COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 23, 2016) – Just hours after receiving word that she'd been named to her third Paralympic roster, U.S. Women's Sitting Volleyball Captain Heather Erickson received an additional surprise: She is one of five nominees for "Best Female Athlete with a Disability" at this year's ESPY awards.
Other nominated athletes are Tatyana McFadden (track and field), Oksana Masters (rowing and cross-country skiing), Bethany Hamilton (surfing) and Shawn Morelli (cycling).
Heather was nominated following her "MVP" and "Best Spiker" performance during the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup in Anji, China in March. Erickson recorded 80 kills, 13 blocks and 10 aces during the tournament, including 16-kill matches against China in the gold medal match and Ukraine. By comparison, Team USA’s non-Chinese opponents recorded a combined 72 kills.
Fans can vote for Heather here. Voting ends 8 p.m. ET on July 13. Hosted by John Cena, the ESPYs are scheduled to air live on ESPN on July 13 from Los Angeles, California.
Started in 1993, the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award – or ESPY – recognizes the best of the previous year's sports performances by both individuals and teams. Former USA Volleyball ESPY nominations include Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor who won the "Under Armour Undeniable Performance" award in 2005, and current U.S. Women's National Team setter Courtney Thompson, also in 2005, for "Best Female College Athlete" following All-American, NCAA National Championship season at the University of Washington.
Women's Sitting Team Headed to Europe
With its Paralympic roster set, the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team next turns its focus to the Dutch Tournament in Assen, Netherlands.
The U.S. will play six matches in three days, facing world-ranked No. 1 China, Ukraine, Russia, Rwanda, Slovenia and host-nation Netherlands. All teams except for Slovenia and Netherlands are qualified for September’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; China and Rwanda are in the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team Paralympic pool.
“We definitely want to win and beat everyone there, but it’s also about getting into a good momentum going into the Paralympics,” Setter Kaleo Kanahele said.
Kanahele said the team is excited for the daunting schedule, which pits world-wide No. 1 China against the No. 2- ranked Americans on the third day.
“This is really going to help us build stamina,” Kanahele added. “The thing about Rio is you put absolutely every ounce into each game, so these matches beforehand will be good because it creates pressure and stamina. It will be tiring, but it sets up this perfect storm to perform at our best even under pressure.”
USAV set to introduce sitting volleyball in Dallas
Athletes, parents and other volleyball fans will have an opportunity to learn sitting volleyball for the first time or improve their skills when U.S. Men’s Sitting Team Head Coach Greg Walker leads two clinics during the Dallas Sports Festival on July 1 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center.
Fans can learn basic volleyball skills from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and learn sitting volleyball from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Members of the U.S. Men’s National Team will be on-site to sign autographs for fans immediately before the morning sessions, beginning at 10 a.m. before playing three World League matches July 1-3.
“It’s exciting to be included in Dallas and participate. I think it’s cool that our Men’s National Team will be competing down there and it’s good exposure whenever we can have National Team personnel in the same place as the Sitting program," Walker said.
The event will provide members of the public an opportunity to try various Olympic and Paralympic sports, including sitting volleyball, boxing and fencing; U.S. Fencing and U.S. Boxing also are conducting their national championships and junior Olympic and prep national championships, respectively.
For more information, including how to purchase tickets, click here.
Men’s Team set for camp
This weekend the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team holds its final camp before Walker and his staff name the 2016 Paralympic roster. Walker anticipates a highly-competitive camp after seeing intentional changes by his athletes both on and off the court in recent months.
“If you look at where our team was last year when we qualified (at Para Pan Ams) compared to now, we’re a much different team,” Walker said. “We’ve talked a lot about what it means to be a part of the USA Volleyball family and represent our country. I’m excited to see the competitiveness and energy this camp and start building toward the line-up we hope to have in Rio.”
Also a priority for the camp? Continuing to build confidence to compete – and defeat – some of the top teams in the world.
“I know the guys are hungry, and it’s allowing us to kick things up a notch,” Walker said. “I truly feel like our offense is one of the fastest in the world, and if we’re successfully playing defense against that, then we’ll be able to defend at a higher level in Rio.”
Sitting team heads to Texas
On Wednesday, June 22, Jese Schag, Stephen Bracken, John Kremer, Chris Hoodye and Alyssa Cleland, along with Walker and Men’s Assistant Coach Joe Skinner traveled to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.
About 50 kids, ages 8 to 14, learned sitting volleyball in a two hour clinic as part of the MSU Mustangs Volleyball Camp. In addition to learning basic skills such as passing and attacking, the campers scrimmaged one another and had a chance to ask the sitting athletes questions.
“You could tell the campers absolutely loved it and had a lot of fun playing with our athletes while learning a new variation of the sport,” Skinner said.
The North Texas Region co-sponsored the teams’ appearance, helping provide transportation to the University. Additionally, Midwestern State’s Head Volleyball Coach Natalie Rawson and her staff assisted the U.S. athletes, alongside members of the MSU volleyball team.
“It was a great to have that regional support from Natalie and the North Texas Region,” Skinner said. “We really want to thank Midwestern State for bringing us there, and for the hospitality we were shown.”
U.S. Sitting represented at Warrior Games
U.S. Women’s Sitting Middle Blocker Nicky Nieves found herself at the airport much of last week, traveling to West Point, New York ahead of the U.S. Women's Sitting Team's training camp to serve as assistant coach for the Army sitting volleyball team at the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games.
Linda Gomez of the Florida Region served as head coach; the pair worked closely together to prep the team ahead of preliminary competition on Wednesday, June 15. Army won gold in 2015, but finished with the bronze medal this year.
“It’s been a really interesting, fun experience coaching these guys,” Nieves said. “I’ve done some coaching, but I really enjoyed getting to teach them the skills that I was learning when I started playing sitting.”
Although no other member of the U.S. Sitting Teams participated this year, Air Force veteran and current U.S. Women's Sitting Team libero Kari Miller and Women’s Sitting Team captain Heather Erickson have coached in previous years.