Teams and Draw Pools for Women’s PHF Championship Draw Revealed: Cuba is No Show    

Cuba’s Women’s Team: Good news for the U.S. and other 2nd tier Pan-American nations: They won’t be participating at the upcoming Championships

The Pan-American Handball Federation (PHF) has revealed the draw pools for this summer’s Pan-American Sr. Women’s Championship and in doing so they have confirmed that Cuba, the 2015 silver medalist will not be participating in the competition.  There was no indication as to why, but it is likely due to budget considerations.  Cuba’s absence means that only two dominant teams (Brazil and Argentina) will be participating and that several nations, including the U.S., now have a realistic chance of securing 3rd place and Pan-America’s last World Championship qualification slot.

The 10 teams will be drawn into two groups of 5 teams each with 1 team coming from each of the following pairs:

  • Brazil, Argentina
  • Puerto Rico, Uruguay
  • Paraguay, Chile
  • USA, Guatemala
  • Colombia, Dominican Republic

Based on past performance it’s pretty much unfathomable that Brazil will not be in the final.  Argentina is not as good as Brazil, but as they are now the tournament it’s pretty improbable that they will also not reach the final.  Among the remaining 8 teams there is a great deal of parity with only Guatemala being at a significantly lower level of play.  I would give, Puerto Rico a slight edge based on their 4th place finish two years ago, but the U.S. certainly is in the conversation as well having split two matches against them recently at the NORCA Championship. Puerto Rico was, however, missing at least one key player, 22 year old breakout star right wing, Jailene Maldonado, who now plays professionally in Spain.  Uruguay, which beat the U.S. to qualify for the 2015 PANAM Games is also in the mix.

The date for the actual draw has not been announced.  The tournament will take place in Buenos Aires from 18-25 June.

2015 Championship Results: Link

PHF Article on Draw Pools: Link

 

USA Takes Gold after Thrilling Comeback vs Martinique

Team USA: Pan-American IHF Trophy Champions

The U.S. beat Martinique 21-20 yesterday to take Gold in the IHF Trophy Championship for Pan-America.  The first half of the match saw Martinique control the match and tempo for a 12-7 halftime lead.  The second half saw the U.S. and Martinique trade goals for the first 13 minutes with Martinique leading 16-11.  The U.S. then went on a 5 goal run to cut the lead to 16-15.  The match was then a nip/tuck affair with the U.S. first tying the score 18-18 at the 27 minute mark and taking its first lead, 20-19 with 1:12 left in the game.

The last minute had several frenetic sequences.  First, the U.S. lost its team captain, Antoine Baup to a 2 minute penalty.  Martinique scored shorty thereafter tying the match at 20-20 and then put a lot of defensive pressure on the down a man U.S. offense.  A wing shot by Youssef El Far missed, but hit the cross bar and was rebounded by Tyler Boykin giving the U.S. another opportunity.  And Sam Hoddersen took that opportunity, getting fouled for a 7 meter penalty shot which he then scored giving the U.S a 21-20 lead.  With just 5 seconds remaining Martinique immediately went on attack and received its own 7 meter penalty with no time remaining.  But, the opportunity to send the match into overtime was denied by USA goalie, Rene Ingram.  Video of the save and the resulting U.S. victory celebration can be seen here: Link  (The contrast between the Martinique and USA reactions tells all.)

Team USA Scoring
Sam Hoddersen- 11
Youssef El Far- 4
Antoine Baup- 3
Cedric Kollman-2
Michael Lee- 1
(Note: Sean Zimber was marked defensively almost the entire game.  That strategy held him scoreless, but I’m not so sure it was a smart strategy overall.)

The U.S. was well represented on the tournament All Star team with 4 players receiving honors

Left Back – Sean Zimber
Right Back – Sam Hoddersen
Right Wing – Youssef El Far
Goalkeeper – Rene Ingram

Cedrick Kollman was also the tournament’s leading scorer.

The victory qualifies the U.S. for the IHF Trophy Intercontinental Championship where the U.S. will meet the winners of the Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania competitions.  The IHF Trophy tournament is a tournament that the IHF has adopted to give developing handball nations more opportunities to compete.

