Coach returns, US defeats China in three sets

Aug. 16, 2008, 12:37 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The U.S. men's volleyball team, buoyed by the return of their head coach, defeated China in three sets on Saturday.

Coach Hugh McCutcheon left the team after the stabbing death of his father-in-law, Todd Bachman, one week ago in Beijing. His mother-in-law was badly wounded and required eight hours of surgery.

After missing the team's first three matches, McCutcheon returned Saturday and guided the men to a 25-22, 25-12 25-18 victory over China. The United States remained undefeated in pool play and had already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals.

McCutcheon is married to the Bachmans' daughter, Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon, who played for the U.S. women's volleyball team in the 2004 Olympics.

He said he was inspired to return to his team when visiting the hospital bed of his mother-in-law.

"One of the first times I saw her when she was awake in the ICU, she was asking me why I wasn't coaching the team," he said.

Barbara Bachman was flown from Beijing to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where she was listed in fair condition. Hospital officials said she was alert and talking and had good memory function. McCutcheon's wife also returned home, as did her two sisters.

McCutcheon said if he hadn't been convinced that his wife could cope with her loss and the care of her mother, he wouldn't have kept coaching in Beijing.

"She was extremely encouraging. She was adamant that I stay," he said.

McCutcheon told his team Friday he would return, and then the group immediately set about watching film of China and discussing strategy. When he took the court on Saturday, McCutcheon coached as he always does, pacing the sidelines with arms folded or hands on his hips. He clapped for his team after winning points.

"I wouldn't have come back if I wasn't ready to come back," McCutcheon said. "It's what I do - get out on the sidelines and get the boys fired up."

The Bachmans were visiting the popular Drum Tower in Beijing with a tour group when the attack occurred. A Chinese tour guide also was wounded. The assailant, Tang Yongming, leapt to his death from a balcony of the 13th-century tower. Bachman McCutcheon was with her parents but was not hurt.

The slaying came hours after the opening ceremony, startling the sports community and embarrassing Chinese leaders determined to hold a flawless Olympics.

Saturday's match at Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium, the smaller of the two volleyball venues, drew a large crowd because of the host team. When McCutcheon was introduced, clusters of American fans greeted him with a standing ovation.

His team had written "TB" and "BB" on their shoes in honor of the Bachmans.

"I think we wanted to play as hard as we could for him," middle blocker Ryan Millar said. "But he didn't want to make it about him; he wanted it to be about the team"

After the final point, wing-spiker Riley Salmon embraced his coach. McCutcheon joined a team high-five on the court.

"It's always good to have your leader back," setter Kevin Hansen said. "Our team is complete again."

In the day's other early matches, Serbia defeated Germany 3-1 (25-21, 27-25, 24-26, 25-23), Russia remained undefeated with a three-set victory over Egypt (25-19, 25-14, 25-18) and Italy defeated Bulgaria 3-0 (25-20, 25-21 25-16) . With its loss, China fell to 2-2.

Wing spiker Giba played a full match after nursing a sore shoulder and had 16 points in Brazil's three-set victory over Poland (30-28, 25-19, 25-19), before Venezuela defeated Japan in three sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-23).

There are 12 men's teams competing in Beijing, divided into two pools. The top four teams in each pool that emerge from round-robin play move into the quarterfinals, which get under way on Wednesday.