COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 19, 2012) – The U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team has been named USA Volleyball’s Sitting Team of the Year for 2012.
The 2012 U.S. Women’s Sitting Team, which is based at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and ranked No. 2 in the world, won the silver medal at the Paralympic Games in London after taking gold at the Volleyball Masters Tournament in Netherland. The team also played exhibition tournaments against China and Ukraine in Shanghai and against the Netherlands in the United States.
U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Head Coach and Program Director Bill Hamiter (Bethany, Okla.) complimented the team on its competitiveness.
“What makes it special is there are some pretty high-level athletes on that team,” Hamiter said. “As a whole, they’re a very competitive group. They’ve been in situations where maybe they’re not playing at the level they would like, but they still figure out a way to win.”
Players on the team earned individual honors along the way.
Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.) was named Best Spiker at the Paralympic Games and Most Valuable Player of the Volleyball Masters in Netherlands. Kari Miller (Washington, D.C.) was named Best Receiver and Best Libero at the Paralympic Games.
But the team’s success was definitely a group effort.
Eight of the players on the 2012 Paralympic Sitting Volleyball Team had competed in at least one past Paralympics: Holloway, Miller, Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.), Lora (Webster) Bargellini (Phoenix, Ariz.), Brenda (Maymon) Jensen (Charlestown, Ind.), Allison Aldrich (Schuyler, Neb.), Nichole Millage (Champaign, Ill.) and Kendra Lancaster (Westfield, Ind.).
Three Paralympic novices played important roles: Michelle (Gerlosky) Schiffler (Lake Wales, Fla.), Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Okla.) and Kaleo Kanahele (Oklahoma City, Okla.).
Other athletes who competed and trained with the team in 2012, but did not play in the Paralympic Games, are Nicole Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.), Bethany Zummo (Dublin, Calif.) and Angela DeHaan (Yuba City, Calif.).
“It was a good mix of experienced players with one or two Paralympics under their belt,” Hamiter said. “Combine that with several younger players energized with enthusiasm and excitement. All those things combined put it into where it’s a really solid team.”
The season was not entirely smooth sailing for the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team, which won only one match in its exhibition series with China, the No. 1 –ranked team in the world, and Ukraine, the No. 3 team, in Shanghai.
Hamiter said some of the losses were due to the fatigue of travel and some were from rotations and substitutions that Hamiter made to see how the team would react.
“Certainly we would have liked to play better consistently,” he said. “But when we got back, we had the information we needed on China and ourselves.”
It didn’t take long for the team to pull itself together and look forward to the Paralympic Games for another chance to play China, the team that beat the United States in the finals of the 2008 Paralympic Games and the 2010 World Championships.
In London, China defeated the United States in the first match of pool play (22-25, 32-30, 25-23, 25-17). The U.S. won its next three matches to advance to the gold medal match, where it lost a hard-fought contest, 22-25, 25-15, 32-30, 25-15.
“In the finals, both teams were playing their best,” Hamiter said. “I’ve heard it from officials and male players, a lot of different people. They felt like that was the best women’s sitting match ever played.”
The future looks bright for the team, which should have a core group of veterans back to try to qualify for the 2014 WOVD Sitting Volleyball World Championships in Poland and the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Only Jensen has officially retired from the team. However, several may take time off to put time into careers and family life.
“I think we will have a good group of experienced, hungry players,” Hamiter said. “We also have some new players who will chip in and make the roster.”