Cadets struggle against tough competition, but Junior Men's Team leads the B21 Division after first day of matches at the Partille Cup.
GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- USA Team Handball Junior Men's National Team and Boys' Cadet Team experienced different fortunes on the first day of the 2015 Partille Cup. The Junior Men finished Day 1 atop the B21 (Boys' Under-21) Division with 5 points (two wins, one draw), while the Cadets lost both their matches to bigger, more experienced teams.
Thanks to the leadership of Julio Sainz and Craig Rot, over 30 Team USA players and coaches embarked upon a 4,000 mile journey last week to the Swedish city of Gothenburg to prepare for and compete in the "largest youth handball tournament in the world."
USA Team Handball was specially invited to participate in the Partille Cup Solidarity Camp, a three day mini-camp for countries with relatively less youth handball activity, which preceded the Partille tournament. Other "young handball nations" such as Peru, Scotland, and Zimbabwe also took part in the Solidarity Camp.
The Cadet team (Under-14) and Junior Men's team (Under-21) received tutelage from Henrik Signell, coach of Swedish champions IK Sävehof, and used the camp to develop chemistry with one another (unlike other teams participating in the Partille Cup, neither Team USA squad played together as a unit prior to the Solidarity Camp). Confidence soared for both teams as a result of the camp, especially the Cadets, who won two of their friendly matches in the camp and tied in the other. The Junior Men defeated Sävehof, 21:20, in their lone friendly match during the camp.
In official Partille match play, the Cadets were matched up against older, more physically developed and experienced players. They lost their first match against Swedish team HK Aranäs 2, 20:7, and fell to Skånela IF, another Swedish team, a few hours later, 17:4.
"Playing in an older division is seeming too tough for the boys, but they are learning, improving, and staying positive," said Cadets assistant coach Ross Miner on his personal Facebook page.
"The USATH cadets took a firm step back toward reality yesterday," echoed Junior Men's head coach Craig Rot on his personal Facebook page, "losing both games badly to experienced teams stocked with massive fourteen year-olds, but their spirits were not diminished, and seem excited to grow as individuals and a team."
Not far away, the U.S. U21 team enjoyed better fortune as they defeated Tyresö Handboll (SWE), 18:16, and HSC Haltern-Sythen (GER), 13:10. Their third match of the day, against Västra Frölunda IF (SWE) ended in a draw, 14:14. After all competition finished, Team USA held a very slim lead over Önnereds HK (SWE) for first place in the B21 division.
Both teams will return to action Wednesday on the handball fields of Skatås Motionscentrum. The Cadets will play two matches against current division-leader, Åhus Handboll (SWE), at 12:35 p.m. and Fjellhammer IL 1 (NOR), who is also 0-2, at 5:15 p.m. The Junior Men have another three-match day, with matches against HK Eskil (SWE) at 10:50 a.m., Redbergslids IK (SWE), at 3:30 p.m., and Krutholmens HK at 6:25 p.
Yesterday was "a very important day for the USATH juniors, who emerged atop the entire group after the first day of action," recounted Rot on Facebook, "but the stakes are great, and the competition will be gunning for us (HK Eksil, Redbergslids, and Krutholmes HK). It is going to be a fiery day under the Swedish sun."