U.S. Sitting Women to Play for Paralympic Gold

Sept. 12, 2008, 1:24 a.m. (ET)

B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800

Katrina Shaklee of the University of Central Oklahoma contributed to this release

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 12, 2008) – The U.S. Sitting Women’s Volleyball Team advanced to Sunday’s Paralympic gold medal match after defeating Netherlands, 3-2 (19-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-27, 15-10), on Friday in a semifinal match that took almost two hours before 1,300 spectators at the China Agricultural University Gymnasium in Beijing.

The United States (3-1) will face defending Paralympic champion China (4-0) on Sunday at 6 p.m. in Beijing (4 a.m. Sunday, MDT) in the gold medal match. China has yet to lose a set during the tournament and defeated Team USA earlier in the week 25-14, 25-21, 25-19.

Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Team USA has already assured itself a better finish than the bronze medal it won in 2004, when it lost to Netherlands in the semifinal and beat Slovenia for third place. It will be the fifth medal for USA Volleyball in 2008 Olympic and Paralympic competition.

“I have been playing for five years and we have never beat them (Netherlands) in an official competition,” team captain Brenda Maymon (Sellersberg, Ind) said. “We could never get the job done, but we finally did it. This is the exact set-up that we faced in Athens when the Netherlands beat us to go to the gold medal match. So this time, it feels great to beat them and to get to go to the gold medal match instead.”

The United States’ Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.) led all scorers Friday with 23 points on a match-high 14 kills, six blocks and three aces. Allison Aldrich (Schuyler, Neb.) added 15 points on nine kills, four blocks and two aces. Nichole Millage (Champaign, Ill.) scored 13 points on eight kills and five blocks.

Maymon scored 11 points, including five blocks. Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.) added 10 points, including four aces and Lora Webster (Cave Creek, Ariz.) also scored 10 points. Kendra Lancaster (Westfield, Ind.) came away with one point.

U.S. Head Coach Mike Hulett (Des Plaines, Ill.) started Webster, Erickson, Maymon, Holloway, Lancaster and Aldrich. Millage replaced Lancaster during the first set and started the rest of the match. Kari Miller (Washington, D.C.) was the libero.

After a disappointing loss in the first set, the U.S. Women's Sitting Team had to change its strategy.

“Our game plan wasn’t working,” Webster said. “We had to make changes in the middle and regroup.”

Coach Mike Hulett (Des Plaines, Ill.) agreed. “We were all over the place, hitting it out of bounds and tipping it out of bounds. So we changed the game plan to hit in the middle of the court.”

The United States out-blocked Netherlands 28-16 and also had 46 kills as opposed to 35 for Netherlands. The Dutch served 15 aces, as opposed to nine for Team USA, and also took advantage of 45 U.S. team errors, while committing 29.

In the first set, the young U.S. team came out strong but posted 11 errors, with eight of those hitting the ball out of bounds. Millage substituted in for Lancaster in the first set and sparked the team, playing the remainder of the match.

The two teams exchanged points back and forth in the second set and the United States led at the first technical timeout 8-6. Netherlands came out of the timeout and scored five unanswered points to move into the lead. With great play from Webster, Millage and Holloway, Team USA remained in the game, but was unable to take the lead. Trailing 21-23, Maymon got the serve back for the U.S. with a pivotal kill. Erickson, 15, showed nerves of steel as she served the remainder of the set for the 25-23 victory, which also marked the first time the U.S. had ever won a set against the Netherlands in a tournament.

“It was our rotation,” Erickson said. “I can get the ball over high and then we have time to adjust and make the plays.”

The United States went on an early seven-point run in the third set with Holloway serving and several key plays from Webster. Team USA led 16-10 at the second technical timeout.

Netherlands would not go down quietly, and began to creep back into the set, finally tying the score at 20. Team USA called a timeout, but Netherlands scored two more unanswered points. The United States stormed back and the two teams exchanged points. With Netherlands leading 26-25, Karin van der Haar-Kramp served the ball out. The U.S. capitalized on its break and scored two points to finish the set 28-26.

In the fourth set, Team USA led 8-2 at the first technical timeout. However, the lead shrunk to only 9-8 in minutes when Netherlands scored five unanswered points. With the score tied 18-18, Holloway scored an ace and Millage delivered two kills. The United States held match point at 24-22, but Netherlands held it off three times and took a 25-24 lead. Team USA tied the score at 25-25. When the Netherlands pushed ahead by one, Millage spiked the ball out of bounds giving Netherlands the 27-25 victory.

