RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Sept. 14, 2016) – The U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team cruised into the semifinals Wednesday morning, defeating Rwanda 25-10, 25-8 , 25-3 in the final match of pool play.

If China defeats Iran this afternoon, the U.S. will finish second and faces Brazil in Thursday’s first semifinal at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The win provided the U.S. an opportunity to reset after a long, disappointing 3-2 loss to China Sunday evening. Behind strong, consistent serving – five players had service runs of at least four points – the U.S. controlled the pace of the match.

Setter Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minnesota) led the U.S. in Set 3 with a 19-point service run which included a team-high eight aces. The U.S. recorded 20 aces to two serve errors, causing Rwanda to often play out of system.

“My shoulder is definitely a little sore, but I just kept placing the serves where I wanted,” Shifflett said.

Shifflett and Michelle Schiffler (DeLand, Florida) led the U.S. with 10 and nine points, respectively. Shifflett added one block and one kill, while Schiffler had a team-high eight kills with one ace. Head Coach Bill Hamiter evenly distributed playing time among the 12-player roster; all players but libero Bethany Zummo (Dublin, California) scored at least one point. 

“I wanted them to come out and continue to execute point by point. We made a few mistakes, but overall our energy was up and the intensity was good,” Hamiter said. “It was great to see some good play out of the bench. I was trying to create a good balance where everyone is ready to play tomorrow if we need them.”

The U.S opened the match with an early service run by starting setter Kaleo Kanahele (Edmond, Oklahoma); Kanahele went on a 9-0 run to give the U.S. a 13-2 lead early in the match. The Americans capitalized on Rwanda unforced errors, committing just four errors to Rwanda’s 16.

Set 2 saw more consistent play from the entire team; Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Oklahoma) recorded three of her six kills in the set at the Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Florida) and Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Washington) put together service runs to increase the lead.

The U.S. will face a talented Brazilian team that has defeated all its opponents in straight sets, winning sets by an average of 9.4 points. The U.S. and Brazil scrimmaged each other to a draw earlier in the tournament

“We’ve been starting to prepare for them since before the tournament began,” Holloway said. “They’re a really good team and they want it really bad so the noise and the energy is going to provide that much more pressure on us, and that will force us to play our best and play well. For us it’s all great for our game.”

U.S. Starters vs. Rwanda
Middle blockers:
  Lora Webster, Michelle Schiffler
Outside hitters:  Katie Holloway, Monique Burkland
Opposite:  Heather Erickson
Setter:  Kaleo Kanahele
Libero: Bethany Zummo

U.S. Statistics vs. Rwanda
Kills: Michelle Schiffler 8, Katie Holloway 6, Monique Burkland 6, Heather Erickson 5, Nichole Millage 3, Lora Webster 3, Nicky Nieves 1, Lexi Shifflett 1, Kari Miller 1, Kaleo Kanahele 1
Blocks: Webster 2, Shifflett 1, Nieves 1
Aces: Shifflett 8, Kanahele 3, Burkland 3, Nieves 2, Nichole Millage 2, Tia Edwards 1, Katie Holloway 1
Digs: Shifflett 1, Edwards 1, Kanahele 1, Nieves 1, Webster 1, Miller 1
Assists: Shifflett 7, Kanahele 7, Holloway 2, Edwards 1, Webster 1, Schiffler 1, Burkland 1, Millage 1, Bethany Zummo 1, Erickson 1

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
Brazil def. Netherlands, 25-18, 25-15, 25-21
Ukraine def. Canada, 25-20, 25-19, 25-16

Sept. 14
USA def. Rwanda, 25-10, 25-8, 25-3
Iran vs. China, 1 p.m.

Sept. 15
Women’s 7th-8th Classification, Canada vs. Rwanda, 12:30 p.m.
Women’s 5th-6th Classification, Iran vs. Netherlands, 2:30 p.m.
Semifinal 1, China vs. Ukraine 5:30 p.m.
Semifinal 2, USA vs. Brazil 7:30 p.m.

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