Sitting Volleyball Vets Enjoying Life at the Top

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | March 20, 2018, 12:15 p.m. (ET)
Heather Erickson, Nichole Millage, Katie Holloway and Lora Webster at Crossroads
From left, Heather Erickson, Nichole Millage, Katie Holloway and Lora Webster 

DENVER, Colo. (March 20, 2018) Lora Webster has spent almost half her life training and competing with the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team.

She was with the U.S. program at its inception, when few knew about the sport and it was difficult to find athletes with a disability who could also play volleyball.

“Back in 2003, when we were trying to get this off the ground, we were just trying to get bodies out there so we could see what the sport could become,” she said. “It gave us a great idea of what we could build to and now we have built up to that point.”

Webster, 31, and the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team were at the Colorado Convention Center last weekend to play exhibition matches against Canada and Russia in conjunction with the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier. The team has played matches at Crossroad off and on since 2009.

The U.S. Women went 2-0 against Canada without dropping a set and 3-0 against Russia while only losing two sets.

It was a good start to a 2018 season that will include the ParaVolley World Championships. The U.S. Women have never won the World Championships, finishing second to China for the last two tournaments (in 2010 and 2014).

After the U.S. Women won the 2016 Paralympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro and became ranked No. 1 in the world, they have become the team to beat; something that is just fine with Webster.

“It’ll be fun to have people chasing us,” she said. “In the past, we’ve always been chasing China, mainly. It’ll be fun to have that target on our back and know that everyone is chasing us.

“We’ve always felt that we could be the best. Now we’ve proven it and we have to work hard to maintain that.”

Webster is the only remaining player from the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team that won a bronze medal at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. Three others, Heather Erickson, Katie Holloway and Nichole Millage remain from the team that took silver at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing and silver at the 2012 Games in London.

All appreciate how much the team and the sitting volleyball program have improved over the years.

Like Webster, Millage, 40, is enjoying the view from the top of the world of women’s sitting volleyball, even if it means having a target on her back.

“Everybody wants to beat the best,” she said. “I like that they’re working hard to beat us because it will keep pushing us.”

All four athletes also talked about how deep the team’s bench has become over the years.

 “As a team, the dynamics shift from (Paralympic quadrennial) to quad in a good way. Everything just gets better and better,” said Holloway, 31, the team’s captain who is in her 12th year. “Our bench is deeper than its ever been. Every person has grown in a way that makes a huge contribution to the team.”

Erickson, 24, who is also going into her 11th year, pointed out that the game of sitting volleyball has also improved.

“There used to be no movement; pass right,” she said. “Now we’re running systems.

“The depth of our bench is amazing. We were able to play our bench (at Crossroads) and it was still an awesome game.”

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