“It was the worst time for a miss-hit, but it happened and we moved on,” Millage said. “I still knew we were going to beat them.”

“After the fourth set it was a little emotional because we all thought we were going to win it,” said U.S. Assistant Coach Denise Van deWalle (Bowling Green, Ohio). “But when we went into the fifth set it was all about that set. The Netherlands played the best they have the entire tournament. It was just about not being out-worked in the end.”

The U.S. dominated the tie-breaker, setting the tone with a 7-1 lead. Netherlands never regained its footing and Team USA closed the set and the match.

Netherlands’ Djoke van Marum led her team with 17 points on 12 kills, three blocks and two aces. Van der Haar-Kramp scored 15 points, including a match-high eight aces.

There will be daily live and delayed highlight shows of the Paralympic Games on Sept. 6-17, on www.UniversalSports.com and www.usparalympics.org, and there will be a special NBC broadcast on Oct. 18.

The Beijing Paralympic Web site is http://en.paralympic.beijing2008.cn.  

U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team
Allison Aldrich (Schuyler, Neb.)
Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.)
Alex Gouldie (St. Paul, Neb.)
Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.)
SuGui Kriss (Ravena, N.Y.)
Kendra Lancaster (Westfield, Ind.)
Hope Lewellen (Palos Park, Ill.)
Brenda Maymon Team Captain (Sellersberg, Ind.)
Gina McWilliams (The Colony, Texas)
Nichole Millage (Champaign, Ill.)
Kari Miller (Washington D.C.)
Lora Webster (Cave Creek, Ariz.)

Head Coach: Mike Hulett (Des Plaines, Ill.)
Assistant Coach: Denise Van De Walle (Bowling Green, Ohio)
Assistant Coach: Cara Bartolic (Sartell, Minn.)
Team Leader: Roger Neppl (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Women’s Sitting Volleyball Paralympic Teams:
1. China as host nation (No. 2 at 2006 World Championship)
2. Netherlands as No. 1 of 2006 World Championship
3. Slovenia as No. 3 of 2006 World Championship
4. Lithuania as No. 4 of 2006 World Championships
5. USA, replacing Afro Arab CVD Champion as No. 5 of 2006 World Championships
5. Ukraine, replacing Pan American CVD Champion as No. 6 of 2006 World Championship
6. Japan as No. 2 of Asia Oceania CVD Championship
7. Latvia as No. 5 of European CVD Championship

Competition Results and Schedule:

Pool A
Netherlands 3-0
Slovenia 2-1
Ukraine 1-2
Japan 0-3

Pool B
China 3-0
USA 2-1
Lithuania 1-2
Latvia 0-3

Day 1 Sunday: (9/7)
USA def. Lithuania, 25-15, 25-18, 25-9
Netherlands def. Japan, 25-4, 25-21, 25-18
China def. Latvia, 25-4, 25-7, 25-16

Day 2 Monday: (9/8)
Slovenia def. Japan, 25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 25-9
Netherlands def. Ukraine, 25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19
China def. Lithuania, 25-18, 25-17, 25-14

Day 3 Tuesday: (9/9)
Slovenia def. Ukraine, 11-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-22
Lithuania def. Latvia, 16-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-19
China def. USA, 25-14, 25-21, 25-19

Day 4 Wednesday: (9/10)
Ukraine def. Japan, 25-16, 25-14, 25-18
USA def. Latvia, 25-12, 25-17, 25-11
Netherlands def. Slovenia, 23-25, 25-17, 25-16, 22-25, 15-11

Day 5 Thursday: (9/11)
Ukraine def. Latvia, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20
Lithuania def. Japan, 25-19, 25-15, 22-25, 25-16

Day 6 Friday: (9/12)
Semifinal 1: USA def. Netherlands, 19-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-27, 15-10
Semifinal 2: China def. Slovenia, 25-21, 25-12, 25-19

Day 7 Saturday: (9/13)
10:00-11:30 Women's 7-8: Latvia vs. Japan
16:00-17:30 Women's 5-6: Ukraine vs. Lithuania

Day 8 Sunday: (9/14)
16:00-17:30 Women's Bronze Medal: Netherlands vs. Slovenia
18:00-19:30 Women's Gold Medal: USA vs. China
19:45-20:05 Women's Medal Ceremony