Team USA Suffers Two Close Losses on Thursday

Dec. 19, 2014, 1 p.m. (ET)

Team USA Looks to Bounce Back from Close Losses on Thursday Night

By: Maurice Godwin
USA Team Handball Communications Specialist

AUBURN, Ala. -- Guadeloupe held on to a slim lead despite a late surge from Team USA Blue to win, 24-23 on the second night of the 2014 Winter Classic.

Fresh off of a win over Canada White the night before, the Blue Team took the court looking to use their height and speed advantage over Guadeloupe to secure a winning record in the inaugural Winter series. Guadeloupe, however, was aiming to avenge a loss to Canada Red the night before even though the final score was a 24-24 tie (Guadeloupe incurred 4 penalties to Canada Red's 3, and therefore lost by decision).

Neither team was able to gain a sizable advantage for long early in the first half. After a USA time-out 10 minutes into the match, captain Sarah Gascon sparked a 7-3 run with her aggressive play, scoring 5 goals during the run. Arguably the most impressive goal was a diving goal after rebounding a saved shot by Guadeloupe's goalkeeper, Deborah Galvani.

With an 11-7 lead, Team USA went to an aggressive pressure defensive scheme, but Guadeloupe found gaps in USA's defense and took advantage of missed assignments en route to a 4-1 run to close the half.

At the end of the first half, Guadeloupe's Nahety Medas accomplished a rare, impressive feat. With no time left on the clock, Medas fired and scored on a 9-meter shot against a wall of USA's tallest defenders and forced a 12-12 tie.

Unfortunately, USA Blue's aggressive, attacking mindset did not transfer to the second half.
Team USA stuck to a pressure scheme on defense, but left many opportunities to score on the table on offense. Multiple USA Blue possessions ended in players passing up open lanes to the net or electing not to take a high percentage shot against Guadeloupe's defense. And when USA did elect to shoot, Guadeloupe's Galvani (12 total saves) denied a majority of Blue's attempts.

Meanwhile, Guadeloupe's offense became more aggressive, and USA's defense was constantly whistled for fouls, much to the chagrin of Team USA coach, Christian Latulippe.

After a time-out taken midway through the second half, Guadeloupe's ball-movement and off-ball movement led to easy shots on goal, a 5-1 run (three goals by Gwenaelle Salignat), and a 22-18 lead with less than eight minutes to go.

Team USA responded after another time-out with a 5-1 run of their own (three goals by Kathy Darling), and tied the score at 23. But USA Blue suffered a blow when wing Julia Taylor was whistled for a foul and given a two-minute suspension with 1:09 remaining. Lucile Manieca score the final goal to give Guadeloupe the lead and the win.

Final Score: GLP -- 24, USA (Blue) -- 23

Goals – GLP: Medas (5), Salignat (4), Lerus (4), Touffette (3), Pioche (3), Glissant (2), Manieca (2), Perrot (1)

Goals – USA (Blue): Van Ryn (6), Gascon (6), Taylor (4), Darling (4), Levinkind (1), Fithian (1), Graham (1)

Team USA Red came up short against Canada White, 25-20, in USA Red's first match of the Winter series.

The Red Team consisted of many more of the recent additions to the USA Team Handball Residency Program and handballers from other parts of the U.S., so there was a slight disadvantage in team chemistry to the Canadian visitors. However, Team USA sought to make up for the disparity with tough defense and grit.

USA Red jumped out to a 3-1 lead and looked to make a statement early. Led by the physical defense of Tomuke Ebuwei, the peskiness of Jennifer Farrar (3 steals in the first 8 minutes), and the impressive goalkeeping of newcomer Katiann Scherer (11 total saves), the U.S. was able to match the strides of Team Canada in the opening moments.

Unfortunately, the chemistry of Canada began to translate into great ball-movement and sharp offense. The USA defense, while still physical, was unable to force turnovers to lead to easy points. Canada, however, responded to USA's early surge with a 10-2 run.

Farida Abou-Zeida kept USA Red in the game with her four first-half goals and Team USA went into halftime only down 12-9.

The second half saw both teams at a stalemate, with neither squad able to make a significant run to either pull away or, in Team USA's case, take the lead. Both teams traded goals through out the rest of the match, and both goalkeepers were impressive in their respective goals (Canada's Vasillia Gagnon recorded 8 second-half saves).

However, turnovers ultimately kept Team USA from getting closer than within four goals in the second half. The defense remained stellar, but the offense could not put points on the board.

Canada won the second half 13-11, and ultimately the game, 25-20. Despite the loss, the USA Red Team still showed promise and were able to bounce back from the early deficit.

Abou-Zeida, a veteran on the USA Red squad was able to see the positives from the loss. "I think we played very well," she said after the match. "I'm really proud of our team's performance. A little unlucky at times with missed shots or miscommunication on offense and defense, but overall it was a good game."

Final Score: CAN (White) -- 25, USA (Red) -- 20

Goals -- CAN (White): Routhier (4), Marcoux (4), Kinsella (3), Benhacine (3), Perry (3), Sanderson (2), Ares St. (2), Langlois (1), Rogiani (1), Poirier (1), Lavoie (1)

Goals -- USA (Red): Abou-Zeida (8), Hesser (4), Farrar (4), Lombard (2), Morrison (1), Nguyen (1)

Next Matches:

Tonight, Dec. 19, 5:30 p.m. CST, Canada Red vs. USA Red
Tonight, Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m. CST, Canada White vs. Guadeloupe