The U.S. men's trio of (L-R) Eric Duda, Dave Newkirk and Chris Seilkop wins the first-ever Beach ParaVolley World Series Tour event
The U.S. trio of Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Dave Newkirk (Olathe, Kansas) and Chris Seilkop (DeLand, Florida) used their veteran savvy to overcome obstacles early and late to win the first-ever Beach ParaVolley World Series Tour event in Pingtan, China on Sunday.
The U.S. women's trio of Meredith Gross (Salt Lake City, Utah), Skye McDermott (Albany, Wisconsin) and Autum Reagan (Wellington, Kansas) finished with the silver after falling to China 21-19, 21-10 in the finals.
Beach ParaVolley, or standing beach volleyball played with three-member teams, works within the Paralympic classification system which promotes the inclusivity of the sport. World ParaVolley, the international federation for Paralympic volleyball, is working with the International Paralympic Committee to add beach ParaVolley to the Paralympic Games by the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympics. The sport has been gaining popularity where teams have been competing regularly in Asia/Oceania since 2007.
The U.S. men's team, who forfeited their first two pool play matches due to visa issues, capped the event by defeating Poland 21-19, 14-21, 15-8.
“We weren’t going for perfect, we were going for a win,” Newkirk said. “Poland played fantastic but our team came together and we had a few key plays that started us rolling.”
Team USA needed to rally in the first set, and their veteran experience on the court – 11 Paralympic Games between them – proved valuable to get the scoreboard in its favor.
“When we were down in the first set, we came out slow and we didn’t control the ball,” Newkirk said. “We talked about making the court smaller for us and once we started to make the court smaller, then we were able to control the ball and keep it within reach. We were able to move it around and have some good swings.”
The Americans fell behind again in the second set but used momentum at the end of the set to carry over into the championship tiebreaker.
“We came out very flat in the second set and started with a little bit of life, but we were too far behind to really make it up,” Newkirk said. “We jumped on them early (in the third set) and served aggressively.”
The U.S. advanced to the finals by rallying past Slovakia 16-21, 21-5, 15-12 in the semifinals after winning its quarterfinals match by forfeit to the Germans. The Americans won their final pool play match against India after the visa issues were settled.
In the women’s tournament, China also defeated the Americans 21-18, 21-10 on Friday and 21-16, 21-14 on Thursday. Unlike the U.S. trio, the American women averaged just 15-years-old.
On Saturday, the Chinese and American women split up partners to form mixed teams in an exhibition match.