The answer is they would bounce back strong.

Two days after being bounced from the gold-medal match, the USA women put forth an aggressive effort and beat The Netherlands 25-23, 25-27, 25-22, 25-19 to win the Rio Olympics women’s volleyball bronze medal.

“Our team dealt with some real pain and heartache, heartbreak, a couple of days ago,” USA coach Karch Kiraly said. “I’m incredibly proud of how within hours they were preparing, carrying that heartbreak, but preparing to be good and to finish strong.

“I also never had any understanding of how good a bronze medal could feel, and it feels incredible right now. We’re so happy to finish this tournament on this note.”

The Americans earlier beat the Dutch in pool play and it turned out that pool was pretty stout, because all four semifinalists — USA, Netherlands, China, Serbia — were from that same Pool B.

And in that Pool B, in the second match of the first day of the tournament, The Netherlands beat China in five. Two weeks later, China won the gold medal, beating Serbia on Saturday night 18-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-23. It marked a tremendous accomplishment for Lang Ping, who won a gold medal as a player and is now the first person to also coach a team to the gold.

“I felt overwhelming relief and relaxation after our victory,” Lang Ping said. “I didn’t have the strength to jump and cheer. At the end, fatigue took over.”

On Sunday, the USA men also play for the bronze when they take on Russia at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. The gold-medal match between Brazil and Italy is set for 12:15 p.m. as the Olympics come to a close.


Kayla Banwarth and Kim Hill celebrate the USA victory/FIVB photo
Kayla Banwarth and Kim Hill celebrate the USA victory/FIVB photo

Kim Hill led all scorers with 19 points on 13 kills, a match-high four aces and two blocks.

“There have been a lot of tears the past couple days and not just tears of sadness,” Hill said. “(There were) tears of gratitude and joy at this experience this past for years and in this tournament and being with this group of people, this special group.

“It’s been such an amazing ride and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Middle Foluke Akinradewo, who had to leave Thursday’s semifinal with a leg injury, returned and had 16 points on 13 kills, two blocks and one ace.

“I think it was just regrouping and getting some good therapy,” Akinradewo said of her return. “I was able to get into practice yesterday and felt pretty good. I knew that I really, really wanted to be able to battle with this group one last time.

“It is such a special group of women. I knew I wanted to do everything in my power to come back and fight with them and fight for them.”

It was the fourth medal in the Olympic history for the USA women team that finished with the silver in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. The USA won bronze in 1984. It was the highest finish ever for The Netherlands.

China wins gold

Young Zhu Ting, the top scorer of the tournament with 179 points, led in the championship match with 25 points.
“I am happy for my team,” Lang Ping said. “In the past four years, we have been training hard for this. We planned our training rigorously and we have followed this plan every single day, step by step. I want to thank my players and coaches and everyone who supported the team and trusted in the growth of our volleyball program.
“After three losses in the preliminary round, we had to believe that we had the skill to win. We know that perhaps we were too focused on the outcome and not on the process. We tried to motivate the players and told them that they to play their role before we achieve success.”


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