COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 30, 2019) – USA Volleyball has named its three-player men’s and women’s teams which will compete in the World ParaVolley Beach World Series event taking place May 9-12 in Pingtan, China.
On the men’s side, Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Dave Newkirk (Olathe, Kansas) and Chris Seilkop (DeLand, Florida) have been selected to represent the United States. The men’s trio has played one Beach ParaVolley tournament, earning silver in an event staged in Thailand in 2015. Meredith Gross (Salt Lake City, Utah), Skye McDermott (Albany, Wisconsin) and Autum Reagan (Wellington, Kansas), who are all new to the sport, will represent the U.S. in Pingtan.
Beach ParaVolley, or standing beach volleyball played with three-member teams, works within the Paralympic classification system which promotes the inclusivity of the sport.
The six players were chosen through a selection camp in early April at the University of Central Oklahoma.
The men’s team is loaded with Paralympic experience in either sitting or standing volleyball. The trio averages 44 years of age with Duda being the youngest at 38. Newkirk and Seilkop are 45 and 49 years-old, respectively. They have played in a combined 11 Paralympic Games between sitting and standing volleyball.
In contrast, the three women’s players selected for Pingtan are young in age and overall international experience. Gross and McDermott are 14-years-old and Reagan is the oldest at 17. Reagan is the only player with international experience, having won silver at the 2017 Youth Parapan American Games for sitting volleyball.
Yet, the three teenagers see this as an opportunity to steer the course for Beach ParaVolley in the United States.
“Being a part of this, in the beginning, is a really big role for me because I’m setting USA Beach ParaVolley to what it will be in the future,” Reagan said. “ParaBeach is the dream right now as going from sitting back to standing volleyball is so different. For me, there is a completely different feeling. I forgot how amazing it feels to be standing and not thinking about anything in the world besides if I need to dive for the ball or not.”
McDermott feels her role on the team is to not only work toward her own dreams of going to the Paralympics, but to be a role model for other athletes.
“I am a pioneer in this sport to inspire young athletes to have courage, confidence and character in whatever they want to do,” McDermott said. “My dream is to play beach volleyball in the Paralympics. I know with my hard work and dedication to this sport and team that I will get there someday because I can do anything that I put my mind to. This sport represents ‘team’ in every sense of the word. I have so much fun playing and growing in this sport every day, that I always want to come back for more.”
World ParaVolley (WPV), the international federation for Paralympic volleyball, is working with the International Paralympic Committee to add Beach ParaVolley to the Paralympic Games by the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympics. The sport has been gaining popularity where teams have been competing regularly in Asia/Oceania since 2007.
- Born with amniotic band syndrome
- Has played sitting volleyball in two Paralympic Games in 2004 and 2016
- Played in four World ParaVolley World Championships starting in 2006 and was named Best Receiver at the 2018 edition
- Selected USA Volleyball Male Sitting Player of the Year in 2014 and 2018
- Finished up first season as head men’s volleyball coach at Life University in Georgia
- Served as a volunteer assistant coach with the women’s volleyball team at the University of Florida while earning his bachelor’s degree in sports management
- Served as team captain of University of Florida’s men’s club volleyball team in 2003 and 2004
- Serves on World ParaVolley Athletes Commission as the Beach ParaVolley member
- Active volleyball player (indoor, grass, sand) in adaptive and able-bodied competitions for over 30 years
- Missing left forearm and hand
- Member of the U.S. Men’s Paralympic Standing Team from 1990 to 2003
- Competed in three Paralympic Games (1992, 1996, 2000) in standing volleyball with three fourth-place finishes
- Participated in four World Championship events for standing volleyball
- Became an amputee at age 7 after an accident with a lawn mower that severely damaged his right leg below the knee
- Joined USA Volleyball in 1995 as a member of the U.S. Standing Disabled Volleyball Team
- Four-time Paralympian spanning three decades with two fourth-places finishes in sitting volleyball
- Inspired to try volleyball after watching current U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Karch Kiraly win gold in the 1984 Olympics
- Played in two Para-Standing Volley World Championships (1998, 2002)
- 2004 Paralympian of the Year
- Born with her left hand and forearm, but has embraced the challenge of having one hand in a two-handed world
- Played violin and piano as a young child
- Played able-bodied indoor club volleyball since age 11 and on the beach for two years
- Part of U.S. Women’s Sitting A2 Team since last March, her first endeavor into adaptive sports
- After her trip to China, she will have journeyed to six continents and 12 countries
- Born with her left arm, just below the elbow, and left hand missing due to amniotic band syndrome
- Has played able-bodied club volleyball at Madison Elite for three years and is the current setter and opposite for the Madison Elite 14 Teal team
- Played standing able-bodied beach volleyball through Badger Region of USA Volleyball for two years
- Current member of the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball A2 Team
- Current age is 17 and has been an above the knee amputee since age five
- Played standing volleyball from ages 8-14
- Practiced with the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball A2 team
- Won silver at the 2017 Youth Parapan American Games in sitting volleyball
- Also excels in snow skiing where she has medaled twice