Women's Sitting Wins Semi, Earns Paralympics Berth

By Bill Kauffman | June 20, 2014, 1:01 p.m. (ET)

ELBLAG, Poland (June 20, 2014) – The U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team is 2016 Paralympic Games bound after defeating Netherlands 26-24, 25-16, 25-13 in the ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships semifinals on Friday afternoon in Elblag, Poland.

The U.S. Women, ranked third in the world, will face China in the gold-medal match at 7:30 a.m. CT on Saturday. China defeated Russia 25-12, 25-16, 16-25, 20-25, 15-11 in its semifinal match. The gold-medal match can be watched live at http://www.paravolley.pl. The top two teams in each gender at the World Championships qualify for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

The U.S.-China contest is a rematch of the last two Paralympic Games gold-medal matches and the most recent Sitting World Championships title match held in 2010. In all three cases, China won the gold medal and the U.S. finished with the silver medal.

"It is interesting because I think we have a different team," said Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.), who has played China each of the last three major tournaments since the 2008 Paralympics. "It will be another new matchup to me. I think we have the ability, and a very spread out offense which will be to our advantage. As long as we play our game, then we have no problem. I have always felt that way, especially now more than ever after seeing China so many times. All I can say is that it is all about us at this point. It is all about how we will do in the match, and what we can do to win."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team lost to Netherlands 21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-18 to finish in 10th place, matching its finish from the most recent Sitting World Championship that took place in 2010.

The U.S. Women had four players with at least a dozen points in the semifinal round victory over Netherlands on Friday. Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.) pocketed 14 points with 11 kills on 20 attacks, two aces and a block. Holloway added 14 points with 10 kills, two aces and two blocks. Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Okla.) chipped in 13 points with seven kills, a team-high four aces and two blocks. Michelle Schiffler (Lake Wales, Fla.) produced 12 points with eight kills on 14 attacks, two aces and two blocks.

Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.) totaled four points in the U.S. victory, while Abby Mueller (Houston) and Kaleo Kanahele (Oklahoma City, Okla.) provided two points each.

Bethany Zummo (Dublin, Calif.) was credited with a 55 positive reception percent on 22 errorless reception chances from her libero spot. Holloway added a 62 positive reception percent on 13 chances.

The U.S. Women held a 10-3 ace advantage over the Netherlands, while also have a slim 10-9 margin in blocks. Team USA converted 46 percent of its attacks into points with Kanahele handling much of the setting.

"Being undefeated is great," Holloway said. "It is fun to see us progress because I feel like we have in this tournament just alone in the six matches. Each match has gotten more and more difficult, yet we have found ways to overcome our challenges which mostly have been our own bad passing and execution. It has been nice to see us meet those challenges and overcome them so that we know that we are capable of it. Because we are such a new team and with so much depth, we have room to play."

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While the Chinese women have won the last three major event titles (2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games, 2010 ParaVolley World Championships), the U.S. Women have won the last three meetings including the gold-medal match of the 2013 Moscow Cup and twice at the 2014 Denver Sitting Volleyball Challenge.

On the men’s side, Team USA rallied from a 16-11 deficit in the opening set to win 25-21. However, the Netherlands controlled the lead much of the rest of the match.

Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) led all scorers with 19 points for the U.S., including 17 kills on 42 swings and two blocks. J. Dee Marinko (New Castle, Okla.) charted 10 points with eight kills and two blocks. Dan Regan (St. Louis, Mo.) provided nine points, including a team-high four blocks. Edgar LaForest (San Juan, Puerto Rico) chipped in eight points, followed by James Stuck (New Kensington, Pa.) and Roderick Green (West Monroe, La.) with seven points each.

Travis Ricks (San Diego, Calif.) handled a team-high 20 receptions and Hugo Storer (Greensboro, N.C.) added 18 receptions. Marinko was credited with a 47 positive reception percent on 19 chances.

Netherlands held a sizeable 9-1 ace advantage in the match to offset the Americans’ 13-6 margin in blocks. Netherlands converted 33 percent of its attacks, while the U.S. held a 32 kill percent.

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 (New Castle, 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 def. Great Britain 25-11, 25-11, 25-10
June 16: United States def. Poland 25-5, 25-8, 25-8
June 17: United States def. Finland 25-9, 25-3, 25-13
June 18: United States def. Slovenia 25-10, 25-14, 25-14
June 19: United States def. Russia 25-19, 12-25, 25-20, 25-17
June 20: United States def. Netherlands 26-24, 25-16, 25-13 (semifinals)
June 21: United States vs. China, 7:30 a.m. CT (gold-medal match)

Men’s World Championship Schedule
June 15: Egypt def. United States 25-21, 25-20, 25-16
June 16: United States def. Iraq 25-17, 25-22, 25-22
June 17: Iran def. United States 25-7, 25-15, 25-17
June 18: Germany def. United States 25-22, 25-17, 25-18
June 19: United States def. Croatia 25-22, 30-28, 25-21
June 20: Netherlands def. United States 21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-18 (9th Place Match)