Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (Mar 2020)

Air Force Moves Up to #2 in the Latest Poll

College Season Heating Up…but the Championship has been Postponed

Some recent matches have upended the Collegiate Top 5, but on the top of everyone’s minds is the recent decision by USA Team Handball to postpone the Collegiate National Championships. Originally scheduled for 3-5 April at Ohio State University the tournament has now been postponed due to concerns with the Coronavirus situation and Ohio State’s recent decision to suspend all “In-Person” classes until March 30th.

This is a shame because the championship was shaping up to be one of the most interesting and potentially wide open contests in years. Yes, Army- West Point, is still the odds on favorite, but several sides have stepped up their game and seemed poised to provide them a real challenge. Here are the result of the latest poll.

Army: Per usual, Army has had an outstanding season and is unbeaten in college play. They are also on track for a 2nd place finish in the Northeast Team Handball League behind NYC.

Air Force: Air Force was beaten soundly by Army in November 40-28, but in January at the Cal Cup, the margin was just 31-29. More recently, they went 5-0-0 at their own tournament and had an impressive 26-18 victory over previously unbeaten North Carolina. This victory (no surprise) vaulted them to #2 in the standings.

North Carolina: North Carolina has a 14-0-2 overall record and their top accomplishment this year was winning the Carolina Blue Cup. They’ve been a consistent performer, but the loss to Air Force dropped them to #3

Ohio State: Ohio State has a 10-1-1 overall record and in February they knocked off previously unbeaten Pittsburgh 31-19. This record and the key victory over Pitt has vaulted them to 4th place, but all their wins have come at home. It remains to be seen how well they can do against sides that play against tougher competition.

Army (2nd Team): Army’s 2nd team took 2nd place at the Carolina Blue Cup and this performance earned them a 5th place ranking. In the semifinals they shocked perennial power NYAC and in the finals they only lost, 31-29 to North Carolina. The only question mark? The roster for the side that played in Chapel Hill had some players who’ve also seen 1st team action this season. So, it was perhaps a better 2nd team side then the team that has played in other competitions.

Looking Ahead

Lots of questions marks remain regarding the evolving Coronavirus situation and it’s impact on sporting events. The USA Team Handball announcement even suggested that attendees hold off on making travel plans for the that the Club National Championships scheduled for 8-10 May in Detroit. Even if the Coronavirus concerns get resolve with students finishing up the semester in May and seniors graduating it could be very challenging to reschedule the college championship. Yes, it would certainly be a huge disappointment, but there’s a very real possibility that there won’t be any more college handball this season.

2019-20 College Records: Link

2019-20 Game Results: Link

Handball Halls in Europe have me Singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads…”: And, Now there’s actually Handball in West Virginia

Almost, heaven, West Virginia. And, now home to the #3 college handball team in the country.

I’ve always been amused with the adoption of American arena anthems at European handball venues. First it was “Sweet Caroline” and then little by little “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has gotten more airplay. I first heard it during a 2017 Kielce Champions League match and wrote this whimsical post: Link

Now it seems like it’s being played during every match at the European Championships. So much that it’s got me humming around. Yes, when my wife asked me why on earth I was singing an old John Denver tune my honest reply was, “Because I’ve been watching so much handball.”

What’s funny, is that handball is now actually being played at West Virginia University (WVU), where logically, the song first became a sporting anthem. It’s played at every American football game there and for most other sports as well.

The WVU handball side is even currently ranked as the #3 college program in the country. I doubt, though, that “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has ever rang out a handball match yet. The WVU roster is composed entirely of Middle East students who likely aren’t well versed in WVU traditions. But, maybe since the song is now a handball tradition it will get some air play.

Why not? The guy that wrote the song had never stepped foot in West Virginia prior to writing it. I’m thinking 99% of the fans in Malmo, Vienna and other venues have never visited the state. The song is clearly a state of mind, not a state of residency. But, for sure these guys now have more claim to it then any other handball fans or players in the world.

West Virginia Handball

Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (Dec 2019)

Pitt Team Handball sits atop the Northeast Team Handball League (NTHL) D2 South with a 3-0-0 record. That early season record has earned them a first ever appearance in the Collegiate Top 5 Poll.

The top 3 spots in the poll are identical from November. Army which has never left the first spot in the history of the poll picked up 2 victories in Northeast Team Handball League (NTHL) action over the Army’s 2nd Team, and NYC2, but suffered their first lost of the season to one of the top at-large clubs in the U.S.,NYC, 37-28. North Carolina and West Virginia played no matches since the last poll, but held on to their 2nd and 3rd place poll rankings.

