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U.S. volleyball men now 2-0 in pool play

U.S. volleyball men now 2-0 in pool play

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BEIJING (AP) -- The U.S. men's volleyball wanted somehow to pay tribute to Todd Bachman, the American who was fatally stabbed while visiting Beijing for the Olympics, and his wife Barbara, who was wounded.

So on one shoe, they all wrote TB. On the other, they wrote BB.

It was admittedly a small gesture, but it was heartfelt.

"The Olympics are normally very big. But something like this makes it seem smaller," middle blocker Ryan Millar said. "It's just sport."

All of the shoes were so marked when the U.S. team, playing with energy and determination after the tragedy that shook them, defeated Italy 3-1 on Tuesday. The U.S. team adjusted after a sluggish start to finish 24-26, 25-22, 25-15, 25-21 without coach Hugh McCutcheon.

McCutcheon is the husband of the Bachmans' daughter, Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon.

Todd Bachman was attacked on Saturday while visiting the 13th century Drum Tower with his wife and daughter, who was not hurt. The assailant jumped to his death from the tower, a popular tourist site.

"I think the guys are playing hard. They're doing it for Hugh, and they're doing it for Wiz," Millar said.

McCutcheon spoke to The Associated Press late Monday. He has been comforting his wife, who played for the U.S. team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She has shown incredible strength. The last couple of days we've been able to talk through it," McCutcheon said. "Obviously it's a lot of tears and a lot of hugs."

Barbara Bachman is in serious but stable condition at a Beijing hospital.

Ron Larsen took over as interim coach of the U.S. men in McCutcheon's absence. It is not known whether McCutcheon will resume his duties as head coach.

After an emotional but solemn victory in their first match of pool play, the U.S. men were much more animated -- and appeared more driven -- against the Italians. Fans at the Capital Indoor Stadium chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!" at the start.

The U.S. trailed early in the first set, but then came back to tie it at 18 on Riley Salmon's ace. Italy, however, prevailed on Paparoni Alessandro's ace.

While the U.S. team had the stronger service and finesse shots, Italy used height up front to a defensive advantage. The Americans adjusted after getting by 25-22 in the second set to dominate the rest of the way.

"What comment can I make? We received badly and spiked badly," Italian coach Andrea Anastasi said.

Clay Stanley had 23 points for the Americans, who are ranked third in the world. Italy, ranked 10th, was led by Hristo Zlatanov with 19 points.

The U.S. men are 2-0 in preliminary pool play after a victory over Venezuela in their opener. The Italians are 1-1, having defeated Japan to open the tournament.

"This is a horrible, horrible experience. Right now, we're going to operate as if he (McCutcheon) was here. We're going to take care of business," said wing spiker Reid Priddy.

On Monday, USA Volleyball chief executive Doug Beal released a statement offering condolences to the Bachman and McCutcheon families. Todd Bachman was an avid supporter, particularly of the women's team, and often traveled to competitions.

Beal also extended his gratitude to the U.S. players.

"No matter what the results, we are incredibly proud of these young men and women who are representing the United States and USA Volleyball with pride, grace and enthusiasm," Beal said.

In other preliminary matches Tuesday, Russia defeated Germany 3-2 (25-27, 25-21, 21-25, 25-13, 16-14), Poland defeated Egypt 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-10), China defeated Venezuela 3-2 (25-21, 21-25, 16-25, 25-21, 16-14) and Bulgaria defeated Japan 3-1 (29-27, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19).

Brazil defeated Serbia 3-1 (25-27, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21) without wing-spiker Giba, who sat out with a shoulder injury he said was not serious.

"This competition is long and I need to stay good," he said. "We have 12 players. If I don't feel good, it's a problem for them."

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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