U.S. Women's Sitting Team Hosts Russia

By Bill Kauffman | Feb. 25, 2015, 11:55 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 25, 2015) – The U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball National Team will host Russia in a five-match series Feb. 27-March 1 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

The U.S. Women, which earned the silver medal at the 2014 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championship and is currently ranked third in the world, will play No. 7 Russia on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. MT, followed by a single match on March 1 at 9 a.m.

While Team USA qualified for the 2016 Paralympic Games based on its second-place finish at the World Championship, Russia just missed out qualifying for the Paralympics with a bronze finish at World Championships. The U.S. defeated Russia 3-1 in the World Championship semifinal round to secure its Paralympic Games berth.

“The team is looking forward to playing one of the top teams in the world as we make our preparations for the 2015 ParaPan American Games and 2016 Paralympic Games,” U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Head Coach Bill Hamiter said. “It is vital that we significantly expand our experience base this year as we work toward those two major events and make medal runs at each event.”

The Americans will later play at the ParaPan American Games, an event for teams from North and South America held every four years, in Toronto Aug. 7-16. The Russians will use the upcoming five-match series with the U.S. to help prepare for its European Championships in October, which is the next chance for them to qualify for the Paralympics.

The U.S. roster for this weekend will be a blend of veterans and newcomers. Veteran captain Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.) and Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.) are primary offense threats, along with Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Okla.). Bethany Zummo (Dublin, Calif.) is an experienced libero gaining confidence since taking over the starting role in 2013. Other 2014 World Championship returnees who will see action this weekend in Denver are Nichole Millage (Champaign, Ill.), Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.) and Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minn.).

Team USA will have four players competing who were not part of the 2014 World Championship silver-medal team: three-time Paralympian Lora Webster (Phoenix, Ariz.) who has silver medals in 2008 and 2012 along with a bronze medal in 2004, Angie (DeHaan) Palacio (Yuba City, Calif.), Courtney Baker (Crofton, Ky.) and Tia Edwards (Skiatook, Okla.).

“We have a mixture of experienced and less experienced players on the roster for Denver,” Hamiter said. “It will be exciting to see how our less experienced players perform against a high caliber team like Russia. I am expecting some wonderful play.”

For the second consecutive year, Team USA will play Russia in conjunction with the Colorado Crossroads, one of 12 national qualifiers into the 2015 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships. Last year the two teams split a pair of matches in the Denver Sitting Volleyball Challenge that also included top-ranked China and No. 4 Brazil.

“The Colorado Crossroads event has been a major supporter of the Sitting Program over the years,” Hamiter said. “We are excited to be competing there once again. Playing in front of a large crowd benefits the team in preparing for major competitions like the ParaPan American Games and the Paralympics. Being in front of so many girl youth players, as Crossroads provides, is and has been crucial to recruitment for the Women’s Sitting Team. It is also a major promotional event for us. The atmosphere, direction and energy of Crossroads makes it a perfect place for us to compete.”

Russia is becoming a routine traveler to the United States to play the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team. The two teams played a four-match series at Team USA’s training site at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Rosters for USA vs. Russia in Denver

U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball National Team
1 – Lora Webster (Phoenix, Ariz.)
2 – Bethany Zummo (Dublin, Calif.)
3 – Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minn.)
5 – Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.)
6 – Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.)
7 – Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Okla.)
8 – Angie (DeHaan) Palacio (Yuba City, Calif.)
13 – Nichole Millage (Champaign, Ill.)
16 – Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.)
17 – Tia Edwards (Skiatook, Okla.)
18 – Courtney Baker (Crofton, Ky.)

Head Coach: Bill Hamiter
Assistant Coach: Cara Lang
Team Manager: Laura Finch
Statistician: Jeff Hicks
Therapist/Trainer: Patrick Lawrence

Russia Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team
Irina Smirnova
Tatiana Ivanova
Yulia Zakrevskaya
Irina Panina
Ekaterina Chepkiy
Iulia Mednikova
Elizaveta Kuntsman
Liubov Permiakova
Marina Karaseva
Olga Arbatskaya
Natalia Kolbasova