US men's volleyball team undefeated in Beijing
BEIJING (AP) The U.S. men's volleyball teams stayed undefeated at the Beijing Olympics with a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria Thursday.
The United States was cold at the start but took the next two sets and held off Bulgaria in the end, 27-29, 25-21, 25-14 26-24 in round-robin pool play.
The United States is the only undefeated team in its pool, and the win assured the men a spot in the quarterfinals. Bulgaria fell to 2-1.
"It's not going to be easy. It is going to be hard," middle blocker Ryan Millar said. "It's the Olympics. It's supposed to be hard."
The United States remained without head coach Hugh McCutcheon, who with his family after his father-in-law was fatally stabbed while at a popular Beijing tourist site last weekend. His mother-in-law was badly wounded.
Assistant Ron Larsen was serving as interim head coach.
The U.S. team adjusted after dropping the first set, finding ways to stop Bulgarian spiker Matey Kaziyski. Clayton Stanley's spike was the second set winner.
Bulgaria became frustrated in the third, and even coach Martin Syoev at one point slumped in his chair, shaking his head. Todor Aleksiev threw up his hands when his team missed what should have been an easy return.
Trailing for most of the fourth set, Lloy Ball's key block late turned the momentum for the U.S.
"I think we're starting to realize our potential," wing-spiker Reid Priddy said. "I think some things we do really well, and when we don't do something really well, we're able to figure it out and still win."
Stanley had 21 points to lead the United States. Kaziyski had 18 for Bulgaria.
Stanley was clear about the team's goal.
"A medal. We want to play as hard as we can. We focus on every game so we can reach the medal round," he said. "I've told people every time our goal is to win a medal. We're not here just to show up."
The men's volleyball team has won despite the adversity it has faced.
On Wednesday, U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said Hugh McCutcheon's mother-in-law Barbara Bachman was speaking, although she remains listed in serious but stable condition. Bachman underwent eight hours of surgery for life-threatening multiple lacerations and stab wounds.
Bulgaria was without captain Plamen Konstantinov, who has returned to Bulgaria to take a drug test after an earlier test raised suspicions of possible doping.
Konstantinov has missed all three of his team's Olympic matches in preliminary pool play.
There are 12 men's teams competing in Beijing, divided into two pools. The top four teams will emerge from round-robin play into the quarterfinals.
In earlier games Thursday, Italy defeated Venezuela 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-21), Germany defeated Egypt 3-0 (29-27, 25-21, 25-21), Poland defeated Serbia 3-1 (31-29, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21) and China defeated Japan 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 17-25, 16-25, 15-10).
Russia defeated top-ranked Brazil 3-1 (22-25, 26-24, 31-29, 25-19). Brazilian wing-spiker Giba played only briefly because of a sore shoulder.