U.S.' Ivie is poison to rival spikers


BARCELONA, Spain -- The men's volleyball tournament, nearly over, is just beginning for Bryan Ivie.

And just in time for the United States.

Ivie, injured in the opener, played his second fullgame of the Olympics yesterday, leading the United States to a 12-15, 15-10, 15-4, 15-11 quarterfinal victory over the Unified Team.

The U.S. men, winners of the past two Olympic gold medals, will play Brazil in the semifinals this afternoon. Brazil, the only unbeaten team in the tournament, defeated Japan, 3-0. The other semifinal will match the Netherlands against Cuba.

The full-time return of Ivie, a 6-foot-7 middle blocker, has transformed a struggling team into one that is a single win from a medal. Ivie injured his right knee against Japan. He did not return until Monday's game against Italy.

"Brian does so many things for us," said U.S. coach Fred Sturm. "He's very versatile. I think his presence gives the rest of the team confidence."

Ivie, playing in his first Olympics, made his presence felt with his hitting from the back line and front line and with his blocking.

"When we need a big block, he does it," said outside hitter Scott Fortune. "When we need a big serve, he does it. He's the best player on the court."

Ivie had a team-high 61 blocks. He also had 13 kills. Only Steve Timmons had more on the U.S. team with 25.

The Americans lost the opening game, 15-12, but Sturm said he felt confident because his players came back from a 12-6 deficit to make it close.

"It took us a game to get going," Ivie said.

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