COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 31, 2020) – The U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball National Team was nearly perfect in 2019 as it continues to build momentum toward defending its 2016 Paralympic Games title this summer at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
The U.S. won all 25 of its matches in 2019 and dropped just 10 sets out 85 while experimenting with lineups throughout the course of the season showcasing a deep roster. Along the way, the Americans defeated reigning World ParaVolley world champion Russia eight times in 2019, including three times in the season-ending World ParaVolley World Super 6 without losing a set.
For its season-long accomplishments, the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball National Team has been honored as USA Volleyball’s Team of the Year for 2019.
“I definitely knew that we were capable of going 25-0, but I don’t think we were fixated on going undefeated,” Heather Erickson said. “I think it was us taking it game-by-game, focusing on what we wanted to get better at and really building up to the Tokyo 2020 Games. It was a total bonus that we went undefeated. And I don’t think we even realized it until our coach told us that it had happened.”
Monique Burkland, who was earlier named USA Volleyball’s Female Sitting Player of the Year, felt the team’s cohesion played a key role in 2019.
“I honestly think it was due to our team dynamic,” Burkland said. “We have been working a lot on our dynamic off and on the court. When we get along better off the court, it shows up on the court. We end up trusting each other more. When we are playing, we are having fun. Everything just clicks together when having fun.”
Erickson agrees with Burkland that the team’s chemistry played a key role in Team USA’s 25-0 season.
“Team chemistry – It brought us more together more, and it made us realize that we can’t be complacent with what we are doing and we have to keep working,” Erickson said. “If we don’t, then we easily can be beat. I think that kind of reset us all and got us going for 2019. I think it built up our team.”
As the number-one team in the world and defending Paralympic Games champion, Team USA knows other countries will put max effort into beating them in 2020. Having faced solid competition in 2019 and overcoming some adversity along the way, the U.S. has confidence it can handle whatever comes their way.
“It just give us a little more confidence, especially since we came back from a deficit in the Super Six finals (against Russia), and how we came back,” Burkland said. “It just shows that no matter what situation we are in, as long as we are playing the way we can, we can dig ourselves out of anything. It just gives us more confidence going into this year. It gives us a boost of confidence in how talented we are.”
Burkland feels breaking the match down into smaller increments has been the best way to overcome deficits on the court.
“I think we just try to reset, come together, try not to focus on the score,” Burkland said. “Instead we focus on what we need to do to get the next point and the next point – go point-by-point and not trying to make up the margin because you get too frantic.”
Team USA has now gone 51-1 since late in 2017 with its only setback being a loss to Russia in the final match of 2018, the gold-medal match of the World ParaVolley World Championship. Team USA’s confidence soared last year with its eight wins over Russia.
“It was nice getting revenge on (Russia) for sure, but it still made me a little angry that we couldn’t beat them at Worlds. It was a little bittersweet,” Erickson said. “It was definitely a good feeling going into 2020 of knowing and having the confidence that we can beat them again and again as long as we stay with what we are doing and building on our skills.”