ORLANDO, Florida (May 27, 2016) – A 19-point performance by Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Washington) was one of multiple highlights by the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team on Friday as the team opened a five-match set against Russia.

The U.S. rolled to an opening victory, defeating Russia 25-19, 26-24, 25-19, but lost the afternoon’s match 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 25-21, 11-15.

“It’s good when we fail a little bit because then we get to come back and it shows us how to persevere through that. It’s nice that we can pull ourselves out of that,” Lora Webster (Phoenix, Arizona) said.

Holloway helped spark multiple comebacks in the second set, totaling 15 kills, three blocks and one ace. Captain Heather Erickson (Fayeteville, North Carolina) added 14 kills and two blocks for 16 points.

Friday’s matches against Russia are a part of a best-of-five exhibition series at the 2016 USA Volleyball Open National Championships.

Friday morning, the U.S. held a lead the entire match, only surrendering a lead for two rotations. Russia nearly seized control when the U.S. offense hesitated late in the second set. However, a missed Russian serve followed by a Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minnesota) ace put the U.S. firmly in the driver’s seat.

“It was a good match overall, especially for the first of the series,” Head Coach Bill Hamiter said. “You never know how the team is going to react coming in as late as we did, not having great preparation, but they responded well.”

Holloway led with 16 points (13 kills, three blocks), including a blocked serve to set up match point. Erickson added nine kills, two aces and a block for 12 point, while Webster totaled four blocks to lead the American defense at the net.

The U.S. seemed set to repeat their morning success in the second match, leading Russia by as many as six points in the first set. However, after committing just 17 errors to Russia’s 27 Friday morning, the Americans struggled to find a rhythm.

Hamiter played a different line-up each set, experimenting with multiple players at different positions ahead of September’s Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. However, Webster was emphatic that new line-ups can’t serve as excuse for sloppy play.

“We did our triple-outside, and were trying line-ups, but it’s good. We hadn’t lost in a long time and you have to learn how to lose,” she added. “God forbid we lose in pool play in Rio, we need to fail to know how to be better.”

The matches against Russia are the first time the teams have played each other in more than a year; Russia also participated in March’s Intercontinental Cup in Anji, China. However, Russia played and won a pool of teams attempting to qualify for the Paralympics; the U.S. played against teams already qualified, winning a gold medal following an 8-0 performance.

Other Notes:

The U.S. is playing without starting outside hitter Monique Burkland this weekend after she fractured a finger in practice on Wednesday. Although Burkland is expected to make a fast recovery, Hamiter said the team’s staff decided to sit her for the weekend, rather than risk further damage before the Paralympics.
– The first match was high-lighted by a light-hearted moment when outside hitter Michelle Schiffler (Lake Wales, Florida) endured a mild “injury” to her prosthetic hand. The delay in game was treated as an injury time-out time for the U.S. to regroup, while also causing the Russian server to miss on her next attempt.