US volleyball men now 2-0 in pool play at Olympics

Aug. 12, 2008, 1:17 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The U.S. men's volleyball team, playing with energy and determination after the tragedy that shook them, defeated Italy 3-1 on Tuesday.

Still without head coach Hugh McCutcheon, whose in-laws were attacked in Beijing over the weekend, the U.S. team adjusted after a sluggish start to win 24-26, 25-22, 25-15, 25-21.

A pall was cast over the U.S. volleyball team following the stabbing death of Todd Bachman, the father of former Olympian Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon.

Bachman's wife, Barbara, was seriously injured in the attack at the Drum Tower, a popular tourist site. The assailant jumped to his death from the tower.

The U.S. men wanted somehow to pay tribute to McCutcheon's in-laws. So on one shoe, they all wrote TB. On the other, they wrote BB.

It was admittedly a small gesture, but it was heartfelt.

"The Olympics are normally very big, but something like this makes it seem smaller. It's just sport," middle blocker Ryan Millar said. "I think the guys are playing hard. They're doing it for Hugh, and they're doing it for Wiz."

McCutcheon spoke to The Associated Press late Monday. He has been comforting his wife, who played for the U.S. team at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"She has shown incredible strength. The last couple of days we've been able to talk through it," McCutcheon said. "Obviously it's a lot of tears and a lot of hugs."

Barbara Bachman's condition was upgraded on Monday from critical to serious but stable.

Ron Larsen took over as interim coach of the U.S. men in McCutcheon's absence. It is not known whether McCutcheon will resume his duties as head coach.

The U.S. men are 2-0 in preliminary pool play after a victory over Venezuela in their opener. The Italians are 1-1 having defeated Japan to open the tournament.

In other matches Tuesday, Russia defeated Germany 3-2 (25-27, 25-21, 21-25, 25-13, 16-14) and Poland beat Egypt 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-10). It was also Brazil 3, Serbia 1 (25-27, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21); China 3, Venezuela 2 (25-21, 21-25, 16-25, 25-21, 16-14); and Bulgaria 3, Japan 1 (29-27, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19).

After an emotional but solemn victory in their first match of pool play, the U.S. men were much more animated - and appeared more driven - against the Italians. Fans at the Capital Indoor Stadium chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!" at the start.

The U.S. trailed early in the first set, but then came back to tie it at 18 on Riley Salmon's ace. Italy, however, prevailed on Paparoni Alessandro's ace.

While the U.S. team had the stronger service and finesse shots, Italy used height up front to its defensive advantage. The Americans adjusted after getting by 25-22 in the second set to dominate the rest of the way.

"What comment can I make? We received badly and spiked badly," Italy coach Andrea Anastasi said.

Clayton Stanley had 23 points for the Americans, who are ranked third in the world. Italy, ranked 10th, was led by Hristo Zlatanov with 19 points.

The U.S. men are 2-0 in preliminary pool play after a victory over Venezuela in their opener. The Italians are 1-1, having defeated Japan to open the tournament.

"This is a horrible, horrible experience. Right now, we're going to operate as if he (McCutcheon) was here. We're going to take care of business," wing spiker Reid Priddy said.

On Monday, USA Volleyball chief executive Doug Beal released a statement offering condolences to the Bachman and McCutcheon families. Todd Bachman was an avid supporter, particularly of the women's team, and often traveled to competitions.

Beal also extended his gratitude to the U.S. players.

"No matter what the results, we are incredibly proud of these young men and women who are representing the United States and USA Volleyball with pride, grace and enthusiasm," Beal said.