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The U.S. men's volleyball team had two missions for...

By RICHARD L. SHOOK, UPI Sports Writer

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The U.S. men's volleyball team had two missions for the 1984 Olympics -- win a gold medal and popularize the sport.

As for the first, the U.S. men swamped Brazil, 15-6, 15-6, 15-7, to win the gold medal game Saturday night and avenge their lone setback of the Olympic tournament.

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Come back in about four or eight years to see what kind of effect the two weeks of national exposure had on a sport that is bigger than beach balls in Southern California but smaller than table tennis balls in those portions of the country where winter is more than just a word.

'What has kind of taken place here is we've enlightened the public to our sport,' 6-foot-8 shot-blocker Craig Buck of Trazana, Calif., said. 'Before we would go play an exhibition and nobody would know what the U.S. Olympic volleyball team was.

'Now, with our TV exposure, when we go out and tour people will know who we are and what our sport is like,' the 25-year-old said. 'Before the Olympics I'm sure a lot of people thought of volleyball as a sissy sport. It could start a few junior programs going.'

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'I'm hoping this will give our game a lot of momentum,' said U.S. all-around star Karch Kiraly, given a sportsmanship award for his conduct during the Olympic tournament. 'I hear we've gotten the highest ratings of all the TV shows. Maybe this will bring some major sponsorships to volleyball. We hope a little more money comes in.'

'We've felt for a long time we had the best team in the world,' said Coach Doug Beal, who said firmly, 'No,' when asked if he wanted to coach the men's team for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Perhaps half the men's team will turn over by that time also.

'This was our best match of the tournament,' Beal noted, referring to the gold medal game. 'It was representative of the way this team can perform. It's a great accomplishment for them.'

The gold medal capped a remarkable rise from nowhere for the men's team and, coupled with the silver earned by the U.S. women's team, -- the first two captured by the Americans in volleyball -- puts the country on a level with the major international volleyball powers.

'They deserved it,' Brazil coach Paulo Freitas said of his opponent's victory. 'They played like a gold medal team.'

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'I'd like to point out,' honorary team captain Tom Selleck said, 'that this team has beaten every team that is not here.'

'They beat the Russians four straight, they went to Czechoslovakia and beat Poland and Bulgaria and they beat the Cuban national team,' he said.

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