Spots 4 and 5, however, have changed with Air Force and Ohio St dropping out of the top 5. Air Force picked up their first win of the season, a 23-21 win over Texas A&M at the Texas Cup, but their overall 1-0-8 record must look bad in the eyes of voters. Ohio St played only one match since the last poll, a 36-36 draw vs the Columbus Armada, but also slipped in the polls.

Joining the top 5 for the first time are Pittsburgh and Penn St. Pittsburgh’s 3-0-0 record has them sitting atop the NTHL D2 South. Pittsburgh has gotten good leadership from seniors Michael Lane and Brian Hoover and has benefited from a newcomer to the team, Pau Balcells Sanchez. Balcells Sanchez is just a Freshman, but is an international student from Spain and brings some European experience to the the team. The NTHL D2 South is the only de facto collegiate club conference (Pittsburgh, James Madison, Virginia, Johns Hopkins) and their next matches will be February 1st.

Rounding out the top 5 is Penn St with a 3-0-0 collegiate record and and a 6-0-1 overall record. Penn St competes in the NTHL D2 North where they currently have the 2nd best win pct in the league. These records may, however, look a little bit better than reality. In particular, the 3 collegiate wins are all over the Penn St B team, so it will be interesting to see how well the Nittany Lions fare at College Nationals later this year.

2019-20 College Records: Link

2019-20 Game Results: Link

Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (Nov 2019)

The first Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll of the 2019-20 season is out and, no surprise, Army- West Point is the unanimous #1 selection. The defending national champions are undefeated and have double digit victories over 3rd ranked West Virginia (31-18) and 4th ranked Air Force (40-28)

Last season’s 2nd place college club, North Carolina, is also undefeated, having racked up 6 wins on the way to winning the Tar Heel Invitational in October. Wins included victories over Virginia, Auburn and Carolina Blue Alumni Team.

West Virginia is ranked 3rd with wins over Ohio St (21-15) and Army’s 2nd Team (22-21) on their resume.

Air Force is ranked 4th and winless, but they played several competitive matches against At-Large Club teams at the Michael Lipov Tournament in Chicago.

Ohio St rounds out the top 5 with a 6-1 overall record. Their only blemish is aforementioned loss to West Virginia and they rebounded from that loss to take first at the Buckeye Fall Classic Tournament.

Just outside the rankings are Texas A&M, which has yet to play a match and Virginia. Also, of note and a potential candidate for the December rankings is Pittsburgh which picked up 3 wins this past weekend over James Madison, Virginia and Johns Hopkins. Spanish International student, Pau Sanchez and Cedric Humphrey reportedly were a pretty effective back court duo and led Pittsburgh to a 3 game sweep and the top of the Northeast Team Handball D2 South.

Below are the composite standing for all college teams

Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5: Army Keeps Rolling Along, Ohio State Takes Second at Arnold Classic







No movement at the top Since the last poll in February.  Army continued to stay undefeated in collegiate play with relatively easy wins over Auburn and Cincinnati at the Arnold Classic in Ohio.  North Carolina held on to the 2nd spot despite a mediocre showing at the Carolina Blue Cup.  They picked up collegiate victories over James Madison and Auburn, but didn’t pick up a win in their other matches vs at large clubs.   Ohio Stayed also held on their 3rd place ranking.  They took 2nd at the Arnold Classic and travelled to Denmark over spring break where they suffered some big losses to a couple of handball academies.  Still, they are hopeful that the experience will pay dividends next month at College Nationals.  West Virginia held on to their #4 spot while Air Force rode a respectable showing at the Valley of the Sun Tournament to move back into the rankings.

Here are the records for the remaining collegiate club teams (thru 20 March 2019)

Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5:  Army Retains Top Spot, but is No Longer the Unanimous #1 Pick







In a first, for the Collegiate Top 5, Army is no longer the unanimous top team, as North Carolina picked up a 1st place vote from one of the seven voters.  Army is still undefeated in collegiate play, but has struggled a bit vs non-collegiate clubs and has a .500 record (9-1-9).  While it can certainly be legitimately argued that this is reflective of competing against tougher competition, it can also be argued that this year’s squad is not as strong as Army has been in recent years.  And, maybe, just maybe they might be vulnerable to a North Carolina squad that is having a solid season

North Carolina is hosting the Carolina Blue Cup this weekend and a strong showing could well impress additional voters.  Also of note, this tournament will be the last for long time coach, Myles Bacon, who is moving to San Diego.  Bacon has coached the Men’s team for 11 years and the Women’s program for 6 years.  Mat Piec will be taking over the head coaching duties, with Johnny Massengale and Evan Gilbert assisting.

