B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 13, 2007) – Talk about pressure. The 2007 Parapan American Games in Rio de Janeiro are the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team’s last chance to qualify for the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.
The competition runs Aug. 15-19 and nothing less than gold will do if Team USA hopes to get a ticket to Beijing.
“Things have been so hectic,” Head Coach Bill Hamiter (Bethany, Okla.) said. “For us, it’s one tournament. It’s do or die. There’s a lot of stress and pressure. But it’s also exciting.”
Men’s sitting volleyball teams from Brazil, Canada and Costa Rica are also competing for the Paralympic berth. Hamiter is interested in seeing how his team does playing Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
“You never know what’s going to happen when you’re playing in a host country’s event,” he said. “I expect it’s going to be lopsided in terms of the fan base. A lot will depend on how our guys respond in that situation. I think it will motivate and pump them up.”
The U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team is the defending 2003 Parapan American gold medalist. The team went on to finish sixth at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.
However, the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team finished ninth at the 2006 Sitting Volleyball World Championships in Roermond, Netherlands, which was not enough to qualify for the 2008 Paralympics. However, the United States did defeat Brazil, 3-0, at the World Championships.
Hamiter says the team is much improved since Roermond.
“We’re passing and serve receiving as well as we ever have,” Hamiter said. “Those have been our weaknesses in the past. It’s really turned a lot of things around for us offensively.
“Serving has been pretty good as well. Blocking and defense are the places we’ve been putting stress the last three months… To play at the level we need to play at to even have a shot at a medal at the Paralympics, we need to get a while lot better at blocking and defense.”
Current players returning from the 2004 Paralympic team are team captain Brent Rasmussen (Omaha, Neb.), Eric Duda (Edmond, Okla.), Curtis Lease (Naperville, Ill.) and Chris Seilkop (Deland, Fla.).
Hamiter said Duda and Edgardo LaForest (San Juan, Puerto Rico) are two players who have stepped up for the team, along with the always consistent Brent Rasmussen, who is the team’s captain.
Brad Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) has already stood out for the team after being elected by the team captains to carry the U.S. flag into Sunday’s Opening Ceremonies. Johnson competed in sitting volleyball at the 2000 Paralympics, and then won a bronze medal in sailing at the 2004 Paralympic Games.
Click here to reach the Parapan American Games web site.
2007 U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Parapan American Games Roster
No. Name (Position, Hometown)
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, Va.)
Assistant Coach: Edgar Miraku (Edmond, Okla.)
U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Parapan American Games Schedule
(all times EDT)
Aug. 15: 10 a.m. United States vs. Canada; Riocentro Convention Center Pavilion 3B
Aug. 16: 8 a.m. United States vs. Costa Rico; Riocentro Convention Center Pavilion 3B
Aug. 17: 10 a.m. United States vs. Brazil; Riocentro Convention Center Pavilion 3B
Aug. 18: 8 a.m. Semifinal: First vs. Fourth; Riocentro Convention Center Pavilion 3B
10 a.m. Semifinal: Second vs. Third; Riocentro Convention Center Pavilion 3B
Aug. 19: 8 a.m. Bronze Medal Game; Riocentro Convention Center Pavilion 3B
10 a.m. Gold Medal Game; Riocentro Convention Center, Pavilion 3B