Video of match: Link

Video of Closing Ceremonies: Link

USA Takes Care of Business vs Guatemala; Rematch vs Martinique Today for Title

Team USA on defense vs Guatemala

Yesterday, the U.S. finished Group Play with a comfortable, 28-21 victory over Guatemala.  Sam Hoddersen led the U.S. in scoring with 12 goals while Antoine Baup had 8.  Youssef El Far (4), Sean Zimber (3) and Tyler Boykin (1) rounded out the scoring.

The game had originally been scheduled for Tuesday, but due to strong rains and a leaky roof it had to be rescheduled for Friday.  With the win, the U.S. finished in 2nd place with a 2-1-0 record and today will get a chance to avenge its loss against undefeated Martinique.  The U.S. lost by 10 against Martinique, but with a title on the line don’t be surprised if this rematch is a lot more competitive.  The winner of today’s match will take home the gold and will also advance to the Intercontinenal IHF Trophy tournament where it will face the winners from Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania.

Game time is 1600 ET

Web Stream: Link

Competition Website: Link

USA Defeats Colombia 25-23 in First IHF Trophy Match

Antoine Baup (#6) and Sean Zimber (#7) on defense while Rene Ingram tends goal.

After a rain out Tuesday, the USA got some court action yesterday against tournament hosts Colombia.  Right out of the gate the USA took a 5 goal lead only to have Colombia chip away at the lead to end the first half tied 12-12.  In the 2nd half Colombia took a 21-18 lead, but the USA staged its own comeback and controlled the last 10 minutes of play for the eventual 25-23 victory.  Rene Ingram was instrumental in goal with many big saves, including several on penalty shots.  Cedric Kollman and Sam Hoddersen led USA scoring with 7 and 6 goals, respectively.  Antoine Baup and Sean Zimber added 4 each.  Michael Lee and Youssef El Far rounded out the scoring with 2 a piece.

Tonight the USA plays 2-0 Martinique at 2000 Eastern Time.  A win will guarantee the U.S. a trip to the championship game which will most likely be a rematch vs Martinique.  Even with a loss, the U.S. is still in good shape and would still qualify for the final with a win over Guatemala on Friday.

Live steam: Link

USA Men’s Jr Team to Start Play for IHF Trophy Continental Championship

Team USA at yesterday’s opening ceremonies in Tunja, Colombia

The USA Men’s Jr Team is in Tunja, Colombia for the IHF Trophy Continental Championship.  The IHF Trophy is a series of tournaments for developing nations that is played throughout the world.  This tournament features the winners of the 4 regional tournaments that have been previously played.

USA: North American Zone
Martinique: Caribbean Zone
Guatemala: Central American Zone
Colombia: South American Zone

The 4 teams will play a round robin and then the bottom 2 teams will play for 3rd and the top 2 teams will play for 1st.  The winner will then advance to the final Intercontinental tournament where they will play the winners of the other continental championships.

The USA had been scheduled to start play on Tuesday, but the game had to be postponed due to heavy rains and a leaky roof making the court unplayable.  The game will now be made up on Friday.  Depending on the standings this rescheduling could put the U.S. at a disadvantage for the Championship game as both Colombia and Martinique will have a rest day while the USA and Guatemala play.  Martinique beat Colombia 31-27 on Tuesday prior to the rain storm.

The USA team will include several of the players that competed in the Jr Championship last month in Paraguay.  This team narrowly missed out on qualification for the World Jr Championship so they should have a solid chance of winning this tournament for developing nations.  Martinique, which is a Department of France, however, has a strong handball tradition and could field a quality side.  For all we know, there could be a future Joel Abati, who was a mainstay on the French National Team for 14 years, playing for them. Colombia, as host, also should not be counted out particularly when playing in Tunja, which has an altitude of 9,200 ft.

USA Match Schedule (Revised)

Wednesday, 26 April, 1700 (Local), 1800 (EDST) USA vs Colombia
Thursday, 27 April, 1900 (Local), 2000 (EDST) USA vs Martinique
Friday, 28 April, 1500 (Local), 1600 (EDST) USA vs Guatemala
Saturday, 29 April, 1100 (Local), 1200 (EDST) Bronze Medal Game
Saturday, 29 April, 1500 (Local), 1600 (EDST) Gold Medal Game

Web Stream:  Link

IHF Trophy website: Link

PHF Competition website: Link

 

USA Heads into Final Day of Group Play Hoping for Chance to Play for 5th

Team USA on their rest day in Santiago, Chile

Team USA on their rest day in Santiago, Chile

The final day of group play is today and for the U.S. it’s all about finishing in 4th place and playing in the 5th-8th consolation bracket where they will have the opportunity to play for 5th place and qualification for the World Championships.  Currently the U.S. is in 5th place, level with Mexico on points, but in 5th due to a lower goal differential.  Mexico plays Paraguay in the first game and later in the day the U.S. plays Costa Rica.

