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US avenges 2016 women's volleyball loss to Serbia, will play for gold

For the second straight Olympics, the U.S. and Serbia met in the semifinal of the women's volleyball tournament.

TOKYO, Japan — The U.S. women's volleyball team made it to the gold medal match for the fourth time ever by avenging a semifinal loss five years ago to Serbia with a 25-19, 25-15, 25-23 victory Friday.

The Americans easily dispatched the team that denied them a chance at their elusive first gold medal in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. They advanced to the gold medal match against the winner of the Brazil-South Korea semifinal. Serbia will play the loser for the bronze.

The U.S. played from ahead for most of the match and earned nine set points in the opening frame when Jordan Larson scored on a block at the net. After squandering its first four chances, the U.S. took the set on a kill by Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson, whose knee injury five years ago against Serbia contributed to the loss.

Akinradewo Gunderson let out a scream after winning the second set with another block at the net and came up with another key block late in the third.

Larson then won it with a kill that Serbia couldn't return and fell to her knees in celebration as her teammates poured onto the court.

Larson and Akinradewo Gunderson are three-time Olympians who have played major roles in the success of the Americans the past decade. Now with their international careers likely nearing the end, they have one more shot at the prize that has eluded them so far.

The U.S. has been one of the top teams in the world for much of the past two decades but has been unable to gain the ultimate prize, losing to Brazil in the gold medal match in both 2008 and ’12. The U.S. also lost the gold medal game to China in 1984.

The Americans came into Tokyo as the top-ranked team in the world, and coach Karch Kiraly's squad has played up to that standard despite dealing with a couple of key injuries.

Setter Jordyn Poulter returned after missing the quarterfinal match with an ankle injury, but opposite Jordan Thompson sat out her third straight match with an injured right ankle.

Replacement Annie Drew stepped up again and led the team with 16 points.

Serbia was looking to return to the gold medal game after losing the final to China in 2016. The Serbians had swept five of their first six matches in Tokyo, losing only once, in four sets to Brazil, but had little answer for the Americans.

On the men's side, the Russians will take on France for the gold medal on Saturday after Brazil faces Argentina for the bronze.