COLORADO SPRINGS (Jan. 15, 2019) – Heather Erickson started training with the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team in 2007 when she was 14.

She was slightly overwhelmed, she admits now.

“I didn’t talk the first three years of my career,” she said.

But Erickson, now 25, made plenty of noise in 2018 and was named USA Volleyball Women’s Sitting Player of the Year for the third time in her career (2013, ’16).

At outside hitter, Erickson was the Women’s Sitting Team’s leading scorer with 191 kills (.512 efficiency), 39 blocks (.65 per set) and 27 aces (.45 per set).

The highlight of the season for Erickson, a three-time Paralympic medalist, was qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games when it beat Italy (25-8, 25-11, 25-6) in the semifinals of the 2018 ParaVolley World Championships. The top two finishing teams at the World Championships qualified. 

“Qualifying is a weight of our shoulders for sure,” Erickson said.

However, the low point of the season came one day later when the favored U.S. Team fell to Russia (18-25, 27-25, 26-24, 26-24) in the gold medal match of the World Championships. The U.S. Women have never won the World Championships and have now finished second the last three editions.

“I think it was a combination of some people not having the confidence that was needed; some of it was just mental,” Erickson said of the loss. “Honestly, Russia played really well, and we did not play well, and we still only ended up losing by two points.”

Erickson said 2018 was a year of growth for her, personally.

“I have really worked hard with my mental side of the game,” she said. “Staying focused, positive and confident. Our sports psychologist Emily Clark helped a lot.”

Off the court, Erickson coaches a volleyball team of 11-year-olds and also gives lessons. She also became an aunt for the first time to baby nephew Cooper.

With Paralympic qualification out of the way, Erickson is looking at 2019 as a rebuilding year.

“We need to take time to break down fundamentals,” she said. “We need to slow stuff down and tweak what we need to tweak instead of worrying about qualifying.”

She is also looking forward to seeing the new players coming up the pipeline who may be experiencing some of the shyness that she felt when she started.

“I was thinking about it at our last camp,” she said. “We went with the new players and hung out and had lunch. Everything is new and they don’t know the system. It’s fun to be able to see it from their eyes.”