Scenarios for the Final Day of Group Play

There are 3 likely scenarios regarding qualification.

The Simple Scenario:  If Mexico loses to Paraguay and the U.S. either wins or draws against Costa Rica, the U.S. will finish in 4th place.

Paraguay, Mexico and USA level on 4 points:  If Mexico beats Paraguay and the USA beats Costa Rica, Paraguay, Mexico and the U.S. would be level with 4 points apiece.  The first tiebreaker is points for games involving the 3 teams and each team will have 2 points for 1 win.  The next tiebreaker is goal differential and since the U.S. suffered a 14 goal loss to Paraguay the U.S. is in a big hole.  In fact, they would need Mexico to win by 26 in order not to finish last in the head to head standings for these 3 teams.  Translation: If Mexico beats Paraguay, the U.S. can’t realistically finish higher than 5th in the group. (UPDATE: Unfortunately, this scenario is now reality as Mexico beat Paraguay 29-22)

Mexico, USA and Costa Rica level on 2 points:  If Paraguay beats Mexico and the U.S. loses to Costa Rica, Mexico, the U.S. and Costa Rica would be level on 2 points.  Again, the tiebreaker would come down to Goal Differential amongst the 3 teams, but it gets a little more complicated.  Here’s who would advance as the fourth place team:

Costa Rica wins by 1:  USA and Mexico level on GD of -1; Total offensive goals is next tiebreaker.  If U.S. scores 23 goals vs Costa Rica, USA advances; 22 or less Mexico advances

Costa Rica wins by 2 or 3 goals:  Mexico advances

Costa Rica wins by 4 goals:  Costa Rica or Mexico advance based on total offensive goals

Costa Rica wins by 5 or more goals: Costa Rica advances.

Today’s Key Matches

Mexico and Paraguay play the first match (1200 Local, 1100 EDST), so the U.S. will know ahead of their game whether they are playing for 4th or not.  On paper, Paraguay is the better team based on their easy victory over the U.S., but Mexico has a much better overall goal differential having played more competitive games vs Brazil and Chile.

Costa Rica and the U.S. play the 3rd match (1600 Local, 1500 EDST).  The prospect of playing a Central American team at a handball tourney usually conjures up images of an easy victory against an undersized, inexperienced opponent. Having watched the Costa Rican team a bit, though, they look to have a side that is pretty athletic and mature.  Meaning that their U19 team is composed of players that appear to be 18 or 19 and taller than one might expect.  Also, of note, is they had a pretty competitive match vs Paraguay, losing 35-32.  With the biggest U.S. offensive output being 23 goals, a slower paced game might be preferred.

Live Stream:  Link

Standings and Results: Link

USA Secures First Tourney Win; Sets Sight on Playing for WC Qualification

USA celebrates after win against Mexico

USA celebrates after win against Mexico

 

The U.S. beat Mexico yesterday 23-21 to get its first victory at the Panamerican Youth Handball Championships.  Down 11-8 at the half the U.S. came storming out of the gate in the 2nd half to take a 14-13 lead in the first 10 minutes.  The U.S. never relinquished the lead and held on for the 23-21 victory.

Key to the U.S. success was the outstanding play of goalkeeper Rene Ingram who had numerous saves and was named man of the match.  Also, playing a big role were Paul Skorupa and William Kennedy.  Each had 6 goals as the U.S. had by far its best showing on offense with fewer turnovers and good ball movement that resulted in better opportunities to score.  Kennedy has emerged as a much needed additional scoring threat in the backcourt despite only starting his handball career last September.  He currently is a freshman at Texas A&M.

The U.S. will have an off day today and will sets it sights on qualification for the World Championship on Thursday.  There are several potential scenarios going into the last day of group play, but the best chance will involve a Mexico loss to Paraguay, coupled with a U.S. victory over winless Costa Rica.

