COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 22, 2012) – Alongside four first-time Paralympians, eight veterans will seek their first Paralympic gold medal on the U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Lora Webster (Phoenix, Arizona) will play in her fourth consecutive Paralympics after winning bronze in 2004 with the first-ever U.S. Women’s Paralympic Team at just 18 years old, while captain Heather Erickson (Fayetteville, North Carolina), Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Washington), Nichole Millage (Champaign, Illinois), and Kari Miller (Washington D.C.) each make their third appearance.
Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Oklahoma), Kaleo Kanahele (Edmond, Oklahoma) and Michelle Schiffler (Lake Wales, Florida) return following their Paralympic debuts at the 2012 London Games. First-time Paralympic team members are Tia Edwards (Skiatook, Oklahoma), Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Florida), Lexi Shifflett (Waseca, Minnesota) and Bethany Zummo (Dublin, California).
Courtney Baker (Crofton, Kentucky) has been named as an alternate.
“We have experience across the board at every position and that’s a great thing for us,” Head Coach Bill Hamiter said. “The team reflects the balance we’ve tried to have this quad and really shows the quality of the players who have come in.”
The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team, currently ranked No. 2 in the world by World ParaVolley, won silver in 2008 and 2012, falling to China each time. The team won bronze in 2004, when women’s sitting volleyball made its Paralympic debut. Following a five-set loss to China in the gold medal match of the 2014 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships, the U.S. began training with renewed focus to win a Paralympic gold medal in Rio.
“They’ve been working hard since London and Worlds, so we’ll see where it takes us,” Hamiter said. “Top-to-bottom, this is probably as experienced a team as we’ve had. They’ve been to the highs and lows of the game and know how to handle tough or unexpected situations.”
The average age on the team is 27.5 years old, although four of the seven starters, including Zummo at libero, at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup in March in Anji, China were 23 years old or younger.
Zummo was named an alternate for the 2012 team. Since missing London, Hamiter said she and Nieves applied themselves, working tirelessly to earn starting roles as libero and middle blocker, respectively.
“I think they were both disappointed in not getting to go to London, and they had a choice: either let it defeat them or be disappointed and work twice as hard to make sure it didn’t happen again. They’ve proven themselves to the coaching staff time and time again,” Hamiter said.
Joining Hamiter’s coaching staff are assistant coaches Cara Lang and Lazaro Beltran. Lang also served as an assistant coach in London, while Beltran played for the Cuban Men’s National Team, playing in the 1992 Olympics and winning gold at the 1991 Pan American Games.
Jeff Hicks will be the technical coordinator; Iowa Region Director Michelle Goodall and Patrick Lawrence have been named team leader and athletic trainer, respectively.
Before departing for the Paralympics, the team will play in the Dutch Tournament in Assen, Netherlands July 1-3, facing world No. 1 China, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Rwanda and Netherlands. All the teams except Slovenia and Netherlands are Paralympic-qualified.
“Our goal will be to give everyone an opportunity to play, especially in key roles that might happen in Rio,” Hamiter said. “That’s part of the strength of this roster: they’re deep with experience and ability and many of them have specific skills they can contribute to the team. I think compared to other countries, the depth of our experience from both starters and players on the bench is pretty unprecedented.”
The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team Paralympic schedule has not yet been released. The Opening Ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 7; the sitting volleyball competition runs Sept. 9 through Sept. 17. The U.S. will face China, Iran and Rwanda in the round-robin pool play tournament.
All athlete and staff nominations to the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team are subject to approval but the United States Olympic Committee.
U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team Roster
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown)
1. Lora 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 Kanahele (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