RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Sept. 12, 2016) – In the fourth meeting of the teams this year, the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team topped the U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team, winning 25-17, 14-25, 14-25, 28-26, 15-13 in a thrilling Paralympic pool play match that felt more like a gold medal final.

Led by Captain Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, North Carolina) who dominated with 22 points (19 kills, two aces, one block), the U.S. easily toppled China in the second and third sets following a rocky performance in Set 1.

“We started to control our side of the net more,” Kaleo Kanahele(Edmond, Oklahoma) said of the second and third sets. “The first set we just let them get to us a little bit, but we started to play our game rather than theirs in the second and third.”

A six-point service run by Kanaele in the second set gave the U.S. a comfortable 20-10 lead which it never surrendered. Complementing the competitive performance behind the service line were Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Florida) and Erickson. Nieves totaled three blocks, two kills and an ace in the set, finishing the match with 14 points (nine kills, three blocks, one ace).

The third set saw another fast start with additional service runs by Nieves and Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Oklahoma) to stay ahead of the Chinese. Like Nieves, Burkland posted a Paralympic-best performance with 14 points of her own (11 kills, two blocks, one ace). 

While the U.S. women played scrappy defense, China’s Yuhong Sheng proved too much as the match went on. The outside hitter finished with 22 kills, including set point in the fourth set to force a fifth set tiebreak, and match point.

“When Sheng started getting on track, she’s tough,” Head Coach Bill Hamiter said. “But we did a good job of staying on her most of the match.”

For the U.S., the loss represents an opportunity to learn from small mistakes, Hamiter said.

“Kaleo had a great block in the fifth set, then they picked it up. Heather makes a great dig off their attack, then Katie (Holloway) turns the hit on it and send a ball out that goes down nearly every other time… It’s a lot of little things. I loved the way we played, and there’s always little things we need to adjust,” Hamiter said.

Following two large wins in the second and third set, the U.S. appeared poised to take the match, but China answered late, with three kills by Sheng in the final four points to force a fifth set tie-break.

“We forced them to play very well, and we struggled in the first and fourth sets, so we’re not walking out of this feeling like we played our best match,” Middle blocker Lora Webster(Point Lookout, New York) said. “The next thing we have to look at is Rwanda, and it’s one match at a time. And if we get to see them again, then we know what to do better.”

The match was the fourth time the top two teams in the world played this year. The No. 2 ranked U.S. won the first three meetings, including defeating China for gold at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup in Anji, China in March.

The U.S. finishes Paralympic pool play against Rwanda Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. ET. China faces 1-1 Iran later in the day.

U.S. Starters vs. China
Outside Hitters: Katie Holloway, Monique Burkland
Middle blockers:
Lora Webster, Nicky Nieves
Heather Erickson
Kaleo Kanahele
Bethany Zummo

U.S. Statistics vs. China
Erickson 19, Holloway 14, Burkland 11, Nieves 9, Webster 2, Kanahele 2
Blocks: Webster 5, Nieves 3, Holloway 3, Burkland 2, Erickson 1
Aces: Erickson 2, Nieves 1, Kanahele 1, Webster 1, Burkland 1
Burkland 12, Erickson 8, Holloway 6, Kanahele 6, Zummo 4, Webster 4, Nieves 2
Assists: Kanahele 35, Webster 5, Holloway 3, Erickson 2

U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Roster

No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown)

1. Lora Webster (MB, 5-11, Point Lookout, New York)

2. Bethany Zummo (L, 5-2, Dublin, Calif.)

3. Alexis Shifflett (S, 5-4, Waseca, Minn.)

4. Michelle Schiffler (OH/MB, 6-0, Lake Wales, Fla.)

5. Katie Holloway (OH, 6-3, Lake Stevens, Wash.)

6. Heather Erickson (OH, 5-11, Fayetteville, NC)

7. Monique Burkland (OH, 5-9, Ardmore, Okla.)

10. Kari Miller (L, 5-6, Washington D.C.)

13. Nichole Millage (OH, 5-7, Champaign, Ill.)

14. Kaleo Kanahele (S, 5-6, Edmond, Okla.)

16. Nicky Nieves (MB, 5-10, Kissimmee, Fla.)

17. Tia Edwards (OH, 5-7, Skitatook, Okla.)

Head Coach: Bill Hamiter

Team Leader: Michelle Goodall

Assistant Coaches: Cara Lang and Lazaro Beltran

Technical Coordinator: Jeff Hicks

Athletic Trainer: Patrick Lawrence

Press Officer: Karen Patterson

2016 Paralympic Games Women’s Sitting Volleyball Pools
Pool A: Brazil, Ukraine, Netherlands, Canada
Pool B: China, United States, Iran, Rwanda

2016 Paralympic Games Women’s Sitting Volleyball Schedule
All times EDT

Sept. 9
Brazil def. Canada, 25-7, 25-12, 25-14
Ukraine def. Netherlands, 21-25, 22-25, 25-13, 26-24, 15-12

Sept. 10
China def. Rwanda, 25-3, 25-8, 25-6
USA def. Iran, 25-17, 25-13, 25-9

Sept. 11
Netherlands def. Canada 22-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-22
Brazil def. Ukraine, 25-19, 25-20, 25-14

Sept. 12
Iran def. Rwanda, 25-10, 25-19, 25-18
China def. USA  25-17, 14-25, 14-25, 28-26, 15-13

Sept. 13
Netherlands vs. Brazil, 10 a.m.
Ukraine vs. Canada, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 14
USA vs. Rwanda, 9 a.m.
Iran vs. China, 1 p.m.

Sept. 15
Women’s 7th-8th Classification, 12:30 p.m.
Women’s 5th-6th Classification, 2:30 p.m.
Semifinal 1, 5:30 p.m.
Semifinal 2, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 17
Women’s bronze medal match, 3:30 p.m.
Women’s gold medal match, 6 p.m.