|From tryouts for aspiring National Teamers in the morning to a ceremony featuring a half-dozen Olympians in the evning, Friday's 12 hours of handball fesitivities were a hit. |
Encouraged by 8-year National Team star Chick Lillis, '76 Olympian Randy Dean, '96 Olympian Yaro Dachniwsky and '88 Olympian Diane Simpson (rhytmic gymnastics), the USA Women definitively announced their return to competitve play with a convincing 38-4 win over a game, but overmatched Army team. Tomuke Ebuwei directed the offense for much of the game from center back while Jacque Messel and Natascha King played near-perfect games in goal for the USA. USA Softball silver medalist Lauren Lappin survived several hours of tryouts to make her handball debut for the USA Women late in the game. Farida Abou-Zeida,who played her scholastic handball in Cairo, Egypt, also made her debut for the USA. Abou-Zeida drove 13 hours from Alabama on Thursday to try out - and the 17-year-old was impressive enough to earn significant minutes alongside veteran USA players in both halfs.
Chicago Inter's women's team was equally impressive, overpowering Furman University, 37-8 in the tournament's opening match.
Drama ensued in the evening's two men's matches. Army produced the first upset of the tournament, with the youthful atlhletic Cadets running past an experienced Chicago Inter club, 26-22. Senior Brian Walsh led Army's attack in a game with multiple lead changes down the stretch that had the crowd riveted.
The evening's final game came down to the final second, and the last shot. Atlanta's Gary Hines tried to outsmart the entire NY AC defense on a 9-meter shot, but his acrobatic effort clanged off the crossbar to give NYAC the 32-31 win.
Earlier in the day, more than 60 athletes tested their athleticism and handball proficiency with a goal of representing the United States at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Several men will be invited to regional camps in 2009 to further showcase their abilities. On the women's side, in addition to Abou-Zeida and Lappin, former BYU soccer goalkeeper Camille Thomas was invited to dress for Friday night's game, but did not see action.
Matches continue throughout the weekend until Sunday afternoon. The public is invited to watch the matches for free at Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 North St. Louis Ave.