The U.S. men’s volleyball team has come a long way in the 2016 Rio Olympic tournament, going from near-elimination to holding a genuine shot at the No. 2 seed in Group A.

U.S. Men’s Volleyball Beat Mexico In Rio To Reach Quarterfinals

The Americans defeated Mexico in their final match of preliminary rounds on Monday, thus earning nine points and securing a spot in the quarterfinals.

The U.S.’s 25-23, 25-11, 25-19 victory over Mexico was their third straight.

Before the fifth day of group play, the U.S. was tied with Brazil, Canada and France with six points in Pool A, but only one of those three teams could advance. Brazil and France will play Monday night.


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The U.S. was swept by Canada and Italy in their first two matches in Rio, then improved by defeating the No. 1 team, Brazil, on Day 3 and then topping France on Day 4. Both of the Americans’ wins came in four sets.

Matt Anderson– one of the U.S.’s top players who played a big role in the victories over France and Brazil– sat out agains Mexico on Monday, benched early for Murphy Troy.

Tyler Sander’s kill from the left side on match point sealed it. He is one of several among the U.S. squad’s eight first-time Olympians to vastly improve over the past three matches.

“We all had to pick it up,” Sander said. “Those first two matches, we weren’t playing USA Volleyball. We weren’t aggressive, we weren’t giving our heart every single point. Our coaching staff did a good job holding us accountable. We had a couple team meetings. We all just sat and talked about what we needed to do to win. We talked about it, then we went and did it.”

Stellar, 24, who had struggled with an inconsistent serve in the first two games, played great defensively on Monday for the fifth-ranked Americans. He also has been growing a mustache during the Games– not so much out of superstition, but rather because his teammates won’t permit him or Kawika Shoji to shave given how things have turned out for the team thus far during this competition.

“We’re going red polos and mustaches apparently,” U.S. coach John Speraw joked of the facial hair and coaches’ red shirts worn on match day.

Sander and his teammates were greeted by chants of “U-S-A!” when they entered for pre-game warmups to face eliminated Mexico (0-5).

The U.S. will find out its opponent in the quarterfinals Monday night.

Reid Priddy, who is playing in his fourth Olympics, also commented on how far the Americans have come in Rio.

“The enormity of the Olympic Games requires a 24-hour learning curve. We’ve been able to respond after those first two matches,” the 38-year-old Priddy said. “In fact, I think it put us right in the mentality of where we need to be. …

“We’re almost more prepared now to face this quarterfinal match than we would have been had we swept 5-0.”

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 15: Carlos Guerra #9 spikes the ball gainst Taylor Sander #3, David Lee #4 and Michah Christenson #11 of the United States during the men’s qualifying volleyball match between Mexico and the United States on Day 10 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracanazinho on August 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

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