Rio Olympics: Serbian women knock out US favorites

2016 Rio Olympics - Volleyball - Women's Semifinals Serbia v USA - Maracanazinho - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 18/08/2016. Serbian team players celebrate defeating the USA. REUTERS/Yves Herman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

BELGRADE – The Serbian women’s volleyball team eliminated the world’s top-ranked team, the United States, Reuters reported.

Serbia, playing in their first Olympic semi-final, were riding high after sending Russia home two days earlier and defeated the United States 20-25 25-17 25-21 16-25 15-13 in a five-set clash that could have gone either way.

The U.S. team won the first set but Serbia, driven on by their formidable spiker Brankica Mihajlovic, took control after America’s top-scoring middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo went off with a left knee injury sustained in the opening set.

The United States adjusted its players, battled back to win the fourth set and were leading the tie-breaker before going down.

“We put ourselves in a position to win the match but Serbia made some great plays down the stretch,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly told reporters. “This loss is deeply disappointing. It cuts deep,” he said.

“It was a hard game, we had more luck that them today,” said Serbian middle blocker Milena Rasic.

With its toughest rivals knocked out, Serbia will compete for gold for the first time on Sunday, against China or the Netherlands. “Brazil is out, Russia is out, USA is out. It’s an amazing feeling,” Rasic said.

The U.S. had beaten Serbia 3-1 in preliminary games and were favorites to take their first gold medal in women’s volleyball. They won the World Championship in 2014 and took silver in the last two Olympics where they lost both finals to the Brazilians, their traditional rivals who were beaten by China on Tuesday.

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