Ball must have thought that he was not wearing a jersey with the No. 1 on it, but with a big, blue X. In the third and fourth sets of a five-set match, it seemed that Russian opposite Maxim Mikhaylov was using him as target practice.
“Lloy looked at me like, ‘Please do something,’” said David Lee, who as a blocker, has the job of protecting Ball and other members of the US rearguard.
But Ball did not raise his voice. “Four or six years ago, I would have started screaming, and I would have dragged the team down,” Ball said after the 25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 22-25, 15-13 victory. “But we’ve learned as a team that we need to squash those feelings and do the basic things – serve, hit, dig, don’t let the ball hit the floor.”
In a word, Ball and his team have learned patience.
For a volleyball program nearly 16 years removed from its last medal – both for the men and women – patience has been the lesson of these Games.