Women's Sitting Splits Opening Matches

By Bill Kauffman | Feb. 27, 2015, 11:09 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 27, 2015) – The U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball National Team opened its 2015 season with a split against Russia with each team taking a five-set match Friday at Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Team USA, ranked No. 3 in the world, and No. 7 Russia continue the five-match weekend series on Saturday with matches at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. MT. The series concludes on Sunday at 9 a.m. The matches are being played alongside the Colorado Crossroads, one of 12 national qualifiers into the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships.

In the morning match, the Americans captured a 25-18, 13-25, 25-23, 11-25, 15-8 victory. The U.S. overcame a 16-10 deficit in the third set by winning 15 of the 22 points. Team USA rallied from an early 5-4 deficit in the deciding fifth set with an 8-1 run en route to the 15-8 victory.

DataVolley Stats: Feb. 27 Match 1 | Feb. 27 Match 2

U.S. captain Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, N.C.) and Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Wash.) each connected for 16 points, including six blocks apiece. Lora Webster (Phoenix, Ariz.) tallied four aces as part of an eight-point performance. Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minn.) added six points with four blocks. Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Fla.), Nichole Millage (Champaign, Ill.) and Angie DeHaan Palacios (Yuba City, Calif.) recorded four points each. Libero Bethany Zummo (Dublin, Calif.) handled 20 receptions with a 30 positive percent, while Holloway was 62 percent positive on 13 chances.

Statistically, Russia held advantages of 16-11 in aces and 21-20 in blocks during the opening match while also attacking at a 40 kill percent to the Americans’ 28 percent.

In the afternoon contest, Russia bounced back from a 2-0 set deficit to win 31-33, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-5. Erickson paced the U.S. with 22 points with 11 kills, nine blocks and two aces while hitting 44 percent. Webster chipped in 12 points, including six blocks and five aces. Holloway pocketed 11 points, all on kills via a 41 kill percent. Nieves and Millage each added five points, and Shifflett was credited with three points. In her first international match, Tia Edwards (Skiatook, Okla.) started the second and third sets for Millage and provided three points including two aces on nine serves. Zummo passed with a 68 positive percent on 28 service reception chances.

Team USA edged Russia 23-20 in blocks in the second match, while Russia managed a 13-12 ace advantage. Russia hit 38 percent in the match and limited the U.S. to a 28 percent.

“As one would suspect for our first matches of the year our play was inconsistent,” U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Head Coach Bill Hamiter said. “The team executed very well in some sets and quite bad in others.”

Team USA, which is using a balanced roster of experienced veterans and newcomers, was happy with the progress during the two matches. However, Hamiter sees a chance to continue improvement against a tall and experienced Russia squad.

“I was pleased we were in both matches, giving ourselves a chance to win, against a good opponent like Russia,” Hamiter said. “Russia is a very tall team making match ups tough. To play two-five set matches and winning one reflected how hard the team competed today. We will look to improve our serve-receive tomorrow, which should help us in playing the other facets of the game.”

After the first day, Hamiter applauded the efforts of Edwards in her international debut.

“I was pleased with the energy and play of Tia Edwards at outside gaining her first international match experience,” Hamiter said. “I thought she did quite well. The matches today definitely helped us meet our goal of broadening our experience base.”

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 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.

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