RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 19, 2007) - Before a deafening crowd of Brazilian fans, the U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Team lost the Parapan American Games gold medal match to Brazil in five sets (24-26, 25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 9-15).
Plagued by unforced errors and playing against a very aggressive Brazilian team, Team USA fell in the fifth set.
"We were a little inconsistent and made too many errors," said Head Coach Bill Hamiter. "They passed and blocked very well. We let them squeeze out the first game (24-26). If we hadn't done that, I think we would have seen a different outcome."
Captain Brent Rasmussen (Omaha, Neb.) led the team in scoring with 14 points, followed closely by Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) with 13. Edgar LaForest (Puerto Rico) and Chris Seilkop (Deland, Fla.) each contributed 11. Matt Johnson (Omaha, Neb.) led the team in digs with 18 and Jose Zabala (Puerto Rico) contributed 16 assists to lead in that category.
The first game set the tone for the entire match. The teams battled back and forth with seven lead changes and ten tie scores. The U.S. was down 22-24 and with José Zabala serving, Team USA managed to tie the set at 24. Brazil then scored a point returning the ball to their possession before closing the game 24-26.
In the second set, the U.S. went on several short runs and pulled away from Brazil early, leading the set 14-5. Brazil did not give up easily however and stormed back with a 6-0 run. The U.S. stayed in the lead until late in the game when they found themselves tied 21-21. Ready to put the game behind them, the U.S. then went on a short 4-0 run and finished the set 25-21.
In the third and fourth sets Team USA and Brazil played evenly and traded wins. The U.S. won the third 25-22 and Brazil won the fourth 20-25. In the fifth and final set the U.S. tried to set the tone early and led 5-2. With the crowd in a frenzy, a very aggressive Brazilian team stormed back with five unanswered points. Team USA tried to get back in it, but Brazil went on another run, scoring four points. The U.S. was never able to recover and dropped the last match 9-15.
"I don't think we were affected by the crowd, but it gave the other team more confidence to be more aggressive," Rasmussen said. "They are not a better team, but they got the best of us today."
"We got timid (in the last set) and the Brazilians stepped up their game," said Duda. "For that to happen at the same time was detrimental to our success."
With Brazil (4-1) capturing the gold, the U.S. (4-1) had to settle for the silver. Team Canada defeated Costa Rica earlier in the day to finish with the bronze.
"I have been told by four or five people that we are still the best team and it is only one match," said Hamiter. "The problem is, this was a very big match and a hard one to swallow."
With the loss, the U.S. does not qualify to compete in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China. Only eight teams qualify to attend and a gold medal at the Parapan Am Games was Team USA's only ticket in.
"For some of these players, this was it for them," said Hamiter. "The young players got much needed experience. We have to regroup, get back to it and push on."
2007 U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Parapan Am Games Roster
No. Name Position Current Residence
1 Matt Johnson L Omaha, Neb.
3 Curtis Lease MH Naperville, Ill.
4 Hugo Storer OH Houston, Tex.
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, Tex.
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
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: Semifinal: USA def. Costa Rica, 3-0 (25-8, 25-7, 25-10)
Aug. 18: Semifinal: Brazil def No. 3 Canada, 3-0
Aug. 19: Bronze Medal: No. 3 Canada def No. 4 Costa Rica, 3-0
Gold Medal: No. 2 Brazil def No. 1 USA, 3-2 (26-24, 21-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-9).