Late Wednesday afternoon, the Italian Olympic men's volleyball beat the defending Olympic-champion American team in straight sets, securing their spot in Friday's semi-finals and eliminating the Americans from the competition.
In three close but decisive sets—28-26, 25-20, and 25-20—Captain Cristian Savani lead the team with 19 points and four aces, one of which clenched the second set for Italy at the set point. Dragan Travica, who also hammered out four aces, helped Savani shred the American defence.
Removing one of sport's most powerful turnaround teams, which has won three gold medals since the sport was introduced in 1964, the Italian men's volleyball team moved one critical step closer to medaling in this year's Olympics.
Ranked sixth coming into the games, the Italians got off to a slow start in pool play with a 1-3 loss to Poland on the 29th of July. In the second Group A match against Argentina on the 31st of July, the Italians began picking up momentum with a 3-1 win, followed by a 3-0 victory over Great Britain on the 2nd of August that devastated the host team.
In their last match of pool play on Monday, Italy lost in straight sets to the Bulgarian team, which has only lost one match this tournament and is the current favourite to win. The Bulgarians will play Russia in the first semi-final on the afternoon of Friday the 10th of August.
On Friday evening in the second semi-final, Italy will face off against Brazil, who won their quarter-final in straight sets against Argentina, to decide its position in Sunday morning's bronze medal match or the afternoon's gold medal match.