After struggling just to get out of the preliminary round, the U.S. women were eliminated from the tournament when a late rally fizzled against Brazil in a quarterfinal defeat, 25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 25-27, 15-6.
Erika Coimbra scored 20 points to lead the unbeaten Brazilians into the semifinals against Russia tomorrow, with the winner gaining a spot in the gold medal game. China plays three-time defending gold medalist Cuba in the other semifinal.
The top-ranked Americans overcame erratic serving and unforced errors to come back from their two-set deficit. The drama quickly disappeared when the Brazilians took an 8-2 lead, and the U.S. team's gold medal hopes vanished a few minutes later.
The second-ranked Brazilians are one of the most polished teams in the tournament, and it's nearly impossible to build a big lead on them. Their block is almost always in the right place, they're able to dig nearly every ball off the floor and their dangerous attack is deftly guided by setter Fernanda Venturini.
The U.S. team was stunned in a loss to the Dominican Republic last week, but a pep talk from the gold medal-winning U.S. softball team pumped up the players. The Americans lost their next game to Russia but bounced back to beat Cuba and qualify for the quarterfinals. Still, by losing three of their five preliminary matches, they got stuck with the lowest seed and had to face the Brazilians.
-- From News Services