U.S. medal hopes in peril after loss to Italy

Coach John Speraw just moments after the match staring up at the arena’s ceiling with an exasperated expression on his face was all anyone needed to know about how things went for the United States.

The United States dropped its second consecutive match to open the Olympics as it lost to Italy 28-26, 20-25, 25-23, 25-23 on Tuesday in Rio.


With this loss, the United States (0-2, 0 points) is tied for last place in Pool A. In addition, the team will now likely have to win at least two of its three remaining pool-play matches to have a chance of a top-four pool finish and a quarterfinals berth.

The United States despite the loss out-hit Italy .383 to .371 and had three players end the match with double-digit kills.

Outside attacker Aaron Russell had a match-high 19 kills against Italy (2-0, 6 points). Opposite Matt Anderson also had 13 kills, while outside attacker Taylor Sander added 10 kills and back-to-back aces in the fourth game.

This is the second consecutive match that the former Penn State All-Americans Russell and Anderson led the United States in kills.

Italy outside attacker Osmany Juantorena in the victory finished with a team-high 17 kills. Opposite Ivan Zaytsev contributed 13 kills as the United States held him to less than a .300 attack percentage.

Italy out-blocked the United States 8 to 7 and six players with at least one block.

U.S. middle attacker Max Holt led all players with four blocks. In addition, the former Penn State All-American added eight kills on a .538 attack percentage.

Italy with this victory remains in first place in Pool A and can clinch a quarterfinals berth if it beats Mexico in three or four games during its next pool-play match on Thursday.

The United States is three points out of fourth place and the final quarterfinals berth entering its upcoming pool-play match against No. 1 Brazil on Thursday.

A U.S. team has never reached the quarterfinals or medaled after losing its first two matches in the history of the Olympic men’s volleyball tournament.