Women's Sitting Team Earns USAV Team of the Year

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Jan. 24, 2019, 7:05 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Women's National Sitting Volleyball Team
U.S. Women's National Sitting Volleyball Team from the 2018 World ParaVolley World Championships

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 24, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Sitting Volleyball Team pumped out win after win in 2018, finishing with a 21-1 record as both veterans and young players contributed throughout the season. In the process, the squad earned a spot into the 2020 Paralympic Games to defend its 2016 title.

Off the court, the squad recently picked up one final 2018 win – selection as USA Volleyball’s Team of the Year for 2018.

The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team capped off its remarkable year by claiming silver at the ParaVolley World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The squad was one victory away from an undefeated season and adding a couple program firsts – an undefeated season and an elusive gold in the World Championship. Team USA has now won silver in the last three World Championship events.

“It was a good year for us overall,” said Bill Hamiter, head coach for the U.S. Women’s National Sitting Team. “If you look at our win-loss record, you can see it was a highly competitive season for us. The only downside to the season was that loss for the gold medal at the World Championships. As much as we would have liked to have won that match, we are realistic to know that we are not going to win every time. We looked at it as an overall very good year, plus qualifying for Tokyo Paralympics. That was one of our main goals for the season.”

The U.S. reeled off 21 consecutive victories before its season-ending loss to Russia in the World Championships gold-medal match. The Americans went 5-0 at the Colorado Crossroads exhibition matches in Denver, defeating Russia three times and Canada twice in March. The U.S. went 5-0 against Canada during the USA Volleyball Open National Championships exhibition matches at Dallas over Memorial Day weekend.

Related: U.S. Women's Sitting Team Raises Bar in First Training Block of 2019

Team USA traveled to Assen, Netherlands in mid-June to play in the Dutch Tournament against a highly regarded field. The U.S. went 6-0 in the tournament including two wins each over Russia, host Netherlands and Ukraine. The Americans swept Russia 25-16, 25-18, 25-16 in the final match of the tournament to win gold.

At the World Championships, Team USA went through pool play without dropping a set to Hungary, Russia and Japan. The U.S. continued its perfect set record in the playoffs with a sweep over Ukraine in the quarterfinals and limiting Italy to 25 total points in the semifinals to earn its ticket to the 2020 Paralympic Games. In the gold-medal match, the Americans won the opening set 25-18 against Russia and looked on the verge of winning their first World Championships title. However, Russia came back to win the next three sets 27-25, 26-24, 26-24 in a close battle that could have gone either way in each set.

U.S. outside hitter Heather Erickson said the loss to Russia holds a silver lining as it provided some areas to work on leading up to the 2020 Paralympic Games.

“We came up short, so now we have more things to work on,” Erickson said. “I think we need to work more on making sure we are in every moment and focusing on every play and not looking to the future in the middle of a match.”

The U.S. placed three members on the World Championships Dream Team. Katie Holloway was named Best Blocker, while Kaleo Maclay was tabbed Best Setter and Bethany Zummo was Best Libero.

While veterans earned the bulk of the playing time in key situations, Hamiter was able to give opportunities to younger players during the course of the season.

“We had a lot of positive play from a lot of our players,” Hamiter said. “It bodes well for our future as well.”

The 2018 roster had nine players with at least one Paralympic Games under their belt, and four veterans with at least three Paralympic Games appearances. Hamiter sees the growing A2 program pipeline and younger athletes experiencing court time as a positive for the program.

“We are always looking for new players – players who can help us out in the near future and the far future,” Hamiter said. “At the World Championships, Jillian Williams competed in her first really big competition, and she played pretty well when given the opportunity. I think she is one of those players who, if she continues her development, we will definitely count on in the future. Other players like Annie Flood and Emma Schieck, who are 16 and 17-year-olds, are competing well. We have a few other young players who are coming up through the A2 program as well. That is a positive sign for the program’s future.”

2018 U.S. Women’s National Sitting Team
Name (Position, Height, Hometown)
Courtney Baker (OH, 5-9, Crofton, Kentucky)
Monique Burkland (OH, 5-9, Ardmore, Oklahoma)
Whitney Dosty (OH, 6-3, Tucson, Arizona)
Tia Edwards (OH, 5-7, Skitatook, Oklahoma)
Heather Erickson (OH, 5-11, Fayetteville, North Carolina)
Annie Flood (S/OPP, 5-7, Salem, Oregon)
Katie Holloway (OH, 6-3, Lake Stevens, Washington)
Kaleo Kanahele Maclay (S, 5-6, Edmond, Oklahoma)
Nichole Millage (OH, 5-7, Champaign, Illinois)
Nicky Nieves (MB, 5-10, Kissimmee, Florida)
Sydney Satchell (L, 5-1, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
Emma Schieck (OH, 5-7, Statesville, North Carolina)
Lexi Shifflett (S, 5-4, Waseca, Minnesota)
Lora Webster (MB, 5-11, Point Lookout, New York)
Jillian Williams (OPP, 5-10, Odem, Texas)
Bethany Zummo (L, 5-2, Dublin, California)

Head Coach: Bill Hamiter
Assistant Coach: Lazaro Beltran
Assistant Coach: Jon Aharoni
Athletic Trainer: Patrick Lawrence
Team Manager: Michelle Goodall
Technical Coordinator: Jeffery Hicks