ANJI, China (March 15, 2016) – The World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup doesn’t officially begin until Thursday, but the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team wasted no time in making the most of their trip to China, making a little team history Tuesday afternoon.

During a scrimmage at Tuesday’s practice the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team buoyed its confidence by winning a set against No. 2-ranked Iran for the first time. The victory came less than a day after both U.S. Men’s and Women’s Sitting Teams arrived in China for the international tournament following more than 24 hours of travel. Both teams spent time practicing Tuesday afternoon, adjusting their minds and bodies after a long trip.

“We served much more aggressively and moved our block more, forcing Iran to play off the net,” said U.S. Men’s Sitting Team Head Coach Greg Walker. “We’ll find success if we’re forcing teams to play to our strengths, instead of playing to theirs.”

DID YOU KNOW? The Intercontinental Cup features 28 teams from 18 countries, including 13 of the 14 teams that have qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics. Qualified teams, including both the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Sitting Teams, play a round-robin format, while non-qualified teams will compete for the final men’s and women’s spots. Below are some additional facts about the tournament:

  • 99 matches will be played across seven days of competition
  • Due to local restrictions, the matches will not be live-streamed or broadcast. However, fans can check USA Volleyball’s website, or for results and information
  • The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team can improve its seed ranking for the Paralympics by winning gold at the Intercontinental Cup. The team currently is ranked No. 2 in the seeding standings, behind China
  • The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team will face Rwanda, China, Iran, Ukraine, Canada and Brazil, while the U.S. Men’s Sitting team plays China, Germany, Iran, Egypt and Brazil

WHAT’S IN THE BAG? For many athletes, long trips to foreign countries provides a unique opportunity to experience new cultures, food and scenery. However, sometimes creature comforts such as a favorite coffee or snack are necessary to help make long trips feel more comfortable. Members of the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team listed the following items as essentials for a great trip:

  • Kaleo Kanahele: Energy beans and coffee
  • Heather Erickson: Minnie Mouse pillow
  • Nicky Nieves: Make-up bag
  • Lora Webster: Lotion
  • Tia Edwards: An extension chord
  • Monique Burkland: Zombie blanket

CHRIS SEILKOP CONNECTS THE DOTS: When Chris Seilkop‘s flight from Houston to San Francisco was delayed an hour Sunday morning, the 6-6 outside hitter was nervous about making his connecting flight to Hong Kong, but didn’t worry too much. When the flight was delayed a second time, Seilkop quickly realized he would have to find an alternative route to the Intercontinental Cup. 

“They kept asking me if I just wanted to take the same flight the next day, but I really wanted to try and get (to Anji) by Tuesday morning,” Seilkop said. “I just kept telling the lady at the ticket counter, ‘Get me to Hong Kong and I’ll figure it out from there.'”

Seilkop eventually made it to Hong Kong after a layover in Tokyo, Japan, missing his original connecting flight to Hangzhou by an hour. Seilkop got a quick night’s sleep at the airport hotel before landing in Hangzhou, about 90 minutes from the Intercontinental Cup’s host city, Anji, early Tuesday morning.

“I’ve traveled so much I thought it’d probably work out, but I was going on blind faith that there’d be a game plan when I got to Hong Kong,” Seilkop said.

U.S. Women’s Sitting Team defensive specialist Kari Miller also fell victim to flight cancellations, arriving late Tuesday night.