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Comeback Road Bumpy for Wilde : International volleyball: The setter is inconsistent as the United States again loses to France in five games.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rod Wilde, setter on the United States national volleyball team, had a bittersweet feeling when the U.S. team won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.

Wilde was set to compete on the Olympic team until he was sidelined because of a leg injury two months before the Games at Los Angeles.

“I had made the final cut for the Olympics and trained with them for 2 1/2 years,” Wilde said. “But we were playing in the Soviet Union two months prior to the Olympics, and one of the Soviet players came under the net and I landed on him and broke my leg.”

Crushed, Wilde considered not attended the Games, because he wasn’t sure if he was emotionally ready to handle it. But he decided to attend because he thought it was his last chance to attend the Olympics.

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Still in a walking cast, Wilde stood near the victory stand when the U.S. team received its gold medal.

“It was a despair type feeling,” Wilde said. “It was a tough situation to be there and not be receiving the medal.”

Wilde retired after the 1984 Games and became the women’s volleyball coach at Drake University. He moved to Pepperdine two years later, replacing Marv Dunphy as interim coach when Dunphy was named to coach the national team.

The Waves flourished under Wilde, winning the NCAA title in 1986 and finishing third in the 1987 NCAA tournament.

When Dunphy returned after leading the United States to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, Wilde considered playing in Italy, where club teams are luring Americans with lucrative contracts.

Wilde, 33, rejoined the national team instead last November after Jeff Stork, starting setter for the national team, signed with an Italian team.

“I made a commitment to the team through 1992, and they’re going to have to throw me out to get rid of me,” Wilde said. “I came back to go to the Olympics and fulfill my dream.”

Wilde’s dream is a long way from reality.

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Rebuilding, the United States has struggled while losing the first two matches of the World Volleyball League season to France. After defeating the United States in five games Sunday, France won Monday’s rematch, 16-14, 3-15, 5-15, 15-9, 16-14, before 2,236 at the Forum.

Wilde hit the ball into the net on the final point.

“Rod’s kind of a comeback player,” said Bill Neville, U.S. coach. “He’s had great matches and unsteady matches. Tonight he was unsteady.”

The United States lost middle blocker Scott Fortune with a foot injury in the fourth game and seemed to lose its poise after that.

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