Jordan Larson fell to the floor, put her head in her hands and cried after Brazil couldn't return her spike on match point. The frustration of being so close but not quite good enough was replaced by a feeling of relief after the US women's volleyball team finally claimed Olympic gold with a 25-21, 25-20, 25-14 victory on Sunday. "I cried more in the last 24 hours than I think I have in my career," Larson said, adding, "I'm now in kind of this euphoria, a state of shock." The US, which had won three silver medals and two bronze since first stepping onto the medal stand in 1984, got to the top step by beating the team that denied it a chance at gold in the final match of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, the AP reports. Larson, who was part of that silver-winning team in 2012 and the bronze medal team five years ago, paved the way with her leadership on the court and her strong play on the attack and on defense.
The victory also allowed US coach Karch Kiraly to join Lang Ping of China as the second person to win gold as a player and then lead a country to gold as coach. "The goal here was not to help Karch win a fourth gold medal. The goal was to help the USA women become Olympic champions," he said. The US got off to a fast start by scoring the first four points behind strong attacking by Michelle Bartsch-Hackley. It never trailed in the opener, winning it on a soft shot by Bartsch-Hackley that gave her eight points in the set. That pattern continued the next two sets as the US took all nine sets in the knockout round. The match ended with a kill by Larson, leading to the tearful hug among the players. The journey began more than 40 years ago when the 1980 Olympic squad decided to begin year-round training, only to be denied the opportunity to compete because of a US-led boycott of the Moscow Games. But the foundation had been put in place, and the Americans now have their gold.
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