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Saturday, August 23, 2008
Brazil beats U.S. for first gold in women's volleyball

Associated Press

BEIJING -- Brazil won its first gold medal in women's volleyball on Saturday, beating the U.S. 3-1 and ending an emotional run by an American team struck by tragedy hours after the opening ceremony.

Heather Bown
The Americans' emotional run to the women's volleyball final came to an end in the gold medal game, where Brazil proved too much for the U.S. to overcome.
The Brazilians won a tight and tense deciding set in their first Olympic final to win 25-15, 18-25, 25-13, 25-21, and spoil the return of U.S. coach Jenny Lang Ping to her hometown. Lang led the Chinese team to the gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, with a final match victory over the United States.

"We have nothing to be disappointed for," U.S. wing-spiker Logan Tom said. "You see tears; they're tears of happiness, though. We came a long way this tournament."

Brazil finished the Olympic tournament without a loss, while China beat Cuba 3-1 earlier in the day for the women's bronze medal.

The Olympics started on a tragic note for the U.S. team when the father of former U.S. player Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon was fatally stabbed Aug. 9 at a popular Beijing tourist site by a man who then committed suicide. Her mother was seriously injured in the attack.

Todd Bachman was also the father-in-law of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon, whose team will also face Brazil Sunday for the gold medal.

Merrill: Ping's Silver Lining

Lang Ping's return to China as the U.S. volleyball coach didn't end with a gold, but she did have the best of almost everything. Elizabeth Merrill

Against this backdrop, the Americans embarked on an improbable run to the gold-medal match, where they finally met their match in a talented Brazilian team.

In the final set, Brazil went up 15-13 on Sheilla Castro's spike, but the United States scored three straight points to go ahead. Brazil challenged, but couldn't pull back in front until Marianne Steinbrecher's spike knocked over Tom and made it 21-20.

Brazil scored the last four points and won it when Tom's spike sailed out of bounds.

While the Brazilians danced, the U.S. women gathered in a tight hug. Tears in their eyes, they raised their clasped hands upward.

Brazil, the No. 1-ranked team in the world going in, rolled undefeated through five preliminary pool matches. They had not dropped a set coming into Saturday night's final.

The United States went 4-1 in pool play, then defeated second-ranked Italy in the quarterfinals before a stunning three-set upset of former powerhouse Cuba to advance to the final.

Brazil had never played in Olympic final. The team won bronze medals in both 1996 and 2000.

The United States has never won a gold medal. It won the silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and a bronze in 1992.

The last time the U.S. men's and women's teams each advanced to the Olympic final was 1984.