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Men's Sitting Team Paralympic Games Bound

By Bill Kauffman | Aug. 13, 2015, 7:29 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 13, 2015) – After more than a decade of sitting on the outside of the Paralympic Games fun, the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team will be welcomed to the 2016 Paralympic Games party after defeating Canada 26-24, 25-23, 16-25, 25-21 Thursday during the semifinals of the Parapan American Games being staged in Toronto.

To reach that goal during the Parapan Am Games, the U.S. either needed to win the tournament or finish second to 2016 Paralympic Games host Brazil, which did its part by defeating Colombia in straights sets in the first semifinal match this morning. With both the Americans and Brazilians reaching the title match set for 7 p.m. ET on Friday, the U.S. is assured of a spot in the 2016 Paralympic Games.

In winning the match, the Americans wore their late set rallies caps. The U.S. came back from deficits of 18-15 in the first set and 21-18 in the second set. Canada led 16-6 in the third set and Team USA was unable to overcome the deficit though saving four set points before losing. In the fourth set, the Americans came back from an 11-9 deficit to win as they withstood Canada’s late charge.

“That was an exceptional match,” U.S. Parapan Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team Head Coach Quinton Kraeer said. “Our team and Canada played with everything they had on the court and we were just able to maintain our emotions and focus to rise above the challenges that Canada gave us. I am very proud of the team for their relentless effort to qualify for Rio and will enjoy this moment for the night before refocusing for tomorrow's gold medal match.”

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Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) led the U.S. with a team-high 16 points with 14 kills on 47 attacks, one block and one ace. He added eight digs and six excellent receptions on 12 attempts. Roderick Green (West Monroe, La.) notched 15 points on 11 kills via 32 attacks and four blocks.

“I and the team are on cloud nine right now,” Duda said. “The words of pride escape me at this moment as it has been a long time coming for us to get back to the Paralympics. We certainly though have to pay respect to our friends from Canada. They challenged us throughout the match and could have stolen it from us if we hadn’t risen up as a team to overcome them.”

J Dee Marinko (New Castle, Okla.) added 12 kills on 34 swings, 11 digs and 11 excellent receptions on 15 chances. Edgardo Laforest (San Juan, Puerto Rico) collected 10 points with seven kills on 21 attacks, two blocks and an ace.

James Stuck (New Kensington, Pa.) ran the offense with 72 running sets on 87 set attempts to go with five kills, two blocks and an ace. He added nine digs in the victory. Daniel Regan (St. Louis, Mo.) scored three points with two kills and a block, but he notched the final point to send Team USA to Rio next year. John Kremer (Buford, Ga.) contributed 33 excellent receptions on 53 of the team’s 89 reception chances as the team’s libero. He chipped in 12 digs in the win.

Previous Results: 8/8 USA vs COL | 8/9 USA vs MEX | 8/10 USA vs CAN | 8/11 USA vs CRC | 8/12 USA vs BRA

The U.S. converted 31.7 percent of its attacks into points with a .112 hitting efficiency (51-33-161). Meanwhile, the American defense limited Canada to a 27.6 kill percent and .118 hitting efficiency. Canada held advantages of Team USA in blocks (14-10) and aces (5-3), but the Americans scored nine more kills than the hosts at 51-42.

Team USA had defeated Canada 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 on Aug. 10 during the third day of the preliminary round.

Canada took a 5-3 advantage in the opening set with a 4-1 scoring run. After trailing 6-4, the U.S. responded with four unanswered points – including two kills by Marinko and Stuck block, on Green’s serve to grab an 8-6 advantage. Team USA stretched the margin to three at 11-8, but Canada answered with three consecutive points to level the score at 11-all. LaForest gave the U.S. a two-point cushion at 13-11 with his third kill of the set, but Canada once again regained the lead at 14-13 with three straight points. Canada built a three-point cushion at 18-15. Team USA cut the gap to one at 20-19 with a Marinko kill, then knotted the score at 22-all with a block from Regan. Team USA saved one set point and went in front 25-24 with a Stuck kill and Duda ace. The U.S. ended the set at 26-24 following a Canada attack error. The U.S. converted 48.7 percent of its attacks in the frame with two blocks and an ace to offset Canada’s five blocks and two aces. Stuck and Marinko led Team USA with five points each.

Canada started the second set strong with a 6-2 advantage. LaForest put down a kill to close the American deficit to just one at 9-8, but Canada rebuilt its three-point cushion at 11-8 with the next two points. Green slammed a kill to pull the U.S. within one at 15-14. Team USA went in front 17-16 with a Stuck ace and Marinko kill. However, Canada answered with a 4-1 scoring run to grab a 21-18 lead. The Americans leveled the score at 22-all with a Duda point. Green gave Team USA the lead at 23-22. Team USA ended the set at 25-23, finishing of the rally winning seven of the final nine points. Both teams had three blocks and an ace in the second set, but the U.S. took advantage of 10 Canadian errors to its own seven.

For the third set in a row, Canada started strong with a 5-1 lead in the third set and increased its margin to 16-6. The host country prevailed 25-16 in the third set to stay alive in the match. Canada took advantage of 12 U.S. errors as neither team hit well in the set. Canada converted 22.9 percent of its 35 swings to Team USA’s 17.0 percent on 53 attacks.

Canada won the opening two points of the fourth set, but the U.S. answered with the next three points to take the lead at 3-2. Canada regained the lead at 5-4 with two straight points and reached a two-point cushion at 11-9. Team USA answered with four unanswered points to grab a 13-11 advantage. Duda, LaForest and Green scored consecutive points to push the Americans in front 16-12 at the second technical timeout. LaForest downed a kill and Green put up a block to extend Team USA’s lead to 20-14. Canada sliced two points off the advantage at 20-16, but the U.S. benefited from two Canadian errors to take a 22-16 margin. Canada trimmed its deficit back to four at 23-19. Regan got the final point at 25-21 to send the U.S. to the 2016 Paralympic Games.

U.S. Parapan American Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team Roster
1 – Travis Ricks (DS, San Diego, Calif., 5-7)
2 – Daniel Regan (MB, St. Louis, Mo., 6-0)
5 – Eric Duda (OH, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-5)
6 – Jese Schag (S, Sheridan, Ill., 6-2)
7 – Stephen Bracken (OH, Brighton, Colo., 6-3)
8 – James Stuck (S, New Kensington, Pa., 6-5)
9 – Hugo Storer (L, Greensboro, N.C., 6-0)
10 – Edgardo Laforest (OPP, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 6-1)
11 – Roderick Green (MB, West Monroe, La., 6-3)
13 – Charlie Swearingen (MB, Gulfport, Miss., 6-3)
14 – John Kremer (L, Buford, Ga., 5-9)
18 – J Dee Marinko (OH, New Castle, Okla., 6-4)

Head Coach: Quinton Kraeer
Assistant Coach: Greg Walker
Assistant Coach/Technical Coordinator: Elliot Blake
Trainer: Patrick Lawrence
Team Leader: Dixie Collins

U.S. Parapan American Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team Schedule (times listed as ET)
Aug. 8: United States def. Colombia 25-17, 25-21, 25-13
Aug. 9: United States def. Mexico 25-15, 25-11, 25-5
Aug. 10: United States def. Canada 25-21, 25-20, 25-18
Aug. 11: United States def. Costa Rica 25-12, 25-9, 25-17
Aug. 12: Brazil def. United States 25-14, 19-25, 25-18, 25-15
Aug. 13: United States def. Canada 26-24, 25-23, 16-25, 25-21
Aug. 14: United States vs. Brazil, 7 p.m.