DENVER, Colo. (March 4, 2017) – After the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team reached its goals of beating China, winning the Paralympic gold medal and reaching the world No. 1 rankings, veteran players admitted they were left wondering, “What now?”
What mountains are left to climb?
“That’s exactly how I felt,” said Kari Miller (Washington, D.C.), who played with on the Paralympic teams that won silver medals in 2008 and 2012 before winning the gold medal in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s like, ‘What do I do next?’ For me… I’m going to keep playing until it doesn’t feel right anymore. It’s so much fun and it’s hard to leave a family.”
The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team family is beginning the march toward the 2020 Paralympic Games with five exhibition matches against Canada at the Crossroads Qualifier at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
The U.S Women won the opening match on Saturday, 25-23, 25-7, 25-13. They took the second match 25-13, 25-12, 25-20. The teams will play another match Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. MT. They will play two more matches at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. MT on Sunday and a final match at 9 a.m. MT on Monday.
Not all the players who competed in Rio were able to make it to Denver. U.S. Head Coach Bill Hamiter used it as an opportunity to give newer players some international experience, including opposite Courtney Baker (Crofton, Ky.) and outside hitter Whitney Dosty (Tucson, Ariz.).
“I think our goal for the whole weekend is getting out of the box again and getting some matches under us,” U.S. Head Coach Bill Hamiter said. “Part of that is building a new team atmosphere and culture with some new team members and some new coaches.”
Team Captain Heather Erickson, a three-time Paralympian who was named tournament MVP of the 2016 Paralympics, admitted she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after Rio.
“I’ve decided that I’m not going to say I’m not (going to keep playing until 2020), but I’m not going to say I am,” she said. “I want to be able to live a little bit of live and experience stuff and not be so wrapped around just one thing.”
Erickson led the scoring in the first match Saturday with 16 points on a match-high 10 kills, four aces and two blocks. Middle blocker Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.) added 13 points on a match-high five blocks, five kills and three aces. Courtney Baker (Crofton, Ky.) scored eight points on a match-high fives aces and three kills.
While the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team achieved so much since winning the Paralympic bronze medal in Athens in 2004, there is one goal that still eludes it.
“We talked about it a little bit at our last camp, what do you do for motivation?” Hamiter said. “Everyone has to do something a little bit different. But I think the big one is, we’ve never won a world championship. OK, let’s push for that.”
U.S. Starters vs. Canada
Monique Burkland, Tia Edwards, Heather Erickson, Kaleo Kanahele, Nicky Nieves, Alexis Shifflett and Bethany Zummo
U.S. Statistics vs. Canada
Kills: Erickson 10, Burkland 5, Nieves 5, Shifflett 3, Whitney Dosty 3, Courtney Baker 3
Blocks: Erickson 2, Shifflett 2, Dosty 1, Kanahele 1, Nieves 5, Edwards 1
Aces: Shifflett 1, Erickson 4, Burkland 2, Kanahele 2, Nieves 3, Edwards 1, Baker 5
U.S. Starters vs Canada
Heather Erickson, Monique Burkland, Kari Miller, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, Courtney Baker, Nicole Nieves and Bethany Zummo
U.S. Statistics vs. Canada
Kills: Erickson 15, Nieves 7, Burkland 6, Alexis Shifflett 4, Tia Edwards 3, Miller 1
Blocks: Nieves 3, Burkland 2, Maclay 2, Baker 2, Whitney Dosty 1
Aces: Erickson 4, Burkland 4, Miller 3, Shifflett 2, Baker 2, Maclay 1, Nieves 1
U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Roster for Colorado Crossroads Exhibition Matches
No. – Name (Position, Height, Hometown)
2 – Bethany Zummo (L, 5-2, Dublin, California)
3 – Alexis Shifflett (S, 5-4, Waseca, Minnesota)
6 – Heather Erickson (OH, 5-11, Fayetteville, North Carolina)
7 – Monique Burkland (OH, 5-9, Ardmore, Oklahoma)
8 – Whitney Dosty (OH, 6-3, Tucson, Arizona)
10 – Kari Miller (L, 5-6, Washington D.C.)
14 – Kaleo Kanahele Maclay (S, 5-6, Edmond, Oklahoma)
16 – Nicky Nieves (MB, 5-10, Kissimmee, Florida)
17 – Tia Edwards (OH, 5-7, Skitatook, Oklahoma)
18 – Courtney Baker (OPP, 5-8, Crofton, Kentucky)
Head Coach: Bill Hamiter
Assistant Coaches: Lazaro Beltran, Jon Aharoni
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Hicks
Team Leader: Michelle Goodall
Athletic Trainer: Patrick Lawrence