RIO DE JANEIRO – West Seneca’s Matt Anderson has his Olympic medal, and he and his United States men’s volleyball teammates made a big comeback to get it.
The U.S. beat Russia, the defending Olympic champions, in a titanic five-set battle for the bronze medal on Sunday.
The U.S. lost the first two sets but came back to win 23-25 21-25 25-19 25-19 15-13, with an ace in the tie-breaker by Anderson helping to seal the victory.
Anderson finished as the top scorer for the Americans with 21 points, two blocks and an ace off serve.
The Americans, a young team with eight players who had never competed in the Olympics, came to Rio seeking a fourth U.S. gold medal in the sport and were favorites after winning the World Cup last year. They lost in the quarterfinals in London four years ago to Italy, the team that beat them in Rio in the semifinals.
Reid Priddy, 38 and playing in his final Olympic match, finished with 18 points for the U.S.
In the gold medal match, Brazil defeated Italy to win its third gold medal in the sport and cap its best Olympic performance with a total of seven golds in the Rio Games.
The Brazilians had lost to the Italians in a pool match but won the final in straight sets, 25-22, 28-26, 26-24, handing Italy its third silver medal in men’s volleyball.
Brazil struggled in the pool stage, losing two matches, to the U.S. and Italy, and making it into the knockout rounds only after a tense victory over France in the last game.
But having emerged from the pool, Brazil began to show its class and, fueled by raucous home support, dropped just one set between the quarter-finals and clinching gold.
The Brazilian victory was largely due to a barrage of winning spikes, serves and blocks by its outstanding outside hitter Wallace de Souza, who scored 20 of Brazil’s points.
Brazil last won volleyball men’s gold in 2004 when it beat Italy in Athens.