Mexico defeats USA 31-23; semi-final rematch tonight

Nov. 25, 2008, 12 a.m. (ET)

The USA Team Handball women's national team fell to Mexico Monday night, 31-23. The two teams will face off again tonight at 6:30 in Mexico City as part of the PATHF Division I tournament semi-finals.

The game was Mexico's third consecutive win. The USA Women's National Team again suffered from weakened defensive and offensive play in the first half. The women of Mexico appeared poised and disciplined during a 19 goal outburst in 30 minutes of play, leading 19-9 at halftime.  

The halftime discussion centered on the Americans' mistakes, offensively and defensively, which have plagued Team USA since its arrival in Mexico City. As play began in the second half, however, the difference was obvious. Team USA was more physical and just as quick as the Mexican women. The USA stopped offensive attacks and moved the ball well up court. Shots begin to hit the back of the net. Mel McCormick hit several shots as did Sarah Gascon. The rest of the team came to life and played with greater intensity.   

Every time the Mexicans pressed the attack, the Americans seemed quicker and eager to force them outside, often stopping them completely. The USA pushed the ball up the court for easy goals and actually outscored the Mexican team 14-12 in the second half. The Mexican National Team won the game 31-23, but the American squad looked anything but beaten as the final buzzer sounded. They are eager for tonight's rematch with Mexico in the tournament's semi-finals. While Mexico is the clear favorite, the USA looked to be finally getting their physical defense up to speed. Darling tallied eight goals, McCormick five, and Gascon four to lead the American squad.  

The team will meet to review video of the game several hours before the match tonight, with particular focus on the second half and what they did well. 

Through three games, Darling is the USA's leading scorer with 20 goals. The France-based professional shouldered the load against both Puerto Rico and Mexico, scoring nine and eight goals respectively. France-based Ballard, who led the USA with five goals against Chile, is second on the team with 10 goals. Gascon and McCormick follow with eight goals apiece through three games.

Puerto Rico and Chile, who battled Monday night with Chile emerging triumphant, 43-19, will compete in a rematch tonight as well. The victors from each of tonight's matches will qualify for the PATHF Championships beginning June 23, 2009, to be held in Chile if its national team wins tonight.