And just like that the USA men have advanced.
For coach John Speraw, it might have taken a quadrennial and then some off his life, but his team is in the quarterfinals after sweeping Mexico in a match in which he was able to empty the bench at the end.
“I am really happy to get this win and move on to the quarterfinals, when early on in this tournament it looked like it was going to be a difficult challenge,” a very relieved Speraw said. “We survived and persevered when things weren’t really looking good. We’re proud of the team for the way they have grown in the course of this tournament.”
The win came in the second match of the day with a lot of jockeying for spots still to come in both pools.
When the dust finally cleared, three teams were 3-2 and tiebreakers went into effect.
Accordingly, the USA (3-2, nine points, 10-8 in sets) finished third behind Italy (4-1, 12 points, 13-5 in sets) and Canada (3-2, nine points, 10-7 in sets) and just ahead of Brazil (3-2, nine points, 11-9 in sets).
The USA will play Poland in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Eastern Wednesday. the other match-ups have Italy playing Iran at 5 pm., Canada facing Russia at 9 a.m. and Brazil vs. Argentina at 9:15 p.m.
Before we get to all the men’s results, the women begin their quarterfinals on Tuesday with the unbeaten USA taking on Japan at 1 p.m. Eastern. It’s a matchup of the first-place team from one pool against the fourth and last-place team from the other, and for Japan it took a victory over Argentina in its last match to advance.
The American women have basically dominated so far, sporting a record of 15-5 in sets while outscoring opponents by 70 points. Japan, which went 2-3, was 7-9 in sets in pool play.
Should the USA win, it moves into a 1 p.m. Thursday semifinal against the winner of Russia-Serbia.
Tuesday’s women’s quarterfinals
— Korea vs. Netherlands, 9 a.m. Eastern
— Japan vs. USA, 1 p.m.
— Russia vs. Serbia, 4 p.m.
— Brazil vs. China 9:15 p.m.
Monday’s men’s Pool A
USA 3, Mexico 0
The first set was a battle and Mexico pretty much gave it away, but after that it was a no contest as the Americans cruised 25-23, 25-11, 25-19.
A big key was the insertion of opposite Murphy Troy, who came in when Matt Anderson was struggling. Murphy came up big with 10 kills, had two blocks and was complemented on the other side by Taylor Sander, who also had 12 points including three blocks.
“It was a huge win for our team because we needed to advance to the quarterfinals,” Troy said. “We did that and we accomplished our goal.
“In the first set we came a little bit tight. We were a little bit focused on not losing instead of playing to win, but we bounced back after the first set. We got pushed at the end of that first set and we responded well.”
Middle Max Holt had perhaps his best match of the tournament.
“I have a lot of respect for this Mexican team because they came out in the first set and gave us everything they had in their last match in the Olympics,” said Holt, who had five kills, a block and five aces. “I think we found our rhythm in the next two sets and we stayed aggressive that helped us get the win.
The other middle, David Lee, had seven kills in eight swings, two blocks and two aces.
“The conversation (before the match) was that we’ve had these amazing last few games and now is not the time to slow it down. Now is the time to pick it up,” Troy said. “Keep our same intensity. Keep our focus … We didn’t want to lose a single point or a single set today.”
Canada 3, Italy 1
Italy had already clinched first in the pool and rested starters as Canada came away with a 25-23, 25-17, 16-25, 25-21 victory.
Nonetheless it was Canada’s first victory ever over Italy in an FIVB competition.
“We are proving that we didn’t come here as tourists,” Canada’s Gavin Schmitt said. “We are here to play and to battle for one of the medals. This is one of the highlights of my career and we want to continue on this roll the longer we can. It was a do-or-die match, win or go home.”
His coach was thrilled.
“This victory is like a dream for us,” Glen Hoag said. “We knew the pool was very tough but I really enjoyed watching my players so focused.
“I hope we can continue playing like that in the next round. Gavin Schmitt played great today and In have to credit our defense at the net and also in the back row.”
Italy’s Osmany Juantorena was honest in his assessment.
“We gave our best but it is difficult to keep the intensity when you don’t have anything to gain from a match,” he said. “Our focus is on the next match against Iran in the quarterfinals in two days.”
Brazil 3, France 1
Brazil was living on the edge and had it lost would have been out of the tournament, which would have been incredible considering it won the gold in 2004 and took silver in 2008 and 2012. But before a wild and loud home crowd Brazil won 25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 25-23.
In the fourth set, France took what it thought was a 24-21 lead, but Brazil challenged and got a touch call. As the home team scored the next three points to win it, Antonin Rouzier had two errors, including on the last swing that ended it.
Monday’s men’s Pool B
When it was all said and done, Argentina won the pool, Poland was second, Russia third and Iran fourth.
Argentina 3, Egypt 0
Surprising Argentina finished pool play 4-1 with a 25-16, 25-19, 25-20 blasting of winless Egypt.
When the day’s results were finished, Argentina had won the pool, finishing ahead of Poland on sets ratio, 12-4 vs. 14-5.
“Everything in this (Olympic) cycle is working – the players, the coaching staff, especially our fans,” Argentina’s Luciano De Cecco said. “We are happy with the results here and we are happy that our supporters are here for us. We play at different times here in Rio but our supporters are always there to watch us. We are very happy to be part of this. We are cherishing every moment and every point in this tournament.”
Teammate Sebastian Sole knows his team is hitting on all cylinders.
“We were very hopeful to win this match and we’re very happy with the way we worked well together,” Sole said. “Our blocking and attacking is fantastic today. For the quarterfinals, we know it’s going to be difficult opponents, so will just continue to work hard.”
Russia 3, Iran 0
Russia ended pool play 4-1 with a 25-23, 25-16, 25-20 victory.
Russia finished a point behind Argentina and Poland but finished third in the pool and will be thrown into the 2-3 mix with Argentina.
Iran, which finished fourth in the pool, will play Italy in the quarterfinals.
“It is very important for Iran to move into the second round since it is their first time in the Olympics,” Iran coach Raul Lozano said.
Maxim Mikhaylov led Russia with 18 points, including three blocks and one ace.
Poland 3, Cuba 0
Poland was a set better than Russia and took second place with the sweep of Cuba 25-18, 25-15, 25-17.
Cuba left the tournament 0-5 1-12 in sets, with the only set won against Russia in the first match.