By Katie Branham | Aug. 29, 2019, 12:06 a.m. (ET)

The U.S. women's sitting volleyball team at the Parapan American Games in Lima.The U.S. women's sitting volleyball team celebrates winning gold at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

The U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team won gold as they toppled Brazil in three sets, 25-16, 25-19, 25-13, in the final game of the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. The Americans remained undefeated with a perfect 5-0 record in Lima and won 15 of their 16 sets.

While only six women were on the court at any given time, the U.S. team found success through each member of the team having an important role. 

For outside hitter Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, North Carolina), she not only had the role of top scorer for Team USA with 17 points, but also focused on being a key communicator on the court. 

“There is a lot more to the game than just hitting the ball hard. During this game, I really focused on communicating with my teammates and being vocal the whole time,” Erickson said. “In volleyball, momentum is so huge and if you let another team come back and get that energy, then it can really go downhill fast. I’m out there with noise on the court consistently and communicating on what to look for and what’s going on. I did my best to make sure that everyone felt together.”

Before the match even started, middle blocker Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Florida) was filling a key role as she danced with her teammates while they waited to take the court.

“I’m a hitter, but I’m also the team supporter and cheerleader. I’m always trying to keep the energy high and loud,” Nieves said. “And I just love music. Anytime I hear music, I’m dancing. Before the match when I’m dancing to the music, that’s just me being normal Nicky.”

While Nieves was an obvious encourager on the court, she never felt alone in her role.

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“I would definitely say that Sydney Satchell is my counterpart,” Nieves said of one of the team’s newcomers. “I’m the cheerleader but she’s also the enforcer. If I let it down a little bit, she’s like, ‘no, come on. We have to go.’”

Satchell (Windsor, Connecticut) is the newest member of the women's sitting volleyball program, and while she didn’t get playing time on the court tonight, she took her role to heart.

“One of the greatest things about my role on this team right now with not being a starter is how my energy off the court supports those on the court,” Satchell said. “My job is to make sure my team is fired up and ready to go. I believe everyone plays a crucial role on this team in wins and losses, and I’m excited to be a part of this team for this big win today.”

Erickson cited the strength and energy of the bench as a crucial component of the team’s victory.

“We have an amazing team in the sense that our bench is just as important as the people who are on the court,” Erickson said. “We have awesome support on the bench where they are looking for shots on the court. So Tia [Edwards] is an outside hitter with me, so she is talking to me and seeing what’s open for me. We all really focus on our position and who is in the position on the court and make sure we are giving information both on and off the court.”

The victory in Lima provides additional motivation on the road to the Paralympics Games Tokyo 2020, as the team already qualified for next year’s Games by finishing second at the 2018 World ParaVolley World Championships. 

“Our coach really pushed us to work on being together, celebrating every moment and holding each other up even when we make errors,” Nieves said. “I feel like that’s what we’ll take to Tokyo, playing in unison and being one.”