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

 

A Plethora of Handball Web Streaming Options This Weekend

The U.S. College Championships is just one of your handball viewing options this weekend.

The U.S. College Championships is just one of your handball viewing options this weekend.

Well, it’s often feast or famine for fans in the U.S. wanting to watch handball on TV.   Consider this to be a weekend to pig out big time, even if you have to plug in an HDMI cable to your TV.  Here are your handball options:

USA College Nationals

The Men’s and Women’s college nationals are taking place this weekend at the University of North Carolina and matches will be streamed all day on Saturday and Sunday and can either be watched on the USA Team Handball website or Facebook page.  Note:  If you’re watching on the Facebook page you will need to reclick on the live link for each game

USA Team Handball Page: Link

USA Team Handball Facebook Page: Link

Panamerican Youth Handball Championships

The final day of competition is on Saturday and the U.S. will play its final match vs Puerto Rico at 1000 EDST.  Placing matches continue throughout the day culminating with the Gold Medal match between Brazil and Argentina at 1800 EDST

Live Stream: Link

Champions League Quarterfinals

In my opinion, the best 2 weekends in handball are the quarterfinal matches of the EHF Champions League.  The first 4 matches are this weekend, 2 games on Saturday and 2 on Sunday

Saturday
Veszprem vs Montpellier 1130 EDST
Flensburg vs Vardar 1130 EDST

Sunday
Szeged vs Paris 1100 EDST
Kiel vs Barcelona 1130 EDST

Matches can be seen live at ehfTV:  Link

I will post “on demand” links to the matches above after they are posted on the ehfTV website.  Usually a couple of hours after the match.

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

Dainis Kristopans, the Tallest Elite Player in the History of the Game?

 Dainis Kristopans currently plays for Meskov Brest, but the Latvian giant will play for Veszprem next season.


Dainis Kristopans currently plays for Meskov Brest, but the Latvian giant will play for RK Vardar next season.

I’ve been catching up on the videos for the Champions League round of 16 and the Final Four and one player that literally stands out is Meshkov Brest’s Dainis Kristopans.  He didn’t have the best performance in the SEHA Final Four, but he was a force to reckon with in the Champions League, and finished the season as the 7th leading scorer with 76 goals.

At 7’1” and 298 lbs it is certainly hard to miss him.  I’m not sure if someone is keeping height stats of professional handball players, but he’s got to be one of the tallest to have ever played the game.  And, in my opinion, he is the tallest elite handball player to ever play the game.  I’m sure there have been taller players, but it’s less doubtful that they could be considered elite.  All too often as players approach 7 feet tall their effectiveness as handball players diminishes.

This seems counterintuitive, but the physical nature and pace of the game starts to negate the height advantage.  In particular, the prototypical back court play of either breaking through the defense or shooting over it can be harder to execute for the taller player.  Sure, the taller player can shoot over, but without the credible threat of beating the defense for a breakthrough, a good defensive player can rough up the player and make that 9-10 meter shot ineffective.  There’s a reason why the typical back court player is in that 6’3” to 6’8” height range and it’s not just because everybody taller decided to take up basketball.  A combination of height, quickness, jumping ability, toughness and throwing ability is needed.  Not to mention smart passing skills.  There’s just not a whole lot of 7 footers out there with that combination.

And, what makes Kristopans interesting is that he doesn’t have that full complement of skills, but has developed a playing style to maximize his height/weight advantage.  He’s never going to out quick his opposition for a breakthrough at 6 meters, but he knows how to position himself for a quality shot at 8 meters. At nearly 300 lbs the defense has to be directly in front of him to stop him.  Finally, he’s also not blessed with great jumping ability, but it doesn’t matter.  He smartly uses his height advantage to wind up and get his shot off over the opposition.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention the fact that he’s left handed.  At age 26, RK Vardar was wise to sign him up.  Paired with a quality center back that can set him up on attack, he could inflict some real damage.

