US women’s volleyball avenges defeat to Serbia, reaches gold medal match

TOKYO – The U.S. women’s volleyball team qualified for the gold medal match for the fourth time after avenging a semi-final loss five years ago to Serbia with a 25-19 victory, 25-15, 25-23 Friday.

The Americans easily knocked out the team that denied them a chance to win their elusive first gold in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. They qualified for the gold medal match against the winner of the Brazil-South Korea semi-final. Serbia will play the loser for bronze.

The United States played forward for most of the game and got nine set points in the first quarter when Jordan Larson scored on a block at the net. After wasting their first four chances, the United States won the set with a victory for Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson, whose knee injury five years ago against Serbia contributed to the defeat.

Akinradewo Gunderson let out a cry after winning the second set with another block at the net and landed another key block at the end of the third.

Larson then won it with a kill that Serbia couldn’t return and fell to his knees in celebration as his teammates spilled out onto the pitch.

Larson and Akinradewo Gunderson are three-time Olympians who have played a major role in America’s success over the past decade. Now that their international careers are probably coming to an end, they have another chance to win the prize that has eluded them so far.

The United States have been one of the best teams in the world for much of the past two decades, but were unable to win the ultimate prize, losing to Brazil in the medal match. gold in 2008 and 2012. The United States also lost the gold medal match to China in 1984.

The Americans arrived in Tokyo as the highest ranked team in the world, and coach Karch Kiraly’s team reached that level despite some significant injuries.

Passer Jordyn Poulter returned after missing the quarter-final game with an ankle injury, but facing Jordan Thompson he missed his third straight game with a right ankle injury.

Substitute Annie Drew rose again and led the team with 16 points.

Serbia were looking to return to the gold medal game after losing the final to China in 2016. The Serbs had swept five of their first six games in Tokyo, losing just once, in four sets against the Brazil, but had little answer for the Americans.

On the men’s side, the Russians will face France for the gold medal on Saturday after Brazil face Argentina for the bronze.

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