On the final day of the Tokyo Paralympics, the U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team won gold, defeating China 3-1.
The Tokyo gold medal match marked the fourth straight time the U.S. and China met in the women’s sitting volleyball final at the Paralympics:
- 2008 Beijing: China def. United States 3-0
- 2012 London: China def. United States 3-1
- 2016 Rio: United States def. China 3-0
- 2020 Tokyo: United States def. China 3-1
“Every Games has been really different. In Beijing and London we knew (China) were a better team, but we wanted to come after them,” U.S. captain Katie Holloway told Olympic Information Service (OIS) after winning gold. “This Games, we have literally not seen China for five years, we had no idea they were gonna show up like that… Taking on China this time was all about being resilient.”
Earlier in the Paralympic tournament, the U.S. lost to China in group play (3-0). The Americans regrouped with a three-hour sports psych meeting, and assembled a perfect record in their remaining games.
In today’s final, the U.S. opened with a massive 25-12 first set, and then took the second 25-20.
“The American team put a lot of pressure on us in the first and second set and we weren’t able to perform what we should,” China’s Tang Xuemei told Olympic Information Service.
China came back with a strong third set (22-25) before the U.S. won the fourth (25-19) to secure the gold medal.
“Today, we did a really good job of refocusing ourselves, especially after we lost that third set,” Heather Erickson told USA Volleyball. “Knowing that’s not the end. We just have to refocus and play our game.”
U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team amasses tournament awards
In addition to winning gold, the U.S. squad collected a variety of individual accolades:
- Katie Holloway: MVP of the Paralympic tournament
- Bethany Zummo: Best Libero and Best Receiver
- Kaleo Kanahele Maclay: Best Setter
- Monique Matthews: Best Blocker
Three players – American Lora Webster and China’s Lyu Hongqin and Zhang Xufei – also continued an impressive streak. All three players have now won medals at every Paralympics since women’s sitting volleyball debuted in 2004.
Webster, the only five-time Paralympian on the U.S. team, competed in Tokyo while 20 weeks pregnant with her fourth child. Webster, an Arizona native, was also pregnant when she won silver at the 2012 London Games.
“People need to know that as long as you’re healthy, and I’m not trying to give medical advice by any stretch, it is possible to remain active and a pregnancy doesn’t have to derail your goals,” Webster said ahead of the Tokyo tournament.
U.S. overcame last minute roster changes and Covid scare
The U.S. women’s sitting volleyball roster saw some last minute changes after two players tested positive for Covid-19.
Just days before the U.S. team’s first game at the Tokyo Paralympics, USA Volleyball confirmed that Nicky Nieves and Tia Edwards – both members of the initial 12-person U.S. roster – had been replaced by Annie Flood and Nichole Millage.
The final U.S. women’s sitting volleyball roster included:
- Lora Webster (MB, Point Lookout, New York)
- Bethany Zummo (L, Dublin, California)
- Lexi Shifflett (S/L, Waseca, Minnesota)
- Katie Holloway (OH, Lake Stevens, Washington)
- Heather Erickson (OPP, Fayetteville, North Carolina)
- Monique Matthews (MB/OH, Ardmore, Oklahoma)
- Whitney Dosty (OH/OPP, Tucson, Arizona)
- Jillian Williams (MB/OPP/OH, Odem, Texas)
- Emma Schieck (OH, Statesville, North Carolina)
- Nichole Millage (OPP, Champaign, Illinois)
- Kaleo Kanahele Maclay (S, Edmond, Oklahoma)
- Annie Flood (S/OPP, Salem, Oregon)
The team was led by head coach Bill Hamiter and assistant coach Michelle Goodall.
Sitting volleyball team completes trio of gold medals in women’s volleyball
The U.S. claimed gold in every women’s volleyball event at this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics, with the sitting volleyball team building on the Olympic success of the U.S. indoor volleyball and beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman.
“Women can do anything they put their mind to, and USA Volleyball has the strongest women in the world,” Holloway said on the NBCSN broadcast. “It is incredible to be in that place. We are so grateful to be among the most powerful women in the world in volleyball.”
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