The U.S. Men’s and Women’s Goalball Teams—both of which train at the Goalball Center of Excellence at Turnstone—faced Paralympic champions Lithuania and Turkey in quarterfinals today at the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships. Unfortunately, both match-ups resulted in losses for Team USA and both U.S. Men and Women were eliminated from the competition.
U.S. Women earned a spot in the quarterfinals despite two tough losses to Brazil (3-1) and Canada (5-2) in pool play. The team was determined to bounce back and re-focus for a strong game against Turkey, in the quarterfinals. It was a must-win game for both Team USA and Turkey to move on to semifinals. Lisa Czechowski showed strength out of the gate, making the first point on the scoreboard but Turkey was able to score 6 goals before Asya Miller got another point on the board for Team USA. At the half, U.S. Women were behind 2-7.
Unable to capitalize on two long ball penalties and a 10-second penalty incurred by Turkey, U.S. Women didn’t break past the defense again in the second half. Turkey continued to score with quick, powerful bounce throws until they were 10 goals ahead with less than 2 minutes left in the game. In the end, U.S. Women lost to Turkey and the tournament’s leading scorer, Sevda Altunoluk.
“This was a great measuring stick to see where we’re at in our preparation and our training for the 2020 Paralympics,” said U.S. Women’s Head Coach Jake Czechowski. “We learned a lot about ourselves this week as individuals but more importantly as a team…All credit goes to our opponents. They played fantastic goalball. Our girls fought every minute they were on the court and I couldn’t be prouder of them. We’re going to go home and work on the things we need to work on and get ready for the next major championship, the next opportunity to qualify for the Paralympics.”
U.S. Men secured a spot in the quarterfinals with wins against Canada (8-2) and Japan (13-3) at the end of pool play. Their 3rd seed berth pitted them against Paralympic champions, Lithuania in quarterfinals. It was an opportunity for redemption after the U.S. Men faced Lithuania in the gold medal game at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and came home with silver.
In the first half, Team USA was able to keep up with Lithuania, equalizing on a Lithuanian long ball penalty with less than one minute left for a halftime score of 3-3. Both teams held strong defensive positions until Lithuania was able to slip a goal into USA’s net four minutes into the second half. The last eight minutes saw three more goals from Lithuania and only one more from Joe Hamilton for Team USA. A final score of 7-4 eliminated U.S. Men from finals competition.
Team USA has two more opportunities to qualify for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – 2019 Goalball World Championships – where the top two teams in men’s and women’s divisions will qualify – and the 2020 Para PanAmerican Games in Lima, Peru – where only the two teams earning 1st place will qualify.