- Associated Press - Sunday, August 1, 2021

TOKYO (AP) – The U.S. men’s volleyball team was eliminated after pool play at the Olympics for the first time since 2000 after losing in three sets to Argentina on Sunday night.

The Americans won two of their first three matches in Tokyo before losing to Brazil and Argentina to fall to fifth place in Pool B and miss out on the quarterfinals for the first time since losing all five matches in Sydney 21 years ago.

The U.S. won the bronze five years ago in Rio de Janeiro and brought back eight players from that team and high hopes for these Olympics.

But the Americans never were able to get into good form leading up to the Games, going 8-7 in a tune-up tournament in Italy, and that didn’t change in Tokyo. They started off well by sweeping France in the opener but lost three of their last four matches.

Argentina battled back after losing the first two matches of the Olympics to advance as the third-place team in Pool B with three straight wins.

Argentina took advantage of the Americans faulting on five of their final six serves late in the third set to close out the match. Micah Christenson’s serve into the net at 23-all gave Argentina match point. It ended when Taylor Sander’s block went wide.

The U.S. was fighting uphill nearly all game. Argentina was the better serving team early, getting three aces from Facundo Conte in the opening set to pull it 25-21. The Americans, who came into the day with a tournament-worst 83 service faults, committed five more in the first set and was unable to string together any consistent runs of good serves.

The U.S. scored five straight points to go up 21-19 in the second set but couldn’t close it out. Bruno Lima’s spike after a long rally gave Argentina a set point and it closed it out on a block by Martin Ramos against TJ DeFalco.

Earlier in the day, France forced Brazil into five sets before losing 20-18 in the fifth. But by gaining one point in the match thanks in part to an epic 39-37 win in the second set, the French clinched a spot in the quarterfinals as the fourth-place team in Pool B.

The Russian Olympic Committee team took first place in the pool ahead of Brazil after sweeping Tunisia.

The other quarterfinal spot was decided when host Japan beat Iran in five sets to claim third place in Pool A.

Poland swept Canada to improve to 4-1 in the tournament and win the pool, earning a quarterfinal match against France on Tuesday.

The Canadians still advanced as the fourth-place team in the pool and will play the Russians in the quarters. Italy swept Tunisia to finish second in Pool A.

The matchups between the second and third-place teams will be determined later by draw.

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