USA Blue Captures 1st in Winter Classic with Win over Canada

Dec. 22, 2014, 8:30 a.m. (ET)

Darling Leads USA Blue Second-Half Comeback to Secure First Place in Inaugural Winter Classic

By: Maurice Godwin
USA Team Handball Communications Specialist
maurice@usateamhandball.org


AUBURN, Ala. – Guadeloupe outscored USA Red 11-3 in the second half of the early Saturday match to win 23-14 and place second in the 2014 Winter Classic.

Latrice Lewis led all USA scorers with three goals in the first half, and set the tone early with her aggressive offensive play. Her offense, combined with great defensive performances by teammates Marilyn Elder and Jennifer Farrar kept USA Red close for the entire first half.

Team USA went into halftime down 12-11, but struggled to remain close for the remainder of the match.

After Lisa Dunn scored a fast-break goal to break the second-half seal, Guadeloupe went on a scoring rampage. The club team from the French West Indies scored 10 unanswered goals on Team USA to silence the home crowd. 

Guadeloupe's goalkeeper, Deborah Galvani, backed up Guadeloupe's stifling defense with her play in the net. She achieved 7 of her 15 total saves in the second half to help Guadeloupe earn the victory.

Final Score: GLP – 23, USA (Red) – 14

Goals – GLP: Lerus (6), Jouan (4), Salin (4), Perrot (3), Pioche (2), Medas (1), Touffette (1), Salignat (1), Manieca (1)

Goals – USA: Lewis (4), Elder (2), Hesser (2), Pierce (1), Voelkel (1), Levinkind (1), Dunn (1), Farrar (1), Morrison (1)

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Kathy Darling scored six second-half goals to help USA Blue defeat Canada Red, 24-20, and finish first in the tournament.

Canada Red began the match with a 4-0 run despite USA Blue’s full court pressure defense. Canada’s off-ball movement caused the early deficit and forced Team USA to settle back into a 6-0 defense.

Offensively, Team USA was much more assertive than in their last outing when they often passed up scoring opportunities. Notably, Jence Rhoads was a spark on the offense for USA Blue with three first-half goals, more than any other match total of the tournament.

Canada’s balanced offense was an issue for USA’s strong defense to overcome, however. The usual tenacity was there, but Canada limited USA to only two first-half fast-break goals (Rhoads and Julia Taylor).

Both teams had multiple unanswered goal-streaks in the first half, but Canada led at the break 10-8.

The second half was a treat for the USA fans who showed up to the Beard-Eaves Coliseum on Saturday. The home crowd witnessed an impressive display of determination by a focused Team USA squad.

USA Blue’s offensive firepower was too much to handle for Canada Red in the final period. In what was most likely one of the final women’s matches for Team USA leading up to the 2015 Pan American Games, Blue gave their most inspiring scoring output of the series.

Farida Abou-Zeida, took her talents to the Blue squad after leading USA Red in scoring in their first two tournament matches. Her aggressive attacking led to easier scoring opportunities for her U.S. teammates.

Catherine Graham, Jennifer Fithian, and Tomuke Ebuwei held down the fort defensively for Team USA, as usual, while their teammates capitalized on extra offensive possessions.

When it came to putting points on the board, Team USA relied upon its veterans to lead the way. Captain Sarah Gascon, along with frustrating Canada’s wing players on defense, made plays for her teammates and herself in the half-court offense, while wing Julia Taylor found her rhythm on her corner shots against Canada’s goalkeeper.

Last but not least, pivot Kathy Darling launched rocket after rocket into Canada’s goal against a helpless defense. During an 8-minute stretch, Darling’s scoring output (5 goals) matched the output of the entire Canada Red team.

Darling scored all six of her goals in the second half as Canada found no answer for her firepower.

Team USA’s 4-point win over Canada Red gave them the goal differential they needed (2 or more goals) to secure first place in the Winter Classic.

Final Score: USA (Blue) – 24, Canada (Red) – 20

Goals – USA (Blue): Darling (6), Taylor (4), Gascon (4), Rhoads (4), Abou-Zeida (3), Graham (1), Lombard (1), Hardison (1)

Goals – CAN (Red): Routhier (3), Laplante (2), Kitigawa (2), Trudel-Crete (2), Barette-St. Martin (2), Desnoyers (2), Taillefer (2), Xoosau (2), Rogiani (1), Poirier (1), Ares St. (1),

After the tournament, Team USA assistant coach Julio Sainz said he was “very pleased with the overall performance of the team.

“They are committed, receptive to advice, and their work ethics are high,” Sainz continued. “I believe this group of athletes will achieve their immediate goal of qualifying [for the Pan American Games in] Toronto.”

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USA Team Handball would like to sincerely thank David Portillo and Gabe Goodreau for their officiating of the entire 2014 Winter Classic tournament.