IHF Challenge Cup: Some numbers behind the results

Team USA’s Olivia Goncerz (#4), Lynn Hodderson (#11) and Anja Borg (#5) try to stop a Mexican attack.

The USA recently competed in an IHF Challenge Cup Tournament in Mexico from 7-11 November.  The Challenge Cups are an IHF initiative to give more playing opportunities for less developed handball nations.  A men’s under age 20 competition and a women’s under age 19 competition was held and the other nations participating were Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico.  The USA Teams did not fare well overall.  The men placed 4th losing all four of their matches, while the women placed 3rd, managing a draw and a win against Puerto Rico.

Men’s Results

Group Play
USA – Mexico 23-33 (13-15)
USA – Canada 30-37 (17-19)
USA – Puerto Rico 30-35 (15-16)

3rd Place Match
USA – Canada 38-40 (19-20)

Roster/Place of Residence/USA Club/Scoring
Javier Galindo, Spain, 38 Goals
Orton Fofana, France 29 Goals
Connor Holt, West Point, 17 Goals
Alex Binderis, Sweden, 15 Goals
Andrew Donlin, Air Force, 12 Goals
Ian Pinson, LA THC, 6 Goals
Stefan Paunovic, Denmark, 3 Goals
Jerome Nohr, Germany, 1 Goal
Tyler Shukert, Minnesota, 0 Goals
Domenic Lapore, Salt Lake City, 0 Goals
Ryan Petersen, Cary HC, 0 goals

Chris Hesser, Dynamo HC
David Brown, West Point

While it’s disappointing that the men didn’t win any games, the scorelines indicate that all four matches were competitive, with the half-time differentials all 2 goals or less.  A far better than last year’s Under 19 team which lost 60-8 to Argentina at the Pan American Championships.  The two leading scorers for the U.S. appear to have been dual citizen athletes, Javier Galindo (Spain) and Orton Fofano (France).  As they accounted for 55% of the U.S. offensive output, one can conclude that their addition to the roster was pretty pivotal to the U.S. respectable performance.  Other key contributors were Alex Binderis who lives in Sweden and two cadets, Connor Holt of West Point and Andrew Donlin of Air Force.

Women’s Results

Group Play
USA – Puerto Rico 29-29 (16-11)
USA – Mexico 23-14 (7-9)
USA – Canada 34-13 (10-18)

3rd Place
USA – Puerto Rico 34-27 (13-15)

Roster/Place of Residence/USA Club/Scoring
Anja Borg, Norway, 19 Goals
Stefanie Hesser, Dynamo HC, 18 Goals
Maja Storm, Germany, 13 Goals
Morgan Thorkelsdottir, Iceland, 12 Goals
Lynn Hoddersen, Germany, 9 Goals
Alana Steinarsdottir, Iceland, 6 Goals
Olivia Goncerz, Jersey Girls, 5 Goals
Sierra Thompson, Sweden, 4 Goals
Natalie Dabrowski, Jersey Girls, 2 Goals
Izabela Szymanski, Jersey Girls, 1 Goal
Essence Jones, LA THC, 0 Goals
Kamila Pawka, Jersey Girls, 0 Goals

Sophie Fasold, Dynamo HC
Freja Dobreff, Germany

The USA Women fared better overall with a draw and a win against Puerto Rico, but the 34-13 pounding at the hands of Canada was a clear demonstration of a stronger Canadian youth program.  The U.S.  foreign resident scoring attack was even more pronounced for the women with 2/3 of the goals coming from overseas based players.


I have mixed feelings about the benefits of these tournaments for our younger players.  On the one hand, I like to see the USA competing in international competition.  It’s a tremendous opportunity for those athletes and potentially a great motivating tool to encourage more athletes to take up the sport in the U.S.  But, if the bulk of the team is composed of athletes who already have great playing opportunities in Europe, then it’s less of an incentive for those U.S. based players.  But, then again if the U.S. had sent teams composed primarily of U.S. based players they would likely have suffered some truly embarrassing losses even in this challenge competition against other lower level handball nations.

On the whole, I think that the funding and resources expended to participate in these tournaments could probably be spent better on U.S. based development programs.  (Especially, if you factor in the transportation costs to send European based athletes to a tournament in Mexico.)  For example, a week long camp in the USA with multiple regional teams, similar to the U.S. Olympic Festivals of the past could perhaps be conducted with similar overall costs.  And instead of evaluating 15 athletes, the U.S. could evaluate maybe as many as 60 athletes, including some that can’t get released for a November tournament due to school and other sport commitments.  (It’s hard to fully calculate costs as there would be a lot of variables in terms of lodging and transportation.)

I’m probably not the first individual to think of such an alternative event.  The problem is, however, that the funding and resources for the IHF Challenge Cups comes from the IHF and the U.S. Federation simply can’t redirect that support somewhere else.   And as the IHF hasn’t always spent its funds very judiciously, I can’t complain too loudly at a program that is clearly attempting to spread the wealth even if it may be a bit misguided.

As a final commentary, I’ll point out that the Federation really needs to get their act together in regards to its reporting of an event like this.  A tournament where Americans (teenagers, no less) are representing their country should be a prime recruiting tool for athletes with daily reports and plenty of action photographs on the website and facebook.   Instead, the scores and results were never even posted.   As the saying goes, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Related commentary

THN (3 May 2011) Commentary: USA Team Handball National Teams: Are there too many guys with short haircuts and accents? (Part 1: Military Athletes)

THN (10 May 2011): Commentary: USA Team Handball National Teams: Are there too many guys with short haircuts and accents? (Part 2: Dual Citizenship Athletes): 

THN (17 Jul 2011): Partille Cup: How can USA Team Handball best maximize this opportunity?

THN (7 Aug 2011): Embarrassing outcome for PanAmerica in Junior Championship: