To the Beach

Feb. 29, 2012, 11:55 p.m. (ET)

For the first time in more than a decade, the United States has entered a National Team into International Beach Handball competition.

The USA Team Handball Women's National Team arrived Wednesday morning for what promises to be a new experience for virtually everyone on the team. Long-time handball players have found themselves scratching their heads trying to recall the last USA entry into an international competition on the beach.

Head Coach Dede Piankova will field a team led by Pan Am Games veterans Sarah Gascon and Sophie Fasold. Joining them will be long-time National Team player Erin Kizer, recently named National Team player Gosia Gunka, new comers Toni Ernst, Diva Desai, Marilyn Elder, and Trish O´Toole.

Sending National Teams onto the beach was a decision General Manager Dave Gascon and Technical Director Mariusz Wartalowicz committed to last August by proposing such competitions to the US Olympic Committee. Chairman of the Board Jeff Utz was strongly supportive of the decision.

The USATH has begun to demonstrate to the Pan American Team Handball Federation that it is committed to being a true partner in high level competitions. Both the Men's and Women's National Team qualified for and competed in last October's Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The USA entry was a decision welcomed by the South American nations, as it is sure to lend additional credibility to their efforts in developing beach handball even as the International Handball Federation itself is pursuing the development of this wildly exciting and high finesse version of one of the world's most popular sports. As is the court game, beach handball is very popular in Europe. The long-term goal is to build the game and guide it into the Olympic Games.

The United States will open the tournament in the night´s prime time women´s game against the host fovorites from Uruguay.  The Uruguay Women´s National Team is one of the traditional South American powers.

The games are expected to be streamed LIVE (click here for details).