The Americans swept past Brazil to clinch the nation's first-ever gold in women's volleyball. It's the fourth total medal for the U.S. in the sport after winning silvers in 1984, 2008 and 2012.
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Michelle Bartsch-Hackley set the tone in the first set with two straight kills, and the U.S. took a 4-0 lead. Strong defensive play from Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson and stellar serves by Kim Hill propelled the Americans to a 25-21 victory despite a missed call gifting Brazil a point. Bartsch-Hackley finished Set 1 with eight kills and scored the final point to carry the momentum into Set 2.
Brazil took a lead at the start of the second set until Annie Drews came alive and Haleigh Washington made multiple aggressive plays. Team USA built a nine-point lead, but the Brazilians went on a five-point run that brought the score to 16-20. Service faults ultimately killed the comeback attempt, and the Americans escaped with a 25-20 win to take a 2-0 advantage.
By Set 3, the Americans were playing in perfect sync and with an intensity only seen when there is a gold medal on the line. Brazil wasn't scoring with its usual ferocity, and the U.S. took advantage of all its opponent's miscues while executing the game plan flawlessly. Three-time Olympian Jordan Larson drilled the match point to bring up the final 24-15 score in Set 3.
Libero Justine Wong Orantes was also key to the American's success. She was all over the court for the entirety of the game, setting up points for teammates throughout all three sets.
After the match, Washington gave an emotional interview in which she said she was "so honored" to have won gold with a team that emphasized a "12 strong" mentality.
"The hard work that we put in, the sweat, the tears, the blood, it's been worth it," she said. "I am so proud to have done it with this group of women."