The women of Furman Handball Club have overcome funding shortages to continue to battling teams on the court from around the country.
The club, based of out Furman University, a private liberal arts institution near Greenville, South Carolina, was created 10 years ago as part of a grant from the NCAA and USOC. When the money ran out, however, many area teams, such as the Furman men's handball club, were terminated.
"We were basically the only team to survive," said Owen McFadden, coach of Furman Handball Club and director of the university's recreational sports. "Since the league folded, however, two other women's teams have picked up the sport."
Furman travels to battle other handball clubs, and recently faced off with the USA Women's National Team at the Chicago Inter Challenge Tournament in the Windy City. Last week, Furman defeated North Pittsburgh and Tarheel handball clubs and tied the West Point Gold at a tournament at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Furman were champions of the South East Handball Conference regular season from 1998 to 2004 and conference champions from 1998 to 2003. The team gathers Sunday nights to practice, and will begin meeting twice a week in January when Furman's gym renovations are complete.
McFadden, who first witnessed team handball while completing his undergraduate degree at Citadel, also began a team handball intramural program at Virginia Tech while a graduate student there. He plays a key role in his team's recruitment.
"I watch out for athletes, and hope they're not varsity. I encourage them to tryout, and sometimes I'm really successful with those who have lots of talent," said McFadden. "I rely on the women too to go out and find some other players if they know them."
One player recruited by McFadden, Molly Augustine, enjoys the challenge of honing her handball skills.
"I am always willing to try new things. I love sports and being on a team."
The sophomore wing from Hilton Head, South Carolina, described her team as eclectic.
"Everyone on the team is different. We are all involved in different things on campus, have different groups of friends, but we all get along really well," she said. "My friends think that team handball sounds intense, but are interested in what it all entails."
"I just like the fast-pace, high-scoring, physical nature of the game."