Rounding out the Top 5 are Ohio St, West Virginia and Virginia.  Slipping out of the Top 5 was Air Force which went 0-0-4, at the Cal Cup in January.  A poor performance, but arguably tougher competition than what Ohio St, West Virginia and and Virginia have faced.   We’ll see in April at the Collegiate Championship as to whether Air Force is being judged too harshly.

Below the top 5, Auburn and James Madison will also be participating in the Carolina Blue Cup so a relative pecking order amongst those teams should be known after the completion of the tourney.  James Madison, a relatively new program, even picked up a few votes and a solid performance could see them crack the top 5 next time.

W-D-L Records for Non-Ranked Clubs








Complete Database including all match results for the 2018-19 Season
All matches: Link
College Matches: Link

Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (November 20, 2018)

North Carolina polls in at #2 after winning the Fall Buckeye Classic







The first Collegiate Top 5 Poll is out and it features some familiar teams and a few surprises.  To know one’s surprise defending national champions, Army, are a unanimous first choice selection.  They are undefeated in collegiate matches with victories over North Carolina in the American Classic Tourney and over Air Force in the annual Commander-In-Chief Trophy match.  North Carolina is ranked 2nd and voters likely awarded them that ranking based on their winning the Buckeye Fall Classic last weekend at Ohio St.  Air Force is ranked 3rd with their only match so far this year being a 45-32 loss vs Army.

The surprise team is West Virginia which is an entirely brand new program mostly composed of Kuwait expats studying Petroleum Engineering.  This past summer they easily defeated Ohio St in an exhibition match and they are off to a good start in the Northeast Team Handball League 2nd Division West with a 2-0-0 record.  Rounding out the Top 5 is the aforementioned Ohio St which took 2nd place this past weekend at the Fall Buckeye Classic/

Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (April 16, 2018)

College Nationals is next weekend at West Point, NY and the last poll before a champion is crowned on the court is out.  To no surprise, hosts Army are the unanimous #1 ranked team.  Earlier this month they took 2nd place in their annual tournament narrowly losing to top rated open club team NYAC in the final.  (Albeit a depleted NYAC as 4 members from that squad were playing with the U.S. National Team in Mexico.)

Ranked 2nd are Air Force and Virginia.  Air Force has played well in two recent tournaments in Phoenix and Los Angeles, taking 2nd in the LA tourney this past weekend.  Virginia has also had a solid year, but they slipped up on April 1st with an NHTL loss to Army’s 2nd Team 23-17.

Moving up to 4th Place is Ohio St which had a 4-1 record at the “Arnold Classic” tourney in March.  Their 21-19 victory over Illinois St is probably responsible for their leapfrogging of the Redbirds who slipped to 5th place.

Look out to Nationals

I haven’t seen seeding or pools for college nationals yet, but one can see a potential narrative.  With an 11 years in a row run of National Titles, plus hosting, Army is a huge favorite to repeat.  Air Force and Virginia are in theory the two teams that will fight to play them in the Final, but in reality another home team lurks as a dangerous opponent:  Army’s 2nd team (West Point Gold).  Ohio St is another potential team that could break through, but they’ll need to prove that their gaudy 9-0-4 record isn’t just due to beating up on weak opposition.  Illinois St would be another possible dark horse, but to a lack of funding they aren’t attending.

For sure, there’s one thing that nobody outside of the Cadet Corps wants to see and that is an all Army (West Point Black vs West Point Gold) Championship Final.  And, honestly I bet there’s probably more than a few cadets that probably don’t want to see an intrasquad match either.

Chat Me Up

I’ll be at West Point all day Saturday and Sunday.  Don’t hesitate to stop me and have a conversation about any handball topic.  I’m sure to have an opinion.

