(Photo and reports from CPC)

Canada’s women’s sitting volleyball team defeated Rwanda 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-20) on Thursday to finish in seventh place overall at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“It feels great.  We came into the tournament as underdogs and we wanted to play really hard in our last game. We did that – we went out with excitement and energy, and we played our game,” said Danielle Ellis (Langley, BC), who was Canada’s top scorer with 19 points. “We were able to get kills when we were in system, which is great.”

Rwanda finishes eighth. The sitting volleyball medal rounds will be played over the next two days.

With several young players new to the sport getting their first taste of a Paralympic tournament, the future is looking bright for this program.

“I think that the girls have learned that it takes a lot more than what we thought coming into it to be great at the best level here,” said Canada’s sitting volleyball women’s coach, Nicole Ban. “What we’ve really learned is we need to be consistent, we need to be able to follow a game plan, to be able to execute in a match against the world’s best teams, and we’re there at times but it’s going to take a little bit more work and a little bit more experience at this high level. I think it means everything to us as a program; we’ve kind of played the underdog coming in and this was the first match that we’re playing that there’s a place when we finish…  It was really important to end on a win and finally see all that work.”

The women’s team qualified after their bronze medal performance at last year’s Parapan Am Games; the men’s team missed qualifying after a battle with the U.S. for the spot. This was the first team to represent Canada at the Paralympics in the discipline of sitting volleyball.

“We put a lot of work in and have put pressure on ourselves to perform. We really supported each other, and it was very important for us to win this match,” said Heidi Peters of Neerlandia, AB.  “We pushed some competitive teams and developed over the tournament. I’m really proud to be part of this team.”