Final Match Report: Sitting Volleyball
With the semifinals finishing earlier in the day, the sitting volleyball medal round at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 drew a large crowd. All four nations in the final matchups couldn’t wait to get on the floor, showered with cheers from their raucous fans.
In the first battle, Georgia and the Netherlands squared off for the Bronze medal, with both giving their all from the first serve. Georgia raced out to an early lead in game one, taking a 14-7 lead and forcing a Dutch timeout. The Netherlands didn’t back down, however, using some huge diving saves to rally back to within three late. In the end, key spikes from Captain Besarion Gudushauri sealed the first game for the Georgians, 25-19.
The second game began with more of the same, thanks to a barrage of kills from David Davlashelidze and the Georgian front line that put the Dutch in an early hole at the first technical timeout. The Netherlands couldn’t cut the deficit smaller than two and eventually ceded the bronze medal to Georgia in straight sets. After the final point, Gudushauri left the arena smiling ear to ear.
“It was amazing,” Gudushauri said. “We expected gold, but I say bronze is great. Last Invictus Games we lost early on, and now we’re going home with a medal. We’ll see you in Canada!”
On to the main event, a repeat of the 2014 Invictus Games Gold Medal match: The United States of American versus the United Kingdom. The British and American faithful rocked HP Field House with the loudest cheers of the entire week, raising the tension to new heights.
The U.S. raced out to an early 10-4 advantage in game one behind a ferocious front line of Steven Davis, Travis Greene and Rafael Cervantes. The defending champion British squad mounted a valiant comeback to close the gap to 19-17, but couldn’t pick up a number of hard-driven balls late, falling 25-21 in the opening set.
With their backs against the wall, the UK turned up the intensity and took advantage of some U.S. hitting errors en route to an 8-5 lead at the opening technical break. The tide soon turned back in favor of the U.S. courtesy of Brett Parks, whose enthusiasm and aggression at the net brought the crowd to its feet. The British found their composure in the closing moments to fight off a U.S. championship point and force a tiebreaker with a 27-25 victory.
That momentum appeared short-lived, as the U.K struggled out of the gate in the third set, falling behind 4-8 at the switch. The host nation never looked back, winning the final game 15-8 and a hard-fought gold medal. Cervantes couldn’t have been more proud of his team’s performance.
“It’s amazing, man,” Cervantes said. “It’s something we’ve been pushing ourselves to get and we accomplished it. It was hard, but it was a team effort so you know we’re happy.”
Cervantes also praised the loyal U.S. fans who showered the competitors with cheers throughout the match. British captain Charles Davis echoed the sentiment about his country’s contingent and said, “It was crazy out there, but I don’t think the [British fans] did too bad.”
If the next two days of medal rounds are anything like tonight, there are sure to be more fireworks to round out the 2016 Invictus Games. Watch all the action on ESPN3 here: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/channel/espn3.