U.S. tops Sweden in women's goalball

By Lindsay Wyskowski | Aug. 30, 2012, 8:14 p.m. (ET)

In 5-1 win over Sweden, Team USA scored four of its five points in the first half.

LONDON – The reigning Paralympic goalball champions took their first win in pool play Thursday at the Copper Box in Olympic Park.

The 2012 U.S. Paralympic Women's Goalball Team – Jen Armbruster, Lisa Czechowski, Amanda Dennis, Asya Miller, Robin Theryoung and Jordan Walter – defeated Sweden 5-1, and J. Armbruster led the way, scoring three of the five goals.

Coach Ken Armbruster was proud of the team’s performance. “The first one is the big one. We’ve got to get out of the pool,” he said. “Every win is important. I’m really pleased with the first game.”

The team began play with J. Armbruster, Czechowski and Miller out on the floor – a move that was both intentional and symbolic. The three women were on the floor in Beijing when the team clinched the win and the gold. The parallels don’t stop there – the floor a familiar one for the goal ball athletes, as it is the same floor used in Beijing. “It’s a gold medal floor,” J. Armbruster said.

A six-time Paralympian, J. Armbruster has seen the sport of goalball evolve over the past 20 years. “Since I’ve been playing since ’92, I think as a whole the athleticism has improved across the board,” she said, noting that there are 10 teams competing in the pool for the first time, whereas in the past only eight had participated. “It’s a much faster game than it was 20 years ago.”

The U.S. team scored four of its five points in the first half of the game, and it was easy to see how seamlessly the team worked together. Part of this is due to the years of experience amassed by the team members.

“Four of us have been together for three Games, and for three of us this will be our fourth Games together,” J. Armbruster said. “Even our two rookies are sports camp kids that we’ve all worked with for the last eight to 10 years. I would say even though this is their first Paralympics, they’ve been with the four of us for eight years as well.”

All six members of Team USA saw playing time Thursday night in the opening match, something that will bode well for the team in the days and games to come.

 “It was probably a coach’s and a team’s dream to be able to get all six players out there in that first round, and to jump on early and kind of have that lead from the beginning,” J. Armbruster said. “It’s a good way to start out the Paralympics for sure.”

The United States returns to the Copper Box on Sept. 1, when they will face Japan.