2007 Nationals – a brief review.

Lights went down on yet another USATH Nationals.

I think I wrote last year that the more these Nationals change the more they stay the same.

The U of D did the best they could with what they had. “Beggers can't be choosers,” I thought.

The Field House, an airplane-hangar-looking sports venue, right outside the University of Delaware campus, housed two illegal sized handball courts. One was right at 35 meters long, the other… oh, who’s counting.

The third court was set up in another UD sports building (Bob Carpenter something…), adjacent to the Field House. It hosted mostly Men’s Division games and a few Women’s matches.

The amenities were adequate. An unfair comparison. Having spent the previous three USATH Nationals at the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston, not too many venues out there could live up to the quality and convenience of the GRB.

Many familiar faces were there. Lifelong volunteers such as Jan, Jim, Mike, Dawn, Robert and even Cathy were omnipresent, ensuring that the tournament lived up to its billing.

A total of only 24 teams, in three divisions, participated this year. A huge drop off from year's past. No Condors, ATH, LATH, Santa Clarita, Salt Lake and so on. Yes. It was Easter weekend and the MNT was fighting off Chile and Venezuela down in South America. Was the low turnout justified? Some thought so while others actually believed so.

I will not rehash the way the divisions played out. Most of you know the scores and were able to get updates from the tournament.

Instead I will give you snapshots of what stood out, good or bad, as told by various participants.

– Surprise team of the tournament: Army Black – They went to Europe over Spring Break on a tour through Germany. Still, most could not explain the team's amazing run and eventual silver medal. This team deserved everything they earned.
– Best overall performance: The Chicago Inter Club. Three divisions, three medals. Two Gold and a Bronze.
– Most deserving of a Gold Medal: NYCTHC… always in the shadow of the NYAC (Garden City), the NYCTHC confirmed their great form by winning it all in the Elite Division. By far the most consistent team of the tournament.
– Best athlete performance: Chicago Inter Women’s goalie, Nataliya Mitrjuk. Former world everything…
– Most annoying thing at the tournament: It’s a tie – Robert Sewell’s ipod boombox and Jim Thom’s micro managing of all score sheets and rosters… :)
– Biggest disappointment: Miami Sharks. Injuries, sent last year’s silver medalists spiraling down to a frustrating 6th place finish.
– Neatest thing: LiveSports webcasting of the Miami Sharks and Chicago Inter games.
– Most uplifting moment at the tournament: News that the US MNT won their first match against Venezuela.
– Biggest letdown: News that the US MNT lost their final and decisive match against Chile.
– Most frustrating thing about the Nationals: Trying to figure out where the Annual Meeting was held. A large number of players were unable to attend it because details regarding its location and time were either sketchy, changed or simply unavailable. Why couldn’t the LOC make a banner, advising everyone interested of the time, location and directions to the Annual Meeting, is beyond me. Maybe I’m wrong but it would have been the productive and fair thing to do. Accusations of conspiracy, lack of transparency, collusion and overall lack of communication, would then, be unmerited.

Speaking of communication…

I was able to land a few exclusive interviews.

Vlad Grama – Houston Stars palyer and former member of the US MNT.
Laszlo Jurak – NYAC coach and legendary USTH icon.
Dawn Allinger Lewis – former and current WNT player and head coach.

I will be posting the interviews as soon as I sort them out.

I am also considering a podcast review show (either solo. with John Ryan or Bjoern Brembs) to discuss the 2007 US Nationals. The podcast show will include discussions about the current situation of our WNT and MNT. As most of you are aware, both squads failed to qualify to the PAN AM games for the first time… ever? We'll dig in and try to find out who should be held accountable for these failures and what needs to be done in order to ensure that the US Team Handball programs can’t sink any lower….

As always, stay tuned!

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