BEIJING — With its Beijing Olympics quarterfinals fate determined by the luck of the draw, the United States women's volleyball team isn't feeling very lucky.

On the Sunday when former Highland High and Stanford standout Logan Tom powered the United States to a preliminaries-concluding five-set victory over Poland, the Americans were given the toughest road in the medal rounds after the night's final pool match.

That's when the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) conducted its drawing for the quarterfinals and set the schedule for Tuesday's four matches.

Four teams each from Group A and B advanced to the medal round, with two of the quarterfinals pairings already fixed in the schedule — the two group winners crossing over to meet the other group's fourth-place team.

That means Group A's Cuba (5-0) faces Serbia (2-3) and Group B's Brazil (5-0) takes on Japan (2-3).

In straight cross-over bracketing, the United States (4-1) — which finished second in Group A — would face the third-place finisher in Group B, Russia (3-2), while Group B's No. 2 Italy (4-1) would play China (2-3).

But the quarterfinals' middle matches were instead set by the FIVB drawing, with the U.S. and Italy — the two second-place teams after preliminary play — paired up in one quarterfinal and the two thirds, Russia and China, in the other.

Either the Americans or the Italians are going to repeat their fifth-place fortunes from the '04 Athens Games, since the quarterfinal losers are eliminated and finish the Olympics tournament in a tie for fifth place.

Italy will prove to be a formidable foe, having won the 2007 World Cup championship and the 2007 European Championships title.

Italy breezed to its 4-1 pool record, losing in three sets to Brazil but only dropping one set total in its four victories.

Meanwhile, the United States lost in three to Cuba but also dropped a set each to Japan and Venezuela and two sets each to China and Poland in the Americans' four victories.

The U.S. finished third at the '07 World Cup, beating Japan in the bronze-medal match. And the Americans' sole loss in the tournament? It came at the hands of Italy.

Prior to its fifth place in Athens, the United States placed fourth at the 2000 Sydney Games, falling in the bronze-medal match. The U.S. hasn't medaled since a silver medal at the '92 Barcelona Games.

The U.S.-Italy winner advances to meet the Cuba-Serbia winner in one of the two semifinals.

Also, Tuesday's quarterfinals schedule was decided by broadcasters' requests, resulting in the United States playing the day's final match at 10 p.m. Beijing time, with Cuba on the opposite end of the clock with a 10 a.m. start.


E-mail: taylor@desnews.com