Published November 20, 2014
In the wake of a sudden and violent attack at a city landmark that killed a family member of their head coach, the United States men's indoor volleyball team rallied to win a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.
Hugh McCutcheon returned for the team's final five games, including the gold medal match against Brazil, after his father-in-law was stabbed to death by a crazed Chinese attacker on the first day of competition.
"I think when that kind of thing happens, the guys get a good taste of what's important in life," team member Sean Rooney said after the four-set win over Brazil. "We were crushed by that. I mean, when you go out on the court, it's just a game of volleyball."
The Americans won gold in men's volleyball for the first time since back-to- back first-place finishes in 1984 and '88.
They went 5-0 in the preliminaries, including a five-set win over Venezuela just two days after the death of Todd Bachman, father of former U.S. women's team member Elisabeth Bachman, who is McCutcheon's wife.
Then came three wins in the medal round, including victories against Serbia and tough Russia.
McCutcheon is in his third year as the women's coach, having led the men from 2005-08. His team for London is highlighted by 39-year old Danielle Scott- Arruda, who will be the first American volleyball player of either gender to complete in five Olympics; and Logan Tom, who is only the third four-time Olympian in women's volleyball.
The U.S. women's team, which won silver in Beijing, is ranked No. 1 in the world by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), while the men's team was ranked fifth as of July 9.
Clay Stanley, the tournament MVP in Beijing, returns for his third Olympics and is the captain of the U.S. men's team. Also returning from the gold medal team are Reid Priddy, Rich Lambourne, David Lee and Sean Rooney.
Six of head coach Alan Knipe's players will be participating in their first Olympics.
Twelve teams compete in both the men's and women's indoor tournaments. The U.S. women's team landed in Group B along with reigning gold medalist Brazil, China, South Korea, Serbia and Turkey. The men are also in Group B with Brazil, Germany, Russia, Serbia and Tunisia.
Competition starts for the women on July 28 and begins a day later for the men. Medal matches for the women are Aug. 11 with the men's taking place the next day.
American have dominated beach volleyball in the sport's brief history at the Summer Games. And although the sport is newer to the Olympic stage, it has become as popular -- if not more so -- than its indoor counterpart with raucous crowds the norm.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have won back-to-back Olympic gold medals, the only team ever to capture two in beach volleyball, and are back for another go-round.
Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers will be trying to match their feat after winning gold in Beijing.
The men's team of Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal and the women's tandem of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross will also compete in London.
U.S. men have won gold in three out of four Olympics, with Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes winning in 1996; and Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana coming out on top in 2000. Brazil won the only other gold medal in 2004, and also took home silver medals in both 2000 and 2008.
Brazil has also fared well in the women's tournament, earning a gold, three silvers and a bronze since 1996.
In fact, the nine total medals for Brazil is the most in the sport's history, followed by the United States (seven), Australia (two) and China (two).
Canada won a bronze medal on the men's side in 1996, but has since finished no higher.
Beach Volleyball will run from July 28 through Aug. 9 and will be held at the Horse Guards Parade in central London.