A personal side note for some perspective on  height and size.  Back in 1989 at the U.S. Olympic Festival, while standing in line at the cafeteria I had the opportunity to stand next to a 17 year old basketball phenom that everyone was talking about.  His name was Shaquille O’Neal and to this day it is the only time in my life where I just felt puny.  Not just merely shorter, but puny.  I’m 6’5”, about 215 lbs and I’ve stood next to lean 7 footers and it’s just slightly unnerving for a tall guy not used to looking up. But Shaq had a 100 lbs on me, roughly half my body weight and that was totally unnerving.  (And, back then Shaq wasn’t overweight.)  Kristopans isn’t quite 3 bills plus like Shaq was, but he’s approaching it.  Something that defenders have to contemplate when he’s on attack.

That’s my take on this giant of handball, but I’ve only been following the sport closely for 15 years.  If you know of a taller player that still passes muster for “elite” status chime in on Facebook or Twitter to set me straight.

SEHA and German Cup Final 4:  6 Matches Worth Watching on ehfTV

SEHA, rhymes with Hee-Haw, but this league is no joke. Watch the Final Four on ehfTV this weekend.

SEHA, rhymes with Hee-Haw, but this league is no joke.  In fact, it’s arguably the second best league in Europe.  You can see for yourself. Watch the SEHA Final Four on ehfTV this weekend.

Normally, when one thinks of ehfTV, one thinks of the EHF Champions League.  If you enjoyed the Round of 16 the past two weeks like me you may be a little bummed that it is a 2 week wait to the quarterfinals.  Furthermore, if you are an American are suffering from NCAA Final Four withdrawal, I’ve got some good news for you as ehfTV will be showing not 1, but 2 Final Fours this weekend as both the  Southeast Handball Association (SEHA) League and German Cup Finals will be available on ehfTV.

The SEHA League will be playing their semifinals on Friday with Vardar taking on Zagreb and Final Four hosts, Meskov Brest taking on Veszprem.  The SEHA League has only been around for 6 years, but it is quietly establishing itself as one of the best leagues in Europe.  Featuring teams from the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Hungary and Belarus, it can be viewed as a regional champions league.  Not that it’s clubs don’t already play in the Champions League.  In fact, the four finalists all made the Champions League Round of 16 and 2 clubs, Veszprem and Vardar are still in the tournament and could make that Final Four as well.

The German Cup semis will be on Saturday.  Leipzig will play Kiel in the first semi while Rhein Neckar Lowen will play Flensburg in the other semi.  Kiel, RNL and Flensburg are well known sides from Champions League play while Leipzig is a team from the 2nd tier of the HBL.  It will be interesting to see whether they can spring the upset of Kiel.  I for one, though, wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch of the R16 contest between Kiel and RNL in the final

Schedule (All times EDST)

SEHA

Friday, 1130 Vardar vs Zagreb Video
Friday, 1400 Brest vs Veszprem Video
Sunday, 1130 3rd Place Match Video
Sunday, 1400 1st Place Match Video

German Cup

Saturday, 0830 Leipzig vs Kiel Video
Saturday, 1130 RNL vs Flensburg Video
Sunday, 0830 1st Place Match Video (Note: If you don’t want to know who wins cover the picture with a sheet of paper.  THANKS A LOT ehfTV)

Note:  Sometimes the live stream is geo blocked in the U.S., but the on demand video typically shows up a couple of hours after the match.  I will try to provide a direct link to the on demand video for each match on this page when it is available.

If the link isn’t avilable here you can search for the video at ehfTV.  If you’re like me and don’t want to know the final outcome of the match follow these tips

  • Go to the ehfTV website: Link ehftv.com
  • Scroll down until you get to the menu that starts with “Latest Video”
  • Click on “Full Matches”
  • Wait a bit for your screen to load and then scroll down. If the match you want to see is available it should show up on this page  (and hopefully, there isn’t a picture of someone holding a trophy, or A GERMAN TEAM CELEBRATING.  THANKS YET AGAIN, ehfTV!!!! –SARCASM, FULLY INTENDED—)

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