VOLLEYBALL U.S. falls to Russia in bonze medal game

XATHENS, Greece -- Upset with the officiating and discouraged by their own sluggish play, the U.S. men's volleyball team saw its Olympics experience come to a frustrating end.
After charging over to complain about a call, Lloy Ball gave the padding around the referee's chair a hard, two-handed shove. When his spike attempt was blocked at the net, Kevin Barnett picked up the bouncing ball and chucked it about 50 yards into the seats behind the court.
This isn't how the Americans wanted to go out in the bronze medal match. Alexey Kuleshov scored 16 points for the Russians, whose towering block kept most of the U.S. team's spikes from falling in the 25-22, 27-25, 25-16 victory.
"It's just so disappointing to have this opportunity to get back on the medal stand and not play your best," outside hitter Reid Priddy said.
Brazil beat Italy for the gold in four sets to back up its No. 1 world ranking. Gilberto Godoy Filho had 20 points to lead the Brazilians to a 25-16, 24-26, 25-20, 25-22 victory -- their first Olympic medal since 1992.
The silver medalists in 2000, Russia bounced back from a lopsided loss to Italy in the semifinals.
"Unfortunately we could not fight in the final for the gold," Russian coach Gennady Shipulin said, "but I think my team had the potential."
Shipulin had a serious talk with his team after Friday night's sweep by the Italians.
"They had no right to come out and play like they did against Italy," he said. "No right."
Once the disappointment subsides, the Americans can take solace in a respectable fourth-place finish after a disastrous 0-5 showing in Sydney four years ago. Sweeps by Brazil and Russia in their last two matches, however, proved that they're just not quite ready to be included in the world's elite.
"It always seems like everyone else comes up with like an ace late on us or a great dig," said Ball, who played his last game with the national team. "We just haven't done that yet, and that's because a lot of the teams we play have more experience and they play against better teams than we get to."
Associated Press

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