Men's volleyball: Italy sends U.S. team to 0-2 start

By Stacy St. Clair
Chicago Tribune
The U.S. men played better in match No. 2 of the Olympics, but Filippo Lanza and Italy still had enough to hand them another loss.

Rio de Janeiro — The U.S. men's volleyball team remains winless in the Olympic tournament after losing in four sets to Italy in pool play Tuesday.

The Americans entered the match desperate for a win following a 3-0 loss in the opener against Canada. Each team plays five times in pool play, with the top eight teams advancing to the knockout rounds.

The United States plays powerhouse Brazil on Thursday in the Maracanazinho arena. Currently ranked No. 1 in the world, Brazil owns a lifetime record of 44-25 against the Americans and will have the arena's raucous — and knowledgeable — fanbase on its side.

"We're going to, again, regroup a little bit and prepare for Brazil," U.S. coach John Speraw said. "Obviously we have some very difficult teams head of us, so our backs are against the wall a little bit."

The teams traded opening sets before Italy, the reigning Olympic bronze medalists, won two final sets. Each set was close (28-26, 20-25, 25-23, 25-23) and Speraw expressed frustration that his team couldn't close them out.

"I'm obviously disappointed because we expended so much energy and competed so hard and were unable to come away with a win," Speraw said. "But I am very pleased with the way we played. It was much, much better than it was against Canada."

Speraw said his young team talked about their nerves following the loss to Canada. Though the U.S. team is ranked fifth in the world, many players haven't experienced the kind of pressure that comes with an Olympic Games, he said.

"For young team, we're going to have learn and grow real quick in this environment," he said. "This the path we're on and we're going to ride it."