Russia wins Olympic bronze in volleyball

Aug. 24, 2008, 12:36 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Russia won its second straight Olympic bronze medal in men's volleyball Sunday, a straight-set victory over Italy that fell short of the team's hopes for gold.

The methodical 25-22, 25-19, 25-23 victory brought a muted celebration.

"We can say it's not for nothing that we have come to the Olympics," captain Vadim Khamuttskikh said. "Of course, we had greater plans than this. But we have received the bronze medal and we also hope in the future our performance will improve further."

Russia was ranked No. 2 in the world behind Brazil going into the games. The defending champion Brazilians were to play the undefeated United States for the gold medal later Sunday.

Russia lost to the United States in a five-set semifinal. Italy, the silver medalists in Athens, was defeated by Brazil 3-1 in the other semi.

The Italians were emotional and several times tried to argue the referee's calls. The Russians were altogether different.

After their victory, there was little jubilation. The players gathered briefly on the court with the coach, applauded their fans and went to the bench to collect their gear.

Italy's Luigi Mastrangelo, who injured his left ankle against Brazil, returned for the team's final match.

"There's a lot of bitterness that we feel, a lot of bitterness inside all of us. We were hoping for more," Italian captain Alberto Cisolla said. "We were hoping to get better results than what we did today."

Maxim Mikhaylov led Russia with 20 points, while Alessandro Fei had 15 for Italy.

The Russians, meeting Italy for the first time in Beijing, jumped to a 15-8 lead in the first set after Matteo Martino couldn't stop Mikhaylov's spike.

But Italy went on a five-point run capped by Hristo Zlatanov's ace to close to 18-17. Zlatanov's spike evened it at 20, but the Italians could not pull ahead and Russia won the set on Alexander Kosarev's spike.

Russia again went ahead early, when a four-point run highlighted by Mikhaylov's ace made it 8-1. Italy narrowed it to 16-12 on Fei's block, but Russia went on to win the set when Matteo Martino served into the net.

Italy evened the final set at 9-all when Mikhaylov's spike went out, but again could not manage to take a lead. The Italians drew to 24-23, but Russia won on Alexander Volkov's spike.

Russia was the silver medalist in 2000 and gold medalist in 1964, 1968 and 1980. In Beijing, the Russians went 4-1 in preliminary pool play. They defeated Bulgaria in the quarterfinals before the loss to the U.S.

Italy defeated Poland in the quarterfinals after going 4-1 in their pool with a loss to the United States. Italy also won a silver medal in 1996. They finished as bronze medalists in 2000 and 1984.