Marcio Jose Sanchez
August 21, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The sun went down, and so did the mood at the Copacabana Olympic beach volleyball venue.

Then Alison stomped onto the sand.

The 6-foot-8 Brazilian known as ''Mammoth'' waved his arms and clapped his hands to encourage the hometown fans cheering their favorites into the gold medal match with a three-set victory over the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Taking the court after the top-seeded Brazilian women lost their semifinal to Germany, Alison and Bruno beat Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen 21-17, 21-23, 16-14. Alison had a beastly 12 blocks in the match - five in the third set alone, including one to give Brazil a match point at 14-13.

When it was over, he dropped face-first into the sand, then stepped over the 3-foot-high courtside boundary like it was a street curb to high-five his supporters. Bruno slapped alternately at a television camera and his own chest in celebration.

''The fans are the third player. They make us try our best, make us do better,'' Alison said. ''All the focus is to get the gold medal for Brazil.''

Alison and Bruno will play Italy, a 15-21, 21-16, 15-13 winner over Russia Tuesday night, for the Olympic championship. Russia will play the Netherlands for the bronze.

Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross played in the late semifinal against Brazil's other women's team, Agatha and Barbara, for a spot in the gold medal match.

The day started poorly for the hometown fans, when Germany quieted the Copacabana crowd and eliminated Brazil's No. 1-seeded women's team, Talita and Larissa, in straight sets. With the 21-18, 21-12 victory, Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst clinched Germany's first-ever Olympic medal in women's beach volleyball.

''I think it will take some time to realize what we did here,'' Ludwig said. ''We had some tough times, and now we're in the final!''

The German men won the gold medal in London. But to match the feat in Rio, the women will have to beat the defending world champions - or a three-time gold medalist in Walsh Jennings.

Brazil still has a chance to match its 2004 Olympic haul of three medals. Despite failing to make the final, Talita said she would never forget playing in front of the hometown crowd on the iconic beach.

''I am so proud of my people, the Brazilian people,'' Talita said.

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