The U.S. men's volleyball team came from behind Wednesday to defeat Serbia in five sets and remain undefeated in Beijing.
The 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12 victory propels the United States into the semifinal round against Russia.
The U.S. team overcame tragedy to win all five of its matches in preliminary pool play. Serbia went 2-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.
The young Serbians came out determined, jumping ahead 8-3 early and taking the first set when Stanley Clayton couldn't stop Milos Nikic's spike.
The United States made adjustments in the second and led for most of the way until Riley Salmon's unsuccessful spike put Serbia ahead 19-18. The U.S. team came out on top, however, when Nikic couldn't block Reid Priddy's spike at the net.
The Serbians were persistent in the third, coming from behind early to win it on Dejan Bojovik's ace. But the United States regained its focus in the fourth, which was won on Stanley's ace.
In the deciding set, Serbia took an early 7-4 lead, and it appeared the momentum was all theirs. But the United States took a time out and got back in it, and Stanley's key block made it 13-10. From there, the U.S. team held off Serbia to finish it on Riley Salmon's spike.
"I'd be lying if I said we weren't anxious," Priddy said. "I don't think nervous is the right word for it. I don't think there is a word for it."
The U.S. men are peaking at just the right time. The team rolled into Beijing after winning their first ever World League title last month.
But they have faced considerable adversity in getting to the medal rounds in Beijing.
Before competition started, coach Hugh McCutcheon was called hastily away from practice. Later, the team learned that his father-in-law, Todd Bachman, had been fatally stabbed at a popular tourist site in Beijing. Bachman's wife, Barbara, was badly hurt.
McCutcheon is married to the Bachman's daughter, former Olympian Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon, who played for the U.S. women in Athens.
The coach took leave from the team to be with his family. Assistant Ron Larsen was made interim head coach.
McCutcheon returned when his mother-in-law was taken home by air ambulance. He missed the team's first three matches.
The United States team marked with their shoes with the initials of Todd and Barbara Bachman, and then went to work, rolling through preliminary play.
The U.S. won Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988, before winning the bronze in 1994. But the closest they've gotten since then was a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Athens games.
Brazil plays Italy in the other semifinal match on Friday.