London • A look of confusion washed over Logan Tom's face, which scrunched as her eyelids narrowed.
At the conclusion of her fourth, and likely final, Olympics, a gold medal had disappeared as quickly as the U.S. volleyball team's one-game lead. Now, as the 31-year-old veteran led her team to the net to congratulate Brazil, she looked up. On the platform where a mustached Russian had refereed the match, stood three Brazilians, dancing and cheering as if they had toppled the statue of an infamous dictator.
Tom looked up and, she said, told them to "get their [butts] down from the ref stand and give us five before you celebrate."
"They celebrated a little differently than I would say Americans do," Tom said.
However, the world has never seen how Americans in women's volleyball celebrate a gold medal at the Olympics. The U.S. women are yet to accomplish the feat, a stunning streak that remained painfully intact Saturday at Earls Court.
The brash, confident Brazilians conquered Team USA yet again at an Olympic Games, this time in four games to defend their gold medal from Beijing in 2008. The U.S., which dominated the tournament until Saturday, won the first game 25-11, but subsequently failed to set up star hitter Destinee Hooker and quickly fell out of rhythm.
"After the first set there was no way we were expecting it to be that easy for the match," coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "We're not that naive."
But they were stunned 17-25, 20-25, 17-25. Silver medal.
The U.S. had won six matches in a row against Brazil before Saturday, including in pool play of the Olympics. It overtook Brazil for the No. 1 spot in the world rankings at the end of last year.
Tom tried to mask the disappointment.
"I'm happy with how we did," said Tom, who grew up in Salt Lake City and attended Highland High School. "I'm happy with silver. Of course, I would have loved gold. No regrets at all right now."
McCutcheon didn't try to hide his disappointment.
"It hurts," he said. "We invested our lives to try and win and we didn't. Onwards."
The team's frustration could not be hidden. It welled up in Lindsey Berg's bottom eyelids as she tried to explain away the loss. It could be heard in sneakers scuffing the concrete as players shuffled off the court and seen in the hollow looks on their faces.
A team with a dangerous blend of veterans (Tom, Berg) and young talent (Hooker), this U.S. squad was built to win a gold medal, even bringing in McCutcheon, a former BYU player and assistant coach, who led the men's team to a gold medal in Beijing.
However, when the opportunity presented itself, the U.S. could not follow through on the Olympic-sized aspirations and expectations.
"Right now, I still believe we're a gold-medal team," Berg said. "And I'll believe that for the rest of time."
Saturday marked the beginning of a new era for U.S. volleyball, although it would have been more poetic had the lining been gold, rather than silver.
Berg said she intends to retire, and Tom dropped the "R" word as well, but later said she didn't know how much longer she will play.
"I go day by day," Tom said. "There's some days where I wake up and I don't want to play anymore, I want to call in sick [and] go home. I stuck around for some reason."
The critic will say it wasn't for this: A second silver medal and the indignity of standing by and watching a fierce rival celebrate gold.
Once they descended from the ref's stand, the Brazilians danced. They did somersaults. They gyrated on the medal stand. Tom tried not to criticize the Brazilians too harshly, saying they could celebrate however they pleased. After all, they had won a gold medal.
"They're very hot-blooded, you know," Tom said. "South Americans, they like to dance, shake their booties. It's them. They are who they are."
Brazil will likely enter the 2016 Games as the favorite, considering those Olympics will be played in Rio de Janeiro home turf.
A veteran of four Olympics, Tom will likely never know what it's like to win gold. She called silver "familiar."
Still, Tom smiled broadly when the medal was hung around her neck. She leaned down to accept a kiss from the vice president of the international volleyball federation, and he handed her a bouquet of flowers. A light smile flickered across her face, she put the flowers to her face, and inhaled.
Gold drought continues
• The U.S. loses to Brazil in the gold-medal match for the second straight Olympics.
• No American women's volleyball team has won gold since the sport was introduced in 1964.
• Logan Tom, finishes with 14 points.