RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 17, 2007) - Displaying nerves of steel before a packed crowd of Brazilian fans, the U.S. Men's Sitting Team defeated the host country in straight sets 25-20, 25-22, 28-26.
Both teams entered the match undefeated and both teams were eager to win in order to secure a number one seed, heading into semi-final play on Saturday.
"This was a big game," said Chris Seilkop (Deland, Fla.), who led the team with 15 points (13 kills, one block, one ace). "The crowd got me going even though they were cheering for the other team. It was a fun experience."
In addition to Seilkop's points, Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) contributed 12 points, Jose Zabala (Puerto Rico) had ten assists and Matt Johnson (Lincoln, Neb.) added 12 digs. The same six started each set and included Seilkop, B. Johnson, Zabala, captain Brent Rasmussen (Omaha, Neb.), Edgar LaForest (Puerto Rico), and Eric Duda (Edmond, Okla./Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.).
The first set got off to a rocky start. The U.S. trailed from the first point scored and wasn't able to push past Brazil until the score was tied at 13. The U.S. then grabbed the lead, but was unable to hold onto it very long. The game went back and forth until Team USA went back on top with a score of 19-18. The U.S. then managed to pull ahead by three and finally wrapped it up with a score of 25-20.
"We were eager to get started and weren't playing our game" said B. Johnson, referring to the rocky beginning. "Once we stayed focused, we met our objective and were able to execute at key moments."
The second set had the same fate as the first and the U.S. found themselves down at the beginning once more. Although the team managed to tie the score five times, they were unable to pull ahead until it was tied at 16. The U.S. then pulled in front and never looked back, ending that set with a score of 25-22.
In the third and final set, the U.S., ready to finish the match, came on strong and after an early 5-0 run led early in the game. However, Brazil wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet and slowly started closing the gap. With a score of 16-13, Brazil called a time-out, which set up a 5-0 run and the U.S. found their lead slip away. The U.S. battled back to a score of 20-23 when Coach Bill Hamiter (Bethany, Okla.) called a timeout to get the team settled down.
"Like any timeout, I reminded them that we couldn't afford unforced errors," said Hamiter. "We needed to manage our emotions. Sometimes we were playing too excited and the coaching staff just needed to get them back in the game itself."
Set to serve after the timeout was Rasmussen who calmly led the team on a 4-0 run. Brazil then managed a point and the game was tied at 24. Although Brazil was able to tie the game three times after that, they were never able to pull ahead and the U.S. closed the door with a final score of 28-26.
"The team never allowed them (Brazil) to get back up," said Hamiter. "We kept the pressure on them at the end and were able to be at our best."
With the win, the U.S. completed round robin play as the No. 1 seed with a record of 3-0. The U.S. is slated to have a rematch with No. 4 seed Costa Rica (0-3) at 9 a.m. (local time) Saturday, Aug. 18. Costa Rica was defeated by Team USA on Thursday in three straight sets (25-6, 25-10, 25-2). If Team USA defeats Costa Rica, they will head to the gold medal game on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 11 a.m. (local time) against the winner of Brazil (2-1) and Canada (1-2).
Tomorrow's match will take place at Riocentro Convention Center Pavilion 3B.
2007 U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Parapan Am Games Roster
No. Name Position Current Residence
1 Matt Johnson L Lincoln, Neb.
3 Curtis Lease MH Naperville, Ill.
4 Hugo Storer OH Houston, Texas
5 Eric Duda OH/MH Edmond, Okla.
7 Bradley Johnson MH Pompano Beach, Fla.
8 James Stuck O/MH Edmond, Okla.
9 Roderick Green OH/MH Edmond, Okla.
10 Edgar LaForest OH San Juan, Puerto Rico
12 Brent Rasmussen OH Omaha, Neb.
13 Josh Franklin OH Tomball, Texas
14 Jose Zabala S/H Carolina, Puerto Rico
15 Chris Seilkop S/H Deland, Fla.
Head Coach: Bill Hamiter (Bethany, Okla.)
Assistant Coach/Team Leader: Dixie Collins (Marshall, Virg.)
Assistant Coach: Edgar Miraku (Edmond, Okla.)
U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Parapan Am Games Results and Schedule (all times local)
Aug. 15: USA def Canada, 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-12)
Aug. 16: USA def Costa Rica, 3-0 (25-6, 25-10, 25-2)
Aug. 17: USA def Brazil, 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 28-26)
Aug. 18, 9 a.m.: Semifinal: USA vs. Costa Rica
Aug. 18, 11 a.m.: Semifinal: Brazil vs. Canada
Aug. 19, 9 a.m.: Bronze Medal Match
Aug. 19, 11 a.m.: Gold Medal Match