London, England – The United States landed a mighty haymaker early to let Brazil know a successful defense of its Olympic gold medal wouldn't come easy.
Then the Brazilians fought back.
After getting routed in the first set, Brazil began to establish its dominance at the net and rolled to a 3-1 (11-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-17) victory over the world No. 1 U.S. in the women's volleyball final Saturday.
Jaqueline Carvalho led Brazil with 18 points and served the goal-medal winning point, which came when Fernanda Rodrigues' spike attempt was blocked out of bounds by the U.S.
Sheilla Castro notched 15 points and Fabiana Claudino another 14 as Brazil joined the former Soviet Union and Cuba as the only other countries to repeat as Olympic champs.
Destinee Hooker and Logan Tom had 14 points each for the United States. But Hooker, who came into the match as the tournament's second-highest point scorer, only converted 13 of her 33 spike chances.
By comparison, Carvalho notched all 18 of her points on 27 spike attempts.
"It means a lot to beat USA. We shut loads of mouths," stated Carvalho.
The United States entered the tournament as the world's top-ranked team and got the best of Brazil 3-1 in pool play while not losing a match prior to the final.
However, Brazil duplicated its 3-1 win over the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Games final despite looking outmatched early.
The United States controlled play at the net in the first set, notching three points on blocks and holding the Brazilians to five points on 34 spike tries.
In fact, Brazil posted consecutive points just once in the set while sending a majority of its shot either long or wide for nine errors.
"We did start well, but then we saw Brazil growing and growing in confidence. They established a good foothold. Once you start playing catch-up and reacting you are in difficulties," said U.S. head coach Hugh McCutcheon, who also said that "this is the end of the road" for him in the international arena.
Then Brazil got going, notching seven of the first 10 points in the second set before the Americans got their feet back under them to even the affair at 12-12.
Brazil didn't let up, taking a 23-15 lead before winning the set, hitting on 20-of-38 spikes.
"They are very big players. We broke their passes. When the second set started, we saw in their eyes that they were worried and we said to each other, let's take advantage of this moment. Let's get on top," said Claudino.
Now with the momentum, Brazil continued to keep the U.S. at bay and prevented the silver medalists from ever getting within a point for the majority of the final two sets.
The Americans made one last desperate attempt in the fourth set, getting to within 23-17 thanks to pair of spikes from Tom and a fault on Castro. However, back-to-back spikes by Carvalho and Rodrigues sealed the match for Brazil and prevented the U.S. from claiming its first Olympic gold medal.
"It took us out of our rhythm," USA's Lindsey Berg said of Brazil's performance. "They played well and they were out to get us. We've beaten them the last six times. After the first set they were angry and they didn't want to go out like that, but we've got a silver medal and we need to keep our heads high."
Japan nabbed its first medal in women's volleyball in almost 30 years earlier in the day, downing South Korea in straight sets 25-22, 26-24, 25-21 in the bronze medal match.
It was Japan's first medal since a bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.