BEIJING The United States men's volleyball team ran the gamut of emotions at the Beijing Olympics, and it started with the devastating news of the stabbings of head coach Hugh McCutcheon's in-laws at the Beijing Drum Tower on the first day of competition.
But as low as the lows were, the Americans experienced the highest of highs on the Games' final day, beating defending Olympic champion Brazil in Sunday's gold-medal match, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-22.
On the same court 16 hours earlier on the same Capital Gymnasium, the two nations' female counterparts met in the women's gold-medal match, with Brazil beating the U.S. 3-1 for the gold.
But the American men turned the tables on Sunday.
Clayton Stanley led the U.S. with 15 kills, while David Lee had a team-high five blocks in the win.
Former BYU standout Ryan Millar had eight kills and three blocks, while former Cougar teammate Rich Lambourne added a tied-for-team-best 12 digs.
In the opening set, Brazil jumped out to a 3-0 lead and substantially built upon the margin, topping out at 17-10. The U.S. scored five of the next seven points to pull within 19-15 but couldn't get closer than four the rest of the way before giving up the set 25-20.
As strong as Brazil started out in the opener, the U.S. came out in a greater fury, with Clayton Stanley serving the second set's first six points including an ace as the Americans cruised to an 8-1 margin against the befuddled Brazilians.
Slowing whittling away the deficit, Brazil was down just one at 20-19 before the U.S. edged back out for the 25-20 second-set win.
After a back-and-forth battle to start the third, the Americans took the set's first two-point lead 11-9 and never trailed, going up by as many as six at 20-14 but never fewer than two. The 25-21 third-set victory gave the U.S. a 2-1 advantage and looking to finish off Brazil.
In the fourth, Brazil took the early advantages of one and two points, finally able to extend the lead to three at 20-17. But the U.S. rallied with four straight points to take its first lead of the set at 21-20 and then closed out the 25-22 win.
Brazil not only came in as defending champions but also the reigning World Cup champs, facing a U.S. squad that earned its first World League title earlier this summer and had won three of the previous four meetings over the past year and a half.
Ranked No. 3 in the latest world rankings, the U.S. came into the match undefeated in pool play and earning a trip to the finals with a five-set victory over second-ranked Russia in Friday's semifinals.
Top-ranked Brazil suffered a loss to Italy in a preliminary match but avenged that by beating the Italians in the semifinals to defend its Olympic championship against the Americans.