COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 30, 2016) – While their championship win against China is barely a week old, the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team already is looking ahead to its next major international competition: the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games.

Afterdefeating host-nation China 3-1 (25-22, 12-25, 25-20, 28-26) to win gold at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup on March 24, the team is enjoying a well-deserved break before resuming training at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma on April 4.

“The good news is we have stuff to work on, and (the win) wasn’t a slaughter,” Team Captain and tournament MVP Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, North Carolina) said after the championship. “I know I need to work on making smarter hitting choices because sometimes I tend to just pound it and hope for the best.”

Erickson and her teammates dominated the competition, dropping just two sets – both to China – in eight matches. The MVP totaled 80 kills, 13 blocks and 10 aces. By comparison, Team USA’s non-Chinese opponents recorded a combined 72 kills.

Kaleo Kanahele (Edmond, Oklahoma) led the Americans at the service line with 17 total aces; the team recorded 77 aces, while only giving up 35. Middle blocker Lora Webster (Phoenix, Arizona) led at the net with 24 blocks; Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Washington) added 21 blocks.

The U.S. Men’s Sitting Team also has the week off following the seven-day tournament in Anji, China; the team struggled with consistency, finishing 0-6. However, head coach Greg Walker caught glimpses of potential throughout the tournament.

“We had two rotations in which we struggled early, and we were drastically better in those (rotations) as matches went on,” Walker said. “We also need to press on our block and work on not showing too soon. We can fix these things and come back for Rio loaded and ready to go.”

Team captain Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and Roderick Green (West Monroe, Louisiana) led the American attack with 35 and 32 total kills, respectively. Green also totaled 10 blocks; (New Kensington, Pennsylvania) added 24 kills and nine blocks.

Netherlands set for Worlds
On March 16, World ParaVolley announced Nevobo, the Dutch National Volleyball Federation, will host the 2018 Sitting World Championships for men and women.

The decision followed a presentation by Dutch Federation members during the 2016 General Assembly, held immediately prior to the Intercontinental Cup.

“We are pleased to be able to confirm, in principle, the appointment of the Netherlands as the hosts of the 2018 Sitting Volleyball World Championships,” World ParaVolley President Barry Couzner said in a release following the announcement.

The World Championships most recently were held in Elblag, Poland, in 2014. The U.S. Women’s Sitting team took silver behind China, while the men finished 10th overall. The Netherlands previously hosted the event in 2006.

Hello Kitty highlights Intercontinental experience
During the Intercontinental Cup participating teams stayed at the Yin Run Jin Jiang Castle Hotel. The hotel, which boasts more than 400 guest rooms, is located across the street from a Hello Kitty theme park and bears a loose affiliation to the character with a floor of Hello Kitty-themed guest rooms and gift shops.

Both Men’s and Women’s Sitting Teams received private tours of the guest rooms from hotel staff. Michelle Schiffler (Lake Wakes, Florida) and Nichole Millage (Champaign, Illinois) also received large dolls as birthday gifts; Schiffler’s birthday fell during the trip, and Millage celebrated her birthday the weekend following the tournament.

Hotel staff also arranged a private meeting with Hello Kitty for Millage, a self-proclaimed die-hard fan of the character. To round out the Hello Kitty experience, the Men’s Sitting Team pooled their money to purchase a night’s stay in a Hello Kitty guest room for Millage and her roommate, Katie Holloway.

While the remote location of the tournament prevented the teams from extensive sight-seeing, many players visited the theme park for fun and relaxation, adding to an already memorable tournament.

Sitting Volleyball gets SoCal exposure
On Saturday, March 26, about 25 southern California residents tried sitting volleyball, many for the first time. In partnership with Angel City Sports, USA Volleyball’s Gary Moy and Elliot Blake – the Director for the Indoor National Teams and Sitting Volleyball Coordinator, respectively – organized and operated the clinic.

Joining Moy and Blake were USAV Board of Directors Chair Lori Okimura and indoor national team athletes Tamari Miyashiro, Cassidy Lichtman, AJ Nally and Mike Brinkley. Held at the John Wooden Center at UCLA, the clinic presented sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball to area residents of all ages and ability levels.

Participants ranged in age from early teens to late 50s, and received instruction in both sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball in a morning and afternoon session, Blake said. In the afternoon, teams were formed for a series of mini-scrimmages, coached by the USA National Team athletes.

“We had a whole range of disabilities from amputees to traumatic brain injuries to spinal cord injuries,” Blake said. “There were a few people who appeared to have played (volleyball) before, but for many it was the first time.”

Congratulations to Palacio family
U.S. Women’s Sitting Team outside hitter Angela Palacio gave birth to a baby girl, Camilla Rose Palacio, in March. Camilla was 22 inches and weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces at the time of her birth. 

Camilla is the first child for Angela, who has been with the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team since 2010, and her husband, Jose