Sports OLYMPICS

The 2016 Rio Olympics have come to a close with Americans earning 121 medals -- 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze -- their biggest haul ever, not counting the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games or the 1904 St. Louis Games, when hardly anyone else showed up.

U.S. men's volleyball team loses to Italy in semifinals

Italy's Emanuele Birarelli, right, spikes the ball while U.S. player David Lee attempts to block during a men's semifinal match Friday at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Juan Mabromata / AFP/Getty Images)
Italy's Emanuele Birarelli, right, spikes the ball while U.S. player David Lee attempts to block during a men's semifinal match Friday at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Juan Mabromata / AFP/Getty Images)

They called a timeout to try to stop Italy’s momentum.

It didn’t work.

They tried it again.

Nothing, it seemed, was going to work late in the fifth set against a suddenly surging Italy.

The well-developed survival skills exhibited by the U.S. men’s volleyball team here vanished late in its semifinal against Italy on Friday at the Olympics. Italy won a thriller, 30-28, 26-28, 9-25, 25-22, 15-9. The U.S. had been trying to avenge an earlier loss to Italy in pool play as well as a devastating defeat four years ago at the London Olympics.

Italy saved five set points in the opening set and had one in the second set but missed the chance to take a two-set lead. It recovered its poise after a one-sided third set and won the fourth, finishing it off with a 6-0 run.

“At the end of the day, we just weren’t skilled enough,” said U.S. Coach John Speraw. “We just didn’t execute on some opportunities and Italy did.”

On trying to get up for the bronze-medal match after such a tough loss:

“It’s really really hard. I almost feel like today we need to mourn and just get it out of our system,” he said. “I know we will. Tomorrow we’re going to have to regroup to prepare ourselves for the next step.”

In Sunday’s bronze-medal match, the U.S. will play Brazil or Russia. Brazil and Russia were to play in a semifinal later on Friday.

The journey has been anything but easy for the U.S. in Rio. The team lost their first two games in pool play – to Canada and Italy – before finding the right touch and aggressive approach after a team meeting.  

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