A win over Australia was just an appetizer. The real treat for the U.S. men's team came a couple of hours later, when Italy beat the Netherlands, guaranteeing the Americans a place in the medal round and making up for their miserable performance in 2000, when they lost all five matches. Word quickly spread among the U.S. players, who were already scattered around the city.
"Thank goodness," said outside hitter Kevin Barnett. "It's a lot better to make the quarterfinals than what we did last time, that's for sure."
Ryan Millar led the United States with 17 points in a 25-19, 23-25, 25-13, 25-19 victory.
Millar, who sprained his ankle this summer, has steadily worked his way back into form. He came up with several key blocks and spikes with his powerful, compact swing -- finding a rhythm with setter Lloy Ball.
"We just needed a little bit of time, and we were going to be right there," said Millar, one of five returnees from the 2000 squad. "He can set it up to me, and I can put it down. Today, he went to me on some big points, too, which gives me a lot of confidence."
The Americans (2-2) finish the preliminaries tomorrow against Brazil -- the world's top-ranked team.
"I think we can beat anybody here," U.S. Coach Doug Beal said.
-- From News Services