The Netherlands are still the darlings of the women's volleyball tournament, but Team USA refused to be the next victim, digging deep for a hard-fought victory in five sets.
The Dutch team (No. 11 in the world) pulled off a surprising upset of gold-medal contender China on the first day of volleyball action Saturday, beating the No. 3-ranked team in five sets.
A day off didn't halt Netherlands' momentum, coming out firing on all cylinders against the American squad.
"They're not intimidated by anybody right now, and they shouldn't be," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "They're good."
The U.S. team got out to a flat start, losing the first set 25-18 and helping the Dutch team along with a slew of service faults, including the set-clinching point.
The Americans responded with a 25-18 victory in the second set. At one spot in the middle of the set, USA recorded seven of eight points, sparked by outside hitter Kim Hill's spiking.
It looked as if the U.S. team - which entered Rio as the No. 1 squad in the world - had settled in, but Netherlands wouldn't allow it for long.
In the third set, the Dutch team jumped out to 24-17 lead. USA rattled off four straight points, but they couldn't complete the epic comeback, leading to a 25-21 loss in the third set.
The two teams traded points in the fourth set before USA pulled away. Kiraly gave his team a lift by winning a challenge to swing the game to 19-18 in the Americans' favor, putting them on a 3-0 run.
USA never looked back, sending the match into five sets with a 25-20 victory in the fourth set.
In the deciding set, a series of three consecutive blocks led to points for USA as they jumped out to a 7-3 lead. They went on to win the fifth set 15-8.
"They pushed us," USA middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo said of the Dutch team. "That's what we love. We try and embrace those moments."
Kelly Murphy got out to a rough start for the U.S. team (zero points on her first nine serves, including several faults), but wound up with 18 points on 15 spikes. Hill finished with 14 points on 14 spikes, Foluke Akinradewo had 15 points and Jordan Larson-Burbach tallied 15 points.
Lonneke Sloetjes led the Dutch team with 21 points on 20 spikes and Robin de Kruij collected 14 points and five of her team's 11 blocks.
Since the match went to five sets, both teams retained a point for pool play and USA collected two points for the victory. The top four teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals, which begin Tuesday, Aug. 16.
Quotes from the Associated Press.