London, England – After falling short in its bid for a medal four years ago, Italy grabbed third place in the men's volleyball tournament at the London Games with a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria.
Italy earned its first medal since a silver at the 2004 Athens Games, notching a 25-19, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21 victory on Sunday. The Italians were bested in the bronze medal match by Russia at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
Cristian Savani led Italy with 23 points, recording seven of his team's 11 points off serves. Michal Lasko added 18 points in the win.
"Today we served well. It's been really tough, but now we have the bronze," said Savani.
Bulgaria used a balanced attack that saw four players reach double figures in points, including 12 each from Vladimir Nikolov and Todor Aleksiev. However, it was denied its second volleyball medal behind only a silver showing at the 1980 Moscow Games. Bulgaria finished in a tie for fifth in Beijing.
A block by Savani capped five straight points for the Italians in the first set, giving them a 17-9 advantage. Bulgaria would pull to within four at 20-16, but a Lasko spike ended the set in favor of Italy.
The second set went to Bulgaria, which logged a 7-2 run at one point to take an 11-7 edge. Though Italy tied the set at 13 and actually went up 23-22, three straight faults by the Italians cost them the set.
Bulgaria then jumped out to a 5-1 edge in the third set, but Lasko helped Italy even things up with two aces. A block by Italy's Luigi Mastrangelo evened the set at 14-14 and a serving Lasko helped his team take an 18-15 advantage and eventually the set.
A spike and two aces by Savani put Italy up 13-9 in the fourth set, though Bulgaria battled back to even things at 16-16. The Italians did not let the set get away, however, taking a 23-19 lead on a Savani ace before an Emanuele Birarelli point finished off the match.