Sitting Team Gets Youth Infusion
DENVER, Colo. (March 8, 2013) – It may be hard to believe, but it has been six months since the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team won the silver medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
|Nicky Nieves receives the ball as Alexis Shifflet watches.
A new Paralympic quadrennial has begun and with it comes new faces and a new goal: the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team that traveled to the Denver Convention Center for a series of exhibition matches against Canada included only four members of the 2012 Paralympic Team: Kari Miller (Washington, D.C.), Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.), Kendra Lancaster (Westfield, Ind.) and Kaleo Kanahele (Oklahoma City, Okla.).
One player from the 2012 Paralympic team, Brenda (Maymon) Jensen, has officially retired. Six others that traveled to London are pursuing other opportunities, but are holding open the possibility of returning to the team to prepare for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Five players who weren’t on the London roster – Nicole Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.), Alexis Shifflett (Waseca, Minn.), Cali Overcast (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Bethany Zummo (Dublin, Calif.) and Angela DeHaan (Yuba City, Calif.) – are in Denver hoping that it is the first step toward being on the roster in Rio.
“My goal is Rio for sure,” said Zummo, who had to sit on the bench in Denver while recovering from shoulder surgery. “But we do have the world championships in Poland before that. I would like to go there and compete.”
Zummo and DeHaan have been with the National Team since early in 2011 while Nieves joined just before 2012. Each has had a chance to play with the National Team in a major competition. Shifflet and Overcast were added to the team in 2013 and Denver was their first major event.
“It’s very nerve-wracking at first,” Shifflet said. “It’s a little scary. After a while I got used to it though. But I like it a lot.”
All five athletes had been playing standing volleyball successfully despite their disabilities, but still had to adjust to the sitting game.
“We all definitely started at that suck stage,” DeHaan said. “We have played volleyball our whole lives, but this is totally different. It was a big transition.”
Nieves said the biggest thing to learn has been keeping her hands down and using them to move.
“When you’re standing, your arms are always in front of you and ready,” she said. “When you’re sitting, your hands have to be touching the floor.”
Bill Hamiter (Bethany, Okla), head coach of the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team, agreed his new players have a ways to go to improve, but have the talent to make the team for big events if they keep improving.
“it’s a competitive environment. Some of them just need to gain more experience,” Hamiter said.
“At some point, they’re going to have to start raising their game a little bit and executing better. Some of these younger athletes definitely have the abilities to push for a roster spot.”