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Jun 10 USA Ready for Sitting Volleyball Worlds

By Bill Kauffman | June 10, 2014, 12:07 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 10, 2014) – The U.S. Women’s and Men’s Sitting Volleyball Teams will be seeking to make history at the World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball Championships taking place June 15-21 in Elblag, Poland. The top two teams in both the women’s and men’s World Championships will earn berths into the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.

The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team, ranked third in the world, has been on the cusp of gold at the past two Paralympic Games in 2008 and 2012, as well the 2010 ParaVolley World Championships held in Edmond, Okla. China, ranked No. 1 in the world, has stood in the way from achieving gold each time. The two teams have reached the title match in all three events with China coming out on top all three times.

However, those times may be changing. The U.S. Women earned their first-ever tournament win over China to win the 2013 Moscow Cup last August. The Americans also earned two wins over China at the power-packed Denver Sitting Volleyball Challenge held March 14-16.

“China has definitely been the benchmark program for us to follow,” U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Head Coach Bill Hamiter said. “We have competed back-and-forth and neck-and-neck. They have had a couple personnel changes like we have, and that always affect things. Overall, they have a very strong program. I am still not so sure they may not find another player or two and show up with a couple new players.”

The U.S. Women are grouped in Pool A with No. 4 Slovenia, No. 7 Russia, No. 8 Great Britain, No. 15 Finland and No. 18 Poland. Pool B includes No. 1 China, No. 2 Ukraine, No. 5 Brazil, No. 6 Netherlands, No. 9 Japan and No. 10 Germany. Team USA opens the competition against Great Britain on June 15, followed by host Poland on June 16, Finland on June 17, Slovenia on June 18 and Russia on June 19. The top two teams from both pools advance to the semifinal round on June 20, while the remaining teams compete in the classification round. The tournament concludes on June 21 with all final classification matches.

“We feel like it was a pretty good draw for us with the teams in our pool and how we match up,” Hamiter said. “There are some tougher competitors in there, especially a few that I feel like have been up-and-coming teams and playing some of the best in the world like Russia and Slovenia. It is one of those things where you are always going to have to compete, but we like where we are at in trying to win or finish second in the pool to reach the semifinals.”

Team USA, which has six players with 2012 Paralympic and 2010 World Championship experience, used the USA Volleyball Open National Championships last month in Phoenix as its final training session to prepare for the World Championships following a successful Denver Sitting Volleyball Challenge. In addition to defeating China (3-0 and 3-1) at the Denver Sitting Volleyball Challenge, the U.S. Women stopped Brazil (3-0) after losing to Russia (3-1) in the tournament opener.

“Our training has been pretty strong,” Hamiter said. “Number one, our ladies are ready to compete. It gets pretty tough playing against yourself. They are looking forward to getting out there and competing. They believe in where they are at and what we have been doing. They are ready to prove how good we are.”

The U.S. Men will compete in Pool B alongside No. 1 Iran, No. 6 Egypt and No. 18 Iraq. Team USA opens the World Championship against Egypt on June 15, followed by Iraq on June 16 and Iran on June 17. Quarterfinal play-in matches and 13-16 classification matches are scheduled for June 18, followed by the quarterfinal round and classification matches on June 19, semifinals and classification matches on June 20 and final classification matches on June 21.

“Iran is always going to be tough. Iraq and Egypt are beatable,” U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team Head Coach Quinton Kraeer said. “Some of it will come down to what they look like when we get there and we can see them play. I feel confident that we can compete with them and take wins off them.”

The U.S. Men will be looking to improve on its 10th-place finish from the 2010 World Championships. According to Kraeer, the team’s training this spring has helped get everybody on the same page in preparation for the World Championships.

“Training has been going well,” Kraeer said. “We have been pushing forward and trying to get everybody in system with the direction I want them to go. Everybody seems to be on board and liking where I am wanting to take us.”

During training this spring, the Americans have improved their lineup around a solid base of veterans and changed its offense to a 5-1 with only one setter. The 12-player roster has nine players with World Championship experience.

“The training matches have helped a lot in smoothing out the 5-1 offense,” Kraeer said. “The matches also gave much needed experience for some of our younger players to feel out the system and feel what it is like to be on the court in the moment and making decisions. I think that is going to serve us real well this summer. When we need to make a sub, we can feel confident who is going in they are not going to freeze up on us.”

Thus far in 2014, the U.S. hosted the Canadian men in a four-match series in February without dropping a match and later traveled to Canada for an additional set of friendly matches.

In Pool A, host and No. 20 Poland is joined by No. 7 Ukraine, No. 8 China and unranked Algeria. Pool C has No. 2 Bosnia and Herzegovina, No. 5 Brazil, No. 11 Croatia and No. 16 Kazakhstan. Pool D includes No. 3 Russia, No. 4 Germany, No. 12 Netherlands and No. 13 Morocco.

“My expectations are to the best we can and our goal is to always finish first and do the best we can. It is going to be tough to do that, but I don’t see any reason we can’t do that.”

For additional information on the World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships including available live video streams, visit paravolley.pl.

U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team
2 – Bethany Zummo (Dublin, Calif.)
3 – Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minn.)
4 – Michelle Schiffler (Lake Wales, Fla.)
5 – Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.)
6 – Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.)
7 – Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Okla.)
9 – Abby Mueller (Houston, Texas)
13 – Nichole Millage (Champaign, Ill.)
14 – Kaleo Kanahele (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
16 – Nicole Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.)

Head Coach: Bill Hamiter
Assistant Coaches: Cara Lang, Jeffery Hicks
Therapist: Patrick Lawrence
Team Manager: Laura Finch

U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team
1 – Travis Ricks (San Diego, Calif.)
2 – Dan Regan (St. Louis, Mo.)
3 – Sam Surowiec (Everett, Wash.)
4 – Benjamin Aman (Edmond, Okla.)
5 – Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
6 – Jese Shag (Sheridan, Ill.)
8 – James Stuck (New Kensington, Pa.)
9 – Hugo Storer (Greensboro, N.C.)
10 – Edgar Laforest (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
11 – Roderick Green (West Monroe, La.)
13 – Charlie Swearingen (Gulfport, Miss.)
18 – J. Dee Marinko (Norman, Okla.)

Head Coach: Quinton Kraeer
Assistant Coaches: Greg Walker, Joseph Skinner
Therapist: Katherine King
Team Manager: Dixie Collins

Women’s World Championship Schedule
June 15: United States vs Great Britain, 12:15 a.m. PT, Court 1 (Pool A)
June 16: United States vs. Poland, 12:15 a.m. PT, Court 2 (Pool A)
June 17: United States vs. Finland, 12:30 a.m. PT, Court 3 (Pool A)
June 18: United States vs. Slovenia, 12:15 a.m. PT, Court 2 (Pool A)
June 19: United States vs. Russia, 4:30 a.m. PT, Court 3 (Pool A)
June 20: Semifinals and Classification Rounds
June 21: Final Classification Matches

Men’s World Championship Schedule (times local)
June 15: United States vs. Egypt, 6 a.m. PT, Court 2 (Pool B)
June 16: United States vs. Iraq, 6:30 a.m. PT, Court 3, (Pool B)
June 17: United States vs. Iran, 6 a.m. PT, Court 1 (Pool B)
June 18: Quarterfinal Play-in and 13-16 Classification matches
June 19: Quarterfinals and 9-16 Classification matches
June 20: Semifinals and 5-16 Classification matches
June 21: Final Classification matches

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