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Birthday Girl Eliana Mason Leads U.S. Women's Goalball Into Semis

By Bob Reinert | Sept. 01, 2021, 12:37 p.m. (ET)

Team USA celebrates after defeating the Russian Paralympic Committee during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

How did you celebrate your most recent birthday? Whatever you did, it probably couldn’t hold a candle to how Eliana Mason observed hers on Wednesday.

On the day that she turned 26 years old, Mason scored three goals to help the U.S. women’s goalball team defeat the reigning world champion Russian Paralympic Committee in a must-win match.

“I’m speechless,” Mason said. “I’m just so proud of everybody in this moment. This is what we’ve been training for.”

Scoring three unanswered goals in the second half, the U.S. stormed back from three deficits to beat the RPC 5-3 in the quarterfinal round at Makuhari Messe Hall.

Amanda Dennis added a pair of goals for the Americans, who will face Brazil in Thursday’s semifinal round match. Defending Paralympic champion Turkey will take on host Japan in the other semifinal.

“We were down 3-2 at halftime, and we weren’t panicking,” Mason said. “We were just like, we’re going to keep playing, we’re going to keep pushing, we’re going to keep going. And that’s what we did.

“I think you just have to play, to have confidence and faith and trust.”

Marybai Huking dives for the ball during a match against the Russian Paralympic Committee at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

The Americans defeated Brazil 6-4 in their tournament opener in Tokyo. Brazil reached the semifinal with a 1-0 win over China in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Five of the six U.S. players returned from the team that won a bronze medal at the Rio Games in 2016. Mason, a Beaverton, Oregon, resident, is one of them.

“We say Marybai (Huking) and I are the ‘young guns,’” Mason said. “This is Marybai and (my) second Paralympics. Marybai and I didn’t get a lot of (playing) time in Rio, so it was really fresh for us.”

Huking, of Salt Lake City, was a key substitution Wednesday for the Americans, who held the RPC scoreless after the intermission.

“I think one thing that we have worked on this entire season, this entire extra year, has truly been the depth of our team,” Huking said. “We aren’t always going to be on our best, and that’s what team sports are about. It’s about other people being able to step up, us being able to carry one another, and that’s really what you saw there.

“We’re always ready. It doesn’t matter who’s on the court or who’s on the bench. Everyone is ready for whatever happens.”

The U.S. is seeking to become the first team to win three gold medals all-time in women’s goalball. The U.S. and Canada are the only nations to collect two.

Mason said the Americans have been relying on catch phrases in this tournament to stay on track.

“We just had phrases we kept saying, like, ‘one block at a time,’ ‘stay focused,’ ‘play fearless,’ ‘own the moment,’” Mason said. “That’s what we just kept doing.”

The U.S. women have also been feeding off the American men, who won their quarterfinal match yesterday against Ukraine. They play China in the semifinals Thursday.

“Watching them win was a really big high yesterday,” said Mason, “and I think we used that energy today, as well.”

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.

Bob Reinert

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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