On Demand Video: 1st half 2nd half

Standings and Results: Link

 

Winless USA Seeks to Rebound vs Rivals, Mexico

Paul Skorupa on attack vs Paraguay

Paul Skorupa on attack vs Paraguay

Team USA is 0-3 at the Youth Panamerican Championships with losses to Chile (38-12), Paraguay (31-17) and Brazil (60-7).  Beset by injuries and with little hope of an upset against regional power Brazil, Coach Craig Rot chose to play his reserves and the 60-7 score reflects that mismatch.

Despite the 3 heavy setbacks the U.S. still has a solid chance of earning 4th place in the group if they can beat Mexico today and Costa Rica on Thursday.  Mexico is 1-2 and its only 2 points are against winless Costa Rica.  A healthy U.S. that plays like they did against Chile the first 22 minutes is certainly capable of closing out group play with 2 wins.  The U.S. does not control its own destiny, but 2 wins and 4 points would give them a solid chance of advancing to the 5th-8th semifinals.

Today’s match vs Mexico is at 1400 (Local) and 1300 (EDST)

Live Stream: Link

Standings and Results: Link

 

2nd Half Scoring Drought Dooms USA to Lopsided Loss

Action from the first half of CHI-USA

Action from the first half of CHI-USA

Last night’s match between Chile and the USA started out as a competitive back and forth affair with the two teams trading goals.  With 8 minutes remaining in the first half the score was knotted up 10-10.  Unfortunately for Team USA, though, Chile went on a 7-1 run to finish the half up 17-11.  And, the scoring drought continued with the U.S. managing only 1 goal in the entire 2nd half for a lopsided final result of 38-12.

Injuries played a big role in the lack of offensive production.  Starting left back, Amar Amitovic, was effective in the early going, but sprained an ankle and did not return.  Paul Skorupa moved from circle runner to backcour to take his place, but is battling a thumb injury.  Defensive specialist Matt Reedy also saw limited action due to a hip contusion.

After the match I had a short Facebook chat with Coach Craig Rot and he was hopeful that all 3 would return for today’s match against Paraguay.  He was also upbeat despite the loss, saying in part,

“I am so proud of my guys. We showed what we are capable of doing. Despite losing three starters, we went goal for goal for 23 minutes against five of the six starters from Chile’s junior bronze medal winners. Twelve of my players were playing in their first international game, and we were rewriting our game plans after five minutes because of injuries. So much to build on. So much to be excited about despite the final score. We are anything but done.”

A trip to the semifinals now would appear to be unlikely, but the USA can still set its sights on 5th place and qualification for the World Championships.  In order to play for 5th, the U.S. will need to finish 3rd or 4th in its Group.  Today’s match vs Paraguay, will be the first step in that task.  Paraguay, won its first match yesterday, 35-32 vs Costa Rica and the U.S. will surely want to avoid going into a 0-2 hole.

Match time is 1800 Local and 1700 EDST.  The match will be live streamed by DiversaTV: Link

On Demand Video of USA vs Chile: Link

Standings and Results: Link

 

USA Youth Team Starts Panamerican Championships with Key Match Vs Hosts, Chile

Rene Ingram, the top goalie at the Panamerican Jrs Championships will be back in the goal tonight for Team USA at the Youth Championships.

Rene Ingram, the top goalie at the Panamerican Jrs Championships, will be back in the goal tonight for Team USA at the Panamerican Youth Championships.

The USA Youth (U19) Team opens play today with what is likely to be a pivotal match vs hosts Chile.  Pivotal, because Chile and the U.S., on paper, appear to be the 2 teams in Group B with the best chance to finish in 2nd place behind regional power, Brazil.  And a 2nd place finish in group play will result in a spot in the tournament semifinals and qualification for the World Junior Championships later this summer in Georgia.

The U.S. roster is a mix of dual citizens who learned to play the sport in Europe and U.S. based players.  The dual citizen contingent features 5 Germans, 1 Swede, 1 Dane and 1 Bosnian while the U.S. contingent consists of 5 athletes from Craig Rot’s Chicago area program, 1 athlete from San Francisco and 1 athlete from Texas A&M.  Sure to play a big role our 3 holdovers from the recent Junior (U21) Championship.  Rene Ingram will be back in goal and back on the will be Amar Amitovic and Paul Skorupa.  All 3 will surely be keen on avenging the bronze medal loss to Chile.

