COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 14, 2018) – In honor of the 10th anniversary of the gold medal, we look back at the 2008 U.S. Men’s Olympic Volleyball Team.
The U.S. Men’s National Team entered the 2008 season on the upswing.
It had finished third at the 2007 FIVB World League, its best finish since 1992. After World League, Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon convinced three-time Olympic setter Lloy Ball to rejoin the team and it won the 2007 NORCECA Championship in Anaheim, Calif.
Ball helped the U.S. Men finish fourth at the 2007 FIVB World Cup, but only the top three teams qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
On Jan. 11, 2008, the U.S. Men won the 2008 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Championship in Caguas, Puerto Rico. The team and fans could relax.
Things got even better in July when the U.S. Men won their first ever FIVB World League title in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Less than two weeks later, the U.S. Men were in Beijing for the Olympic Games.
The Beijing Olympic Games opened on Friday, Aug. 8 with a stunning Opening Ceremony that included thousands of drummers and seemingly endless fireworks among other novelties.
The next day, the U.S. Men’s Team practiced at Beijing Normal University, where the U.S. Olympic Committee had a training center. Late in the practice, McCutcheon slipped away before it was finished.
The team was later informed that McCutcheon’s wife, Elisabeth “Wiz” (Bachman) McCutcheon, and her parents, Todd and Barbara Bachman, had been attacked while sightseeing at the historic Drum Tower. Elisabeth’s parents and a Chinese tour guide were stabbed by a man with a knife who then jumped to his death.
Todd Bachman was killed. Barbara Bachman was seriously injured. Hugh McCutcheon would be staying with his family at the hospital for the time being.
Because the authorities were not sure if the attack was isolated or what the motivation was, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Teams were moved out of the Olympic Village to a hotel and received extra security, both from the Chinese and the United States.
On Aug. 10, the U.S. Men played their first Olympic match against Venezuela with a much larger media presence than usual. Assistant Coach Ron Larsen served as the U.S. head coach, helped either directly or indirectly by John Speraw, Marv Dunphy, the late Carl McGown, Team Leader Rob Browning, Athletic Trainer Aaron Brock, Technical Coordinator Jamie Morrison and USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal among others.
The U.S. got a scare from Venezuela in the first match, but won, 25-19, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10.
“It has never been a one-person show,” Larsen said after the match. “We’ve always been talking about team – and that goes for the coaches, too.”
On Aug. 12, the U.S. beat Italy (24-26, 25-22, 25-15, 25-21) and on Aug. 14 it defeated Bulgaria (27-29, 25-21, 25-14, 26-24).
After McCutcheon’s family had safely returned to the United States, he returned to the team on Aug. 16 for its fourth match against China. A new team photo was taken to include McCutcheon. The U.S. beat China, 25-22, 25-12, 25-18.
“I wouldn’t have come back if I wasn’t ready,” McCutcheon said following the match. “I think it was comforting just getting back in the normal rhythm of the team. All teams have a culture, and I’m certainly a part of ours. So it was great to get back into the game and get going again.”
The U.S. Men finished pool play on Aug. 18 with a 25-18, 25-12, 25-21 win over Japan.
The quarterfinals of the Olympic volleyball tournament are very tense because the losers are finished at the Games. The U.S. Men battled to a five-set win (20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12)
The U.S. led its semifinal match against Russia, 2-0. But Russia took the next two sets 27-25, 25-22. The U.S. trailed 12-11 in the fifth set when middle blocker David Lee scored on a kills and block to yield a 13-12 lead. Russia tied it before Lee ended the match with a kill and block to send the U.S. to the gold medal match against Brazil.
Prior to the men’s gold medal match on Aug. 24, the U.S. beach volleyball teams (Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh Jennings and Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers) won gold medals while the U.S. Women’s Indoor Team took silver, setting the stage for the U.S. Men’s indoor match just hours before the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
The U.S. Men lost the first set to Brazil, 25-20 and took the next two, 25-22, 25-21. The U.S. trailed 18-20 in the fourth set when it scored four straight points – on a Lee block and two blocks and a kill by opposite Clay Stanley– to lead 22-20. The United States reached match point at 24-22 on middle blocker Ryan Millar’s kill. Brazil scored once before Stanley – who would be named MVP – ended the match with a thunderous kill..
The players and staff erupted. McCutcheon briefly left the floor and went down a hall to collect his thoughts before returning to the floor to take part in the celebration.
What follows are remembrances of that time and that team from various players and staff:
2008 Olympic Games Men’s Volleyball Tournament
Aug. 10-24 in Beijing, China
U.S. Men’s Olympic Team
No. Name (Pos., Height, Age, Hometown, College)
1 – Lloy Ball (S, 6-8, 36, Woodburn, Ind., IPFW)
2 – Sean Rooney (OH, 6-9, 25, Wheaton, Ill., Pepperdine)
4 – David Lee (MB, 6-8, 26, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
5 – Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, 33, Tustin, Calif., BYU)
8 – Reid Priddy (OH, 6-5, 30, Richmond, Va., Loyola Marymount)
9 – Ryan Millar (MB, 6-8, 30, Palmdale, Calif., BYU)
10 – Riley Salmon (OH, 6-6, 32, League City, Texas, Pierce College)
12 – (captain) Tom Hoff (MB, 6-8, 35, Park Ridge, Ill., Long Beach State)
13 – Clay Stanley (OPP, 6-9, 30, Honolulu, Hawaii, University of Hawaii)
14 – Kevin Hansen (S, 6-5, 26, Newport Beach, Calif., Stanford)
15 – Gabe Gardner (OPP, 6-9, 32, San Clemente, Calif., Stanford)
18 – Scott Touzinsky (OH, 6-6, 26, St. Louis, Mo., Long Beach State)
Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon
Team Leader: Rob Browning
First Assistant Coach: Ron Larsen
Second Assistant Coach: John Speraw
Consultant Coach: Marv Dunphy
Scouting Coach: Carl McGown
Technical Consultant: Jamie Morrison
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
“The (gold medal) match itself felt like a couple of heavyweights going toe to toe. It was tough, but I was just unbelievably proud of how our team responded to that. We stuck to the plan, kept our composure, and played some wonderful volleyball. It was awesome – in every sense of the word.” – Hugh McCutcheon, head coach of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team.
“People don’t understand, all 12 teams at the Olympics want to win. Everyone thinks it’s USA. It just happens. Everyone else in the world is really, really good… For 12 guys and 10-person staff to come together and become best in the world is not a small accomplishment. It’s one that I am proud of and I hope rest are too.” – Four-time Olympic setter Lloy Ball.
“A lot of the off-the-court stuff and the things we take right now for being professional like the weight room and nutrition and off-court activities and recovery and all those things we consider things professionals do; that team didn’t do any of that. I’m exaggerating, but that just wasn’t a priority.” – U.S. Men’s Athletic Trainer Aaron Brock