COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 30, 2016) – More than a decade after his Paralympic debut, Captain Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) hopes to lead the U.S. Paralympic Men’s Sitting Team to its first Paralympic medal in Rio de Janeiro.
Duda and Chris Seilkop (DeLand, Florida) are the lone athletes who played on the 2004 Paralympic team, the last U.S. Men’s Sitting Team to qualify.
Joining the pair in Rio will be Dan Regan (St. Louis, Missouri), Ben Aman (Tacoma, Washington), Jese Schag (Norway, Illinois), James Stuck (New Kensington, Pennsylvania), Roderick Green (West Monroe, Louisiana), Charlie Swearingen (Gulfport, Mississippi), John Kremer (Buford, Georgia), Josh Smith (Riverside, California), J. Dee Marinko (Norman, Oklahoma) and Edgar LaForest (San Juan, Puerto Rico).
Sam Surowiec (Everett, Washington), Travis Ricks (San Diego, California), Stephen Bracken (Brighton, Colorado) and Hugo Storer (Greensboro, North Carolina) have been named as alternates.
“We are really excited about this team, but this was probably the most difficult roster selection process in our program’s history,” Head Coach Greg Walker said. “As a head coach, it’s an incredible, but also difficult, position to be in because I know how hard each and every one of these guys has been working toward this.”
The U.S. Men’s Sitting Team is currently ranked No. 9 in the world, and most recently finished in sixth place at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup in Anji, China in March. However, the team was without a setter and one of its primary starting outside hitters. The U.S. qualified for the Paralympics when it took silver against Paralympics-host nation Brazil at the Parapan American Games in Toronto, Canada in August last year.
In 2012, the U.S. missed Paralympic qualification by one match when it fell to Germany during the semifinals of that year’s Intercontinental Cup. Previously the team lost at the 2011 Parapan American Games to Brazil in the Championship match after they had beat them in pool play, missing another opportunity to qualify for London.
Walker, who officially took over as head coach in January this year after serving as an assistant since 2012, said he and the coaching staff are excited by the changes they’ve seen in the players, even since January.
“We’ve really seen a new level of energy and commitment from the team in recent weeks,” Walker said. “The focus has been pushing for Rio, but we also want to make sure we’re building a culture that’s respectful both on and off the court.”
The average age on this year’s team is 36.25 years old, making the U.S. Paralympic Men’s Sitting Team one the oldest rosters of all the Rio-bound U.S. volleyball teams, both indoor and beach. Walker sees the age – and longtime veteran experience – as a strength heading into the Games.
“When we were selecting the team, we looked at potential scenarios and line-ups based on the competition schedule,” Walker said. “We really tried to minimize weaknesses at any given position, and I feel this roster truly gives us the best chance to compete for a medal.
“It’s so tough, though, because you have guys who have given years of hard work. Ultimately we can only take 12.”
The U.S. Paralympic Men’s Sitting Team schedule has not yet been released, although Games organizers announced last month that the U.S. will face host-nation Brazil, Egypt and Germany in the round-robin pool play tournament. The top two teams will advance to the semifinals in a cross-over semifinal with the top two teams from the pool containing worldwide No. 1 and five-time gold medalist Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and China.
The Paralympic Opening Ceremony is Sept. 7. The sitting volleyball tournament begins Sept. 9 and concludes Sept. 17.
All athlete and staff nominations to the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee.
U.S. Paralympic Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team Roster
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown)
2. Dan Regan (Middle Blocker, 6-0, St. Louis, Missouri)
4. Ben Aman (Outside Hitter, 6-5, Tacoma, Washington)
5. Eric Duda (Outside Hitter, 6-5, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
6. Jese Schag (Setter, 6-2, Norway, Illinois)
8. James Stuck (Setter, 6-5, New Kensington, Pennsylvania)
10. Edgar LaForest (Outside Hitter, 6-2, San Juan, Puerto Rico)
11. Roderick Green (Middle Blocker, 6-3, West Monroe, Louisiana)
13. Charlie Swearingen (Outside Hitter, 6-3, Gulfport, Mississippi)
14. John Kremer (Libero, 5-9, Buford, Georgia)
15. Chris Seilkop (Outside Hitter/Middle Blocker, 6-6 DeLand, Florida)
16. Josh Smith (6-2 Opposite, Riverside, California)
18. J. Dee Marinko (Outside Hitter, 6-4, Norman, Oklahoma)
Head Coach: Greg Walker
Assistant Coach: Joe Skinner
Team Leader: Dixie Collins
Athletic Trainer: Katherine King