with spike and ace around a kill by Kliuka. One big block by Grankin against Sander extended the gap to 15-10.
USA kept climbing back and narrowed the distance to just one point 24-23 after a monster ace by Holt. In next play, Tetyukhin drove Russia home with a laser shot.
Russia erased a three-point deficit with a streak capped by the third block of Volvich in the match to tie the score at 9-all.
Both teams were showing superb blocking to keep the score leveled. Russia took the lead, 15-13, but USA bounced back to tie at 17-all. Spikes by Bakun and Kliuka around another block by Volvich gave Russia a 20-17 advantage. The second set finished, 25-21, despite a late effort from Sander.
USA got a two-point lead at 12-10 in the third set following spike by Lee and a fault by Tetyukhin.
Holt and Priddy parlayed good offensive efforts widening the margin to 18-14. The Americans closed the actions 25-19 after Anderson and Christenson combined spike and ace.
Anderson and Priddy were responsible for the 9-6 USA advantage in the fourth set with excellent efforts at the net and from the service line. Priddy continued hammering spikes to provide a five-point cushion at 17-12.
USA forced a tie-breaker with Lee closing the set 25-19 with a big kill down the middle.
Russia took the lead 5-3 with consecutive attacks by Volkov and Bakun but USA tied at 6-all via opponent errors.
Teams traded sides with Russia leading 8-7 when Christenson crashed his serve into the net.
Priddy gave USA a 10-9 lead and Lee blocked Tetyukhin for a two-point margin. Anderson landed an ace for a 13-10 score.
USA held off a Russian reaction to claim the set, 15-13, with a spike by Anderson.
“It’s fitting that we end like that,” Holt said. “This whole tournament we’ve been fighting for our lives. We weren’t going to go down like that. Everybody just dug deep. It took us a couple sets to get going. But once we figured out their schemes and put a better game plan together to stop their big boys and served a little more aggressively, we just fought."