COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 20, 2018) – For a third straight quadrennial, the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team is the first USA Volleyball national team to qualify for the upcoming Paralympic and Olympic Games.

The U.S. Women beat Italy, 25-8, 25-11, 25-6 on Friday in the semifinals of the Sitting Volleyball World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The top two finishers at Worlds qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

The U.S. Women (5-0), who have not lost a set at Worlds, will play Russia (4-1) for the gold medal on Saturday at noon ET. Russia beat China in Friday’s other semifinal, 25-23, 25-29, 25-19.

Also on Saturday, the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team (2-2) will play Russia (2-2) in a classification match for fifth-eighth place at 10 a.m. ET.

The U.S. Women have never won the gold medal at the World Championships.

“It is an amazing feeling knowing that we received out bid, but we aren’t done yet,” said U.S. opposite Heather Erickson. “We will focus now on what we came her for, a World Championship gold.”

It is not surprising that the U.S. Women, the world’s No. 1-ranked team, have reached the final at Worlds. It is a little more surprising that they will be facing Russia and not defending champion China. The U.S. Women lost to China in the World Championship final in 2014 and 2010 and have also played China in the final of the last three Paralympic Games.

Russia is a team the U.S. Women know well. The U.S. played exhibition matches against Russia at the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier in Denver in 2017 and 2018. The U.S. Women also beat Russia in pool play in Netherlands.

Erickson led all scorers on Friday with 18 points on a match-high 11 kills, a match-high five blocks and two aces. Outside hitter Katie Holloway added 17 points on a match-high seven aces, seven kills and three blocks.

The U.S. Women led in kills (39-13), blocks (9-2) and aces (17-2).

In spite of the statistics disparity, the U.S. Women were happy to see an up-and-coming team like Italy reach the semifinals.

“We are incredibly excited to see how far Italy has come in this tournament,” middle blocker Lora Webster said. “I have been a part of the newcomer team to an international tournament and it’s always fun to surprise the sitting volleyball world. We’re looking forward to witnessing their program growing.”

Outside hitters: Katie Holloway and Monique Burkland
Middle blockers: Lora Webster and Nicky Nieves
Opposite: Heather Erickson
Setter: Kaleo Maclay
Libero: Bethany Zummo
Substitutes: Alexis Shifflett (S), Nicole Millage (OH), Jillian Williams (Opp), Tia Edwards (MB)

Kills: Erickson 11, Holloway 7, Nieves 5, Burkland 5, Webster 3, Shifflett 1, Williams 1, Millage 1, Maclay 1
Blocks: Erickson 5, Holloway 3, Williams 1
Aces: Holloway 7, Webster 4, Shifflett 2, Maclay 2, Erickson 2

No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown)
1. Lora Webster (MB, 5-11, Point Lookout, N.Y.)
2. Bethany Zummo (L, 5-2, Dublin, Calif.)
3. Lexi Shifflett (S, 5-4, Waseca, Minn.)
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.)
8. Whitney Dosty(OH, 6-3, Tucson, Ariz.)
11. Jillian Williams (Opp, 5-10, Edmond, Oka.)
13. Nichole Millage (OH, 5-7, Champaign, Ill.)
14. Kaleo Kanahele Maclay (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
Assistant Coach: Lazaro Beltran
Assistant Coach: Jon Aharoni
Athletic Trainer: Patrick Lawrence
Team Manager: Michelle Goodall
Technical Coordinator: Jeffery Hicks
Team Psychologist: Emily Clark

U.S. Women’s Schedule for World Championships
Arnhem, Netherlands (All times ET)

July 15: USA def Hungary, 25-7, 25-3, 25-8
July 16: USA def Russia, 25-14, 25-16, 25-23
July 17: USA def Japan, 25-14, 25-13, 25-12

Rotterdam, Netherlands (All times ET)
July 19 QF: USA def Ukraine, 5-17, 25-12, 25-13
July 20 SF: USA def Italy, 25-8, 25-11, 25-6
July 21 Gold at noon: USA vs Russia