Tonight’s game is at 2030 (Local) and 1930 (EDST).  A live stream should be available for viewing here:  Link

Competition website: Link

ESPN: The Body Issue:  Handball Style   

Argentina's Antonela Mena strikes a handball pose

Argentina’s Antonela Mena strikes a handball pose

Team Handball News likes to take and thoughtful and introspective look at all the major issues facing the handball world and keeping with that role here’s a link to ESPN Argentina’s “The Body Issue” featuring Argentinian handball player, Antonela Mena.

ESPN Argentina Magazine Video: Link

Mena, 29, has been with the National Team for several years and is the team captain.  She also plays for club team, CID de Moreno.  In an interview with the El Universo website, she discussed her reservations with posing:

“The truth is that it was a tough decision, because I was embarased … but then I said why not, if important athletes have already done so, it could mean an opportunity for handball.  I had a good time and little by little I was less uncomfortable as they were professional and made me feel comfortable. I recognize that it is difficult, but with the support of my partner, family and companions I was encouraged and I was fine with it.”  (Note: Rough translation via Google)

While some might be put off on this expose as a novelty stunt, promotion like this can really help increase a sport’s awareness quotient.  At least there’s little doubt in my mind that this post is going to get a few more clicks than another commentary on how to better develop handball in the U.S.

Also, a bit of equal time.  Here’s a link to Frederico Pizarro from last year’s issue: Link

 

USA Takes 2nd Place at NORCA after Close Loss to Puerto Rico in Final

NORCA Champions, Puerto Rico (Center), Runners up, USA (Left) and 3rd place, the Dominican Republic (Right)

NORCA Champions, Puerto Rico (Center), Runners up, USA (Left) and 3rd place, the Dominican Republic (Right)

The U.S. came up short in its quest for gold last night losing to Puerto Rico 28-27.  Puerto Rico and the U.S. traded goals to start the game and the score was tied midway through the first half at 7-7.  Puerto Rico then secured a 2 goal lead and would never relinquish the lead the remainder of the game.  At the half they led 16-14 and they further stretched the lead to 26-20 with 10 minutes left in the game.  The U.S. then staged a comeback reminiscent of their first match, outscoring Puerto Rico 8-1, coming up just short in the end.

Team USA was led in scoring by veterans Kathy Darling with 7 and Sarah Gascon with 6.  Nicole Anderson added 4 while Ashley Butler and Jence Rhoads had 3 each.  Rounding out the scoring was Julia Taylor with 2 and Ashley VanRy and Zoe Lombard with 1 a piece.

Overall, it was a pretty successful tournament for the U.S. with 4 solid wins and 1 loss to hosts Puerto Rico in the Final.  This is particularly true, when one considers that without a full complement of athletes training at Auburn, roughly half the team hasn’t been able to scrimmage, let alone play regular competitive matches for the past 2 years.  While the competition in NORCA isn’t very strong this still is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the determination of the athletes who made significant financial and personal sacrifices just to attend the tournament.

The U.S., along with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic (3rd place winners over Greenland) have also qualified for the Pan American Championships which will take place this June in Argentina.  Brazil, Argentina and Cuba will be strong favorites to finish in the top 3 and secure qualification for the World Championship, but the USA will be among several teams that will be looking to earn the fourth semifinal spot.

On Demand Video: Link

Team USA Qualifies for Panamerican Championships; Plays for NORCA Gold Tonight

Team USA celebrates a hard fought win over Greenland and qualification for the Panamerican Championships.

Team USA celebrates a hard fought win over Greenland and qualification for the Panamerican Championships.

Team USA held off Greenland 20-18 to earn qualification to the Panamerican Championships later this summer in Argentina.  Tonight they will play hosts Puerto Rico, winners over the Dominican Republic, 32-23, in the gold medal match at 1930 EDST.  Greenland will play the Dominican Republic at 1730 for bronze and the last ticket to the Panamerican championships.

The match between the U.S. and Greenland was tightly contested throughout with neither team leading by more than a couple goals throughout.  The U.S. led 10-9 at the half, but Greenland mounting a comeback in the 2nd half to take the lead.  The U.S. fought back with Ashley VanRyn aggressive play on offense to tie the game at 18-18.  At which point the U.S. clamped down on defense to close out the game 20-18.

Video (2nd half): Link (Courtesy of Greenland supporter, Boad Moller)

USA Post Game Celebration (USATH Facebook Page): Link

Tonight’s game will be broadcast live on 360 Deportes starting at 1930 EDST:  Link