U.S. Women's Sitting Volleyball Team Sweeps Iran In First Paralympic Match

By USA Volleyball | Sept. 10, 2016, 1:13 p.m. (ET)
Kaleo Kanahele, pictured, helped lead Team USA to its first victory at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

RIO DE JANEIRO The U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team’s campaign to win gold at the Paralympics began with a 25-17, 25-13, 25-9 win against Iran on Saturday afternoon.

Seeded third at the Paralympic Games and ranked No. 2 worldwide, the U.S. was led by Captain Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, North Carolina) and Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Washington) with 16 and 13 points, respectively.

The U.S. began the match a bit slow, trading shots and points with Iran. Assisting the Iranians were 5,600-plus fans, largely cheering against the U.S. Holloway and Erickson agreed that while they were aware of the noise, they weren’t bothered by the fans cheering against the U.S.

“The crowd was energized no matter what, so it was just exciting to have that much energy for anything sitting volleyball, so it made me happy,” Holloway said.

The U.S. pulled away late in the Set 1 on a series of kills by Erickson and Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Oklahoma) before clinching on an Iran attack error. Set 2 began in a similar fashion with Iran tying the set at 12-12. However, a Burkland kill followed by a nine-point service run by Erickson gave the U.S. a 22-13 lead and a Set 2 win. Burkland added her own eight-point service run in Set 3 and Holloway recorded six of her 11 kills in the set.

The U.S. clinched Set 1 on an Iran attack error, but the scrappy No. 6 seeded Iranians came out firing in Set 2, capitalizing on U.S. mistakes to keep the score close.

“I feel like the unforced errors helped keep them in the game, but we weren’t stressed out about it. I believe in this team and the way they can compete,” Hamiter said. “I felt toward the middle of that second set we started executing much, much better even though I still felt we were making a few too many errors, I thought they were hustle errors rather than execution errors and I’ll take that any day.”

Iran tied the second set 12-12, but a Burkland kill followed by a nine-point service run by Erickson gave the U.S. a 22-13 lead and a Set 2 win. Burkland added her own eight-point service run in Set 3 as Holloway recorded six of her 11 kills in the set.

“I’m a spot server, so for me, I don’t really realize it (when I’m on a run), I just go back and do it,” Erickson said of her successful serving. “It’s more, ‘just get it in!’ and let the team play because we’re great on defense so if I can put it in we’re good.”

Hamiter took advantage of the team’s consistency late in the match, using all 12 players on the roster in the win. Starting setter Kaleo Kanahele tallied 21 assists, with an additional six assists from Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minnesota). Libero Bethany Zummo (Dublin, California) recorded a team-high six digs in her Paralympic debut, adding five positive service receptions.

The U.S. next faces long-time rival China on Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET. The teams battled for the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic gold medals, with China claiming victory each time. However, the U.S. has defeated China all three times the teams have met this year, including in the gold medal final at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup in March.

Earlier on Saturday, China defeated Rwanda 25-3, 25-8, 25-6.

U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Roster
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown)

1Lora Webster (MB, 5-11, Phoenix, Ariz.)
2. Bethany Zummo (L, 5-2, Dublin, Calif.)
3. Alexis Shifflett (S, 5-4, Waseca, Minn.)
4. Michelle Schiffler (OH/MB, 6-0, Lake Wales, Fla.)
5. Katie Holloway (OH, 6-3, Lake Stevens, Wash.)
6. Heather Erickson (OH, 5-11, Fayetteville, NC)
7. Monique Burkland (OH, 5-9, Ardmore, Okla.)
10. Kari Miller (L, 5-6, Washington D.C.)
13. Nichole Millage (OH, 5-7, Champaign, Ill.)
14. Kaleo Kanaehele (S, 5-6, Edmond, Okla.)
16. Nicky Nieves (MB, 5-10, Kissimmee, Fla.)
17. Tia Edwards (OH, 5-7, Skitatook, Okla.)

Head Coach: Bill Hamiter
Team Leader: Michelle Goodall
Assistant Coaches: Cara Lang and Lazaro Beltran
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Hicks
Athletic Trainer: Patrick Lawrence
Press Officer: Karen Patterson

2016 Paralympic Games Women’s Sitting Volleyball Pools
Pool A: Brazil, Ukraine, Netherlands, Canada
Pool B: China, United States, Iran, Rwanda

2016 Paralympic Games Women’s Sitting Volleyball Schedule
All times EDT

Sept. 9
Brazil def. Canada, 25-7, 25-12, 25-14
Ukraine def. Netherlands, 21-25, 22-25, 25-13, 26-24, 15-12

Sept. 10
China vs. Rwanda, 9 a.m.
USA vs. Iran, 1 p.m.

Sept. 11
Canada vs. Netherlands, 2:30 p.m.
Brazil vs. Ukraine, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 12
Rwanda vs. Iran, 9 a.m.
USA vs. China, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 13
Netherlands vs. Brazil, 10 a.m.
Ukraine vs. Canada, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 14
USA vs. Rwanda, 9 a.m.
Iran vs. China, 1 p.m.

Sept. 15
Women’s 7th-8th Classification, 12:30 p.m.
Women’s 5th-6th Classification, 2:30 p.m.
Semifinal 1, 5:30 p.m.
Semifinal 2, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 17
Women’s bronze medal match, 3:30 p.m.
Women’s gold medal match, 6 p.m.