BEIJING, China - Before a crowd of over 5,500, the 2004 Paralympic Games gold medalists China secured their second consecutive Paralympic gold medal by defeating the U.S. in straight sets (25-14, 25-19, 25-15) in the Women's Sitting Volleyball final match on Sunday, September 14.
Team USA fought with all of their courage and energy to try to upset favorite China, but numerous errors for the U.S. team, combined with star China player Sheng Yuhong's 28 points, were too much for the U.S. to overcome.
"It wasn't the match we wanted to play," said Lora Webster (Cave Creek, Ariz./Edmond, Okla.). "But we worked extremely hard to get here and there is still nothing like having a medal hang around your neck."
Team USA was led by Team Captain Brenda Maymon (Sellersberg, Ind.), along with other starters Webster, Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash./Edmond, Okla.), Kendra Lancaster (Sheridan, Ind.), Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.) and Allison Aldrich (Schuyler, Neb.). Kari Miller (Washington, D.C./Edmond, Okla.) served as Libero.
The U.S. scored the first point of the first set with a powerful kill by Maymon. The set remained close and after the first technical time-out the score was tied at eight. China then began to pull away but the U.S. marched right back until China called a time-out with the U.S. trailing by two (14-12). After the time-out, it was all China and the U.S. only managed to score two more points in the entire set. Team USA committed 13 hitting errors in the first set and struggled to keep the ball in play with their serves.
The second set began similar to the first with the teams playing evenly and the U.S. taking the lead with a score of 7-5. China then took control and went on a 6-0 run and the U.S. could never get past the initial run.
In the third and final set after a tied score of three, the U.S. played in the deficit the remainder of the game. China came out with strong hits and fast movement on the court; ready to claim their gold medal once more. When China led 21-15, they scored four unanswered points to finish the set 25-15 and claim the title for a second time.
"Playing the former gold medal team in their home country - that is a once in a lifetime opportunity," commented Assistant Coach Denise Van deWalle (Bowling Green, Ohio). "We have improved a lot and we've come so far but we were simply out-played today. It was just not our day."
With tears streaming down her face, 15-year old Erickson, the youngest member of the team commented "I wanted to win so badly. I think that we didn't execute our plan and we had a lot of unforced errors. But I am going to keep playing and hopefully come back in four years and beat them."
Holloway once again led the team in scoring with eight points earned on five kills, two blocks and one ace. Webster contributed six points and Maymon had five.
Team USA will now begin training for the World Disabled Volleyball Championships, set to be held in Oklahoma City, Okla. in July of 2010.