Erickson leads way as United States stay on course to defend Paralympic title

The defending champions in women’s sitting volleyball, the United States, are on track to defend their title after they defeated Brazil 3-0 (25-19, 25-11, 25-23) in the first semifinal of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall A on Friday.

USA have won four medals since women’s sitting volleyball was included in the sport programme of the Paralympic Games. They won bronze at Athens 2004, silver at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and gold at Rio 2016. Brazil claimed bronze in their home games after finishing fifth in London.

Heather Erickson led all scorers with 12 points built from eight attacks, three blocks and an ace in the USA win, and then middle blocker Lora Webster, who also had a good all-around game, contributed five attacks, four stuff blocks and an ace.

Brazil had many point contribution from their players, but their scoring leaders Adria Jesus da Silva and Nathalie Filomena de Lima Silva, produced only six markers apiece in the three-set match.

Brazil and USA were going at it from the start, showcasing fast-paced rallies and tough serves. USA were ahead only by a couple of points throughout the set, but their rivals still struggled to take over the lead.

The USA mounted a 20-15 lead as their impenetrable net defence caused trouble to the Brazilian attackers. The South Americans still fought for every point in the succeeding plays and trailed 24-19, but the North Americans were determined and clinched the final point to seal the first set victory.

USA had an 8-0 start in the second set and worked like a well-oiled machine to cruise with a huge 21-7 edge. Then coach Bill Hamiter allowed his other players to contribute in the remaining sequence. And without any disruption in the score, the substitutes delivered the second set win at 25-11.

Brazil started the third set with a 3-0 lead off greats serves from Edwarda de Oliveira Dias. However, the strong Brazilian run did not last long, as USA took control of the set and soon surged ahead with a 12-6 advantage, courtesy of Monique Matthews’ hard serves.

Brazil held USA to score only one point in the next few plays while they amassed six markers to trail by one point. USA regrouped and reached the second technical timeout with a 16-13 edge. Brazil made another run and succeeded to tie the score at 19-all, then after a series of ties, Brazil came out with a 23-22 lead. A block by Webster tied the game again at 23-all, before an attack error by Brazil and attack winner by Matthews sealed match victory for USA at 25-23.

“I’ve only seen China once and it was earlier this week so we’re kind of reviewing that film. Keeping both (Canada and China) in mind but also knowing that no matter what at the end of the day we have to really focus on our game and doing the little things right,” USA’s Emma Schieck said.

“Here’s my biggest thing when it comes to this game, is you gonna have fun because when we’re having fun, we’re playing our game, and we’re playing to the highest level. And I think when we’re doing that, nobody can touch us. I think if we want to win this gold medal, we’re gonna have to bring the energy and again do the little things right and we’ll be on our way.”