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Home crowd gives U.S. final boost

The U.S. men's Olympic volleyball team showed Argentina what it can do when it has a cheering, flag-waving crowd on its side.

Even when Argentina made a run in the third set, closing a seven-point lead to one, Team USA refused to let the momentum change. It held on to sweep Argentina 15-7, 15-8, 15-11 at the University of Georgia Tuesday to improve to 2-0 in Pool A.

"If we can get out of here in three, we'll take it," captain Bob Ctvrtlik said. "It is a game of emotion. That's where the crowd comes in. If we're in Argentina, that's a lot tougher set to close out right there. But the crowd gives you that little extra lift."

In the other match at Athens, top-ranked Italy beat Tunisia 15-9, 15-5, 15-1 to join the second-ranked Netherlands at 2-0 atop Pool B.

Netherlands, which finished runner-up to Brazil in Barcelona, hit back from 7-3 down in the first set to overpower Russia 15-9, 15-9, 15-9. Brazil, meanwhile, was defeated by Bulgaria 3-0 (15-11, 15-13, 15-8).

The United States plays Cuba Thursday night in Atlanta.

The Americans saw the other side of what a crowd can do last year, when Argentina got a huge emotional boost in the Pan American Games and beat the Americans twice. In the gold-medal match, a frenzied, overflow crowd sang a fight song through the entire tiebreaking fifth set, which Argentina won 20-18.

"It was the most awesome thing I've heard," U.S. coach Fred Sturm said. "I think a home crowd can really jack up a home team. This is a relatively novel experience for us _ a home crowd cheering for us."

Sturm said he thought about substituting in the third set but again used only six players. "We need to test ourselves in that adversity," he said.

Tuesday's crowd wasn't as raucous as the South Americans, but it got louder every time the Argentinians threatened and got on its feet every time Team USA served a set point.

With the score 11-10 in the third and Dan Landry serving, Jeff Nygaard blocked a ball for a point, and veteran Bryan Ivie had a kill to make it 13-11.

The biggest roar came when Ivie served on match point. Mike Lambert brought up the Argentinian attack, Ivie set it and Landry smashed it off the floor right in front of a defender. Lambert, Nygaard and Landry are in their first Olympics, as is setter Lloy Ball.

Every U.S. player had at least one block for points, with Nygaard scoring four. Lambert had a match-high 22 kills and Ivie 19. Ball had three service aces.

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