ANJI, China (March 18, 2016) – Heather Erickson refused to be denied, swinging hard from the outside and bouncing the volleyball out of bounds off the opponent’s hands.
With the kill, the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team captain sealed a 3-1 (25-22, 18-25, 25-19, 25-17) victory for Team USA against China on Friday at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup. Hours later, the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team completed the victory lap with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-13, 25-18) win against Iran. The team now holds a 3-0 record in pool play among the Paralympic-qualified teams.
The U.S. Men’s Sitting Team fell 3-0 (25-15, 25-9, 25-21) to Germany on Friday, moving to 0-2 in the Paralympics Qualified pool.
For the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team, Friday’s victory was another chapter in the longtime rivalry with the Chinese Women’s Sitting Team dating back to the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
“We’ve played them so many stinking times that we know what we need to do (to win),” Erickson said. “It’s really just a matter of executing on our side.”
The U.S. minimized mistakes in the third and fourth sets, giving up just two and three points, respectively, off of errors in the match’s final frames. Additionally, Team USA out-blocked the Chinese 20-13 on the match, led by Lora Webster (13 points: 7 blocks, 6 kills).
“It’s just great to see the kind of penetration we were getting,” said Head Coach Bill Hamiter.
But it was ultimately defense that carried the Americans to victory, Hamiter added. Libero Bethany Zummo had a 41 positive reception percent on a team-leading 22 chances to help the offense to a 34 kill percent.
“From set one our defense was really playing tough, diving, moving and getting the effort we needed,” Hamiter said.
Erickson was credited with a 62 positive reception percent on 13 chances and Monique Burkland turned in a 57 positive reception percent on 14 chances.
Following the emotional victory, the Americans refocused to top Iran, avoiding the easy misstep of getting caught in the moment. Although not as crisp as the win against China, Zummo said defeating Iran showed Team USA’s versatility and maturity.
“My voice hurt from the first (match), so that was challenging,” Zummo said. “You have to fight through it and we did a good job. There wasn’t as much emotional attachment for beating Iran, but we have to keep looking forward.”
Erickson (9 points: 8 kills, 1 block) and Burkland (8 points: 7 kills, 1 block) led the American offense, while Zummo anchored the defense with 15 digs. The U.S. held a comfortable lead for much of the match, particularly in the second set when setter Kaleo Kanahele served eight consecutive points, with three aces during the run; the team totaled 10 aces to Iran’s three during the match.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team will look to come out swinging against the No. 2-ranked Iran on Saturday following a tough loss to Germany. U.S. Men’s Sitting Team Head Coach Greg Walker attributed the loss to a lack of consistency and failure to follow-through on minor details.
Middle blocker Dan Regan agreed, adding, “It was just a matter of staying focused on each point and not letting one bad point throw everything off or turn into four or five bad points.”
The Americans rebounded to lead much of the third set; however, the Germans were relentless, reclaiming the lead for good after tying Team USA at 18-18.
Regan led the American offense with eight kills and one block for nine points, finding holes from the right side as Germany concentrated its block on outside hitter Eric Duda. Roderick Green (West Monroe, La.) scored eight points with a team-best three blocks and five kills on 21 swings. U.S. libero John Kremer recorded 20 receptions with an 80 positive percent. Duda was credited with six points and a 64 positive reception percent on 14 chances. Charlie Swearingen handled 12 receptions with a 67 positive percent.
The Men’s Sitting Team faces Iran at 9 p.m. ET, while the women face Ukraine at 10:30 p.m. ET.
U.S. Women’s Sitting Team Roster for the Intercontinental Cup (March 17-23)
# – Name (Position, Hometown, Height)
1 – Lora Webster (MB, Phoenix, Arizona, 5-11)
2 – Bethany Zummo (L, Dublin, California, 5-2)
3 – Alexis Shifflet (S, Waseca, Minnesota, 5-4)
4 – Michelle Schiffler (MB, Lake Wales, Florida, 6-0)
5 – Katie Holloway (OH, Lake Stevens, Washington, 6-3)
6 – Heather Erickson (OH, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 5-11)
7 – Monique Burkland (MB, Ardmore, Oklahoma, 5-9)
10 – Kari Miller (OPP/DS, Washington D.C., 5-6)
13 – Nichole Millage (OH, Champaign, Illinois, 5-7)
14 – Kaleo Kanahele (S, Edmond, Oklahoma, 5-6)
16 – Nicky Nieves (OH, Kissimmee, Florida, 5-10)
17 – Tia Edwards (OH/MB, Skiatook, Oklahoma, 5-7)
Head Coach: Bill Hamiter
Assistant Coach: Cara Lang
Assistant Coach: Lazaro Beltran
Team Manager: Dr. Laura Finch
Athletic Trainer: Patrick Lawrence
U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team Roster for the Intercontinental Cup (March 17-23)
# – Name (Position, Hometown, Height)
1 – Travis Ricks (DS, San Diego, California, 5-7)
2 – Daniel Regan (MB, St. Louis, Missouri, 6-0)
3 – Sam Surowiec (OH, Kirkland, Washington, 6-2)
4 – Ben Aman (OH, Tacoma, Washington, 6-5)
5 – Eric Duda (OH, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 6-5)
8 – James Stuck (S, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, 6-5)
9 – Hugo Storer (L, Greensboro, North Carolina, 6-0)
11 – Roderick Green (MB, West Monroe, Louisiana, 6-3)
13 – Charlie Swearingen (MB, Gulfport, Mississippi, 6-3)
14 – John Kremer (L, Buford, Georgia, 5-9)
15 – Chris Seilkop (OH, DeLand, Fla., 6-6)
16 – Josh Smith (MB/OPP, Riverside, California, 6-2)
Head Coach: Greg Walker
Assistant Coach: Joe Skinner
Assistant Coach: Mike Hobson
Team Manager: Dixie Collins
Athletic Trainer: Katherine King