Proposed Collegiate Summer Camp for Coaches and Players

And, if you’re interested in taking your game to the next level be sure to let me know if you’re interested in attending a Collegiate Camp this summer at the Lifezone Handball Academy near Chicago.  Craig Rot and I are still formulating plans, but the intent is to help collegiate players and coaches raise their game for next season.  Tentative dates are 2-7 July.  Please let us know if you are interested by filling out this short survey:  Link

Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (March, 17, 2018)

The latest collegiate poll is out and there’s been some slight shuffling in the rankings.  Army, despite having only played two matches (both losses to the DC Diplomats and Boston) since the last poll is still the top team in the county.

Virginia, however, has impressed enough voters to move ahead of Air Force for the 2nd place ranking.  They placed 4th in February at the Carolina Blue Cup, and have been playing competitively in the Northeast Team Handball League.  Meanwhile Air Force has not played a match since the last poll.

Illinois State maintained their 4th place position.  They’ve added 2 wins in the Windy City Series and placed 3rd at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH.  Moving into a tie for 5th place were Army’s 2nd team and North Carolina.  The Army 2nd team had a good showing at the Carolina Blue Cup where they finished 5th just behind 2nd ranked Virginia.  North Carolina’s rise to 5th is probably related to several close matches at the Carolina Blue Cup, including a 20-17 loss to tourney winner NYAC.

Ohio State dropped out of the poll, but this may be due to some voters not having the results for the Arnold Classic.  Ohio State finished 2nd in the tourney and beat 4th ranked Illinois State 21-19

Inaugural Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll (Jan 2018)

The first ever “Team Handball News Collegiate Top 5 Poll” is out and to no one’s surprise Army (West Point) is the unanimous 1st place pick by all 9 voters.  In fact, having won 11 straight national titles it’s a pretty safe bet that they would have had been ranked #1 consistently since 2006 (when they lost to North Carolina) if the poll had been in existence.  Army is 2-0-0 in collegiate matches with wins over Air Force (26-22) and Virginia (20-16).  Overall, they’ve compiled a less impressive 5-0-6 record, but those 6 losses were to clubs either ranked in the Top 5 (Open Poll including non-collegiate clubs) or teams from Canada.  Army is also currently in 2nd place in the Northeast Team Handball League.

Ranked 2nd is Air Force, which as previously mentioned had a 4 goal loss to arch rival Army and has an overall 2-4 record.  In December they placed 4th at the Texas Cup in Dallas with respectable losses to Chicago Inter and SF Cal Heat.  Nipping at Air Force’s heels is Virginia, which has a 3-0-0 collegiate record with victories over James Madison (29-12), Army’s 2nd Team (22-21) and Carolina’s 2nd Team (25-10) to go along with their loss to top ranked Army.  Virginia’s overall record is 4-1-4 and they were the top placing collegiate team (3rd) at the Fall Tar Heel Tourney.

In 4th place is Illinois St which is 4-0-0 in collegiate play with victories over Cincinnati (17-16), Ohio St (17-16), Miami (OH) 26-21, and Ohio St’s 2nd Team (19-14).  Overall, though they are 4-0-4 and suffered heavy losses to Chicago Inter and Barrington, a team actually mostly composed of high schoolers.  Rounding out the top 5 is Ohio St which with a 5-0-4 mark has played the most collegiate games.  They won their own tournament, the Buckeye Fall Classic, but had a less than stellar performance at Miami (OH) Red Hawk Tourney.

USA Club (Match Results):  Link
USA Club (Ranking and Statistical Data): Link

Team Handball News Collegiate Poll Sponsorship

Bryan Cothorn will continue to organize all the statistical data and tabulate the poll votes, but after some minor wrangling I’ve convinced him to let Team Handball News sponsor the Collegiate Ranking.  Bryan will also be doing polls for the Men’s and Women’s clubs, but I’m choosing to take a special interest in the college poll and the college game in general.

There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, for college sports there’s quite a bit of tradition when it comes to polling.  With hundreds of colleges playing sports in a hodge podge patchwork of conferences nationwide a national poll, for better or worse, has often been the only way to gage where teams stand.  Indeed, for college football it was actually how the National Champion was determined until 1998. (An absolutely ridiculous method that has now been partially fixed) Polls are a college tradition and I’m glad to see that team handball is joining the pantheon of college sports with its very own poll.

The other reason is that I think the college game should get more attention in emphasis than it does currently in this country.  I highlighted some of the issues surrounding the college game in these commentaries.

Part 1: Background: Link
Part 2: Strategies to Implement: Link

In the coming weeks I’ll be following up with some additional thoughts on ways to improve the quality of play and provide greater publicity/exposure to the college game.