Jence Rhoads fights through the Puerto Rico defense. Rhoads finished with one goal on Saturday.
By: Dave Gascon
USA Team Handball Director of High Performance
HAVANA, Cuba – It was back on the court in hopes of redemption for the USA Women’s National Team on Saturday. Puerto Rico was obviously a way for the Americans to finally get a win, right? Well it sure looked that way at the start of the game. Karoline Borg, the team’s top scorer, once again opened the scoring. In quick order, Julia Taylor scored, as did Ashley Van Ryn.
Shortly after Puerto Rico got on the board, Sarah Gascon came out of nowhere to steal a ball and scored on a breakaway. Borg then added a goal and in the first seven minutes, the USA jumped to a 5-1 advantage. Just when it seemed the U.S. Women would run away and hide, Puerto Rico came storming back. In just a few minutes they caught the Americans and then jumped into the lead.
The U.S. found themselves being beaten in every individual contest. The quickness advantage of the Puerto Ricans was stunning. This was the same team the USA had handled consistently the last several games they have played. But not today!
The first half was revealing as Puerto Rico got every free ball, stuck their hands into the passing lanes to defect and steal balls, and even blocked the taller USA players on several occasions. While Borg continued to score, Puerto Rico was consistently disrupting the other Team USA attackers. Kathy Darling and Liz Hartnett scored, as did Van Ryn again, but the Puerto Rican team answered and stayed in front. Julia Taylor (pictured, left) scored on a great fast break, but nothing seemed to derail this relentless opponent. The U.S. played well defensively, holding Puerto Rico to only nine goals. Unfortunately, the WNT scored only eight themselves.
The opening of the second half revealed that Puerto Rico was going to be difficult to handle. They would score and on occasion the U.S. would answer, but not consistently. A goal by Borg and Puerto Rico would answer. A score by Fithian, and Puerto Rico answered. It went that way as WNT players Jence Rhoads and Marilyn Elder added goals, but the U.S. Women could not erode the lead. Zoe Lombard scored twice, yet nothing turned the tide.
Taylor´s speed resulted in another fast break goal and Team USA looked like they would finally catch their speedy opponents, but Team Puerto Rico would not fold. In the end, Puerto Rico was the better team and the U.S. WNT suffered their third loss in three days, 23-20.
Team USA will play Greenland on Sunday, hoping to finally get into the win column.
Final Score: PUR – 23, USA – 20
Goals: PUR – Nath. Ceballo (9), Garcia (5), Maldonado (3), Pope (3), Vergara (2), Hiraldo (1)
Goals: USA – Borg (7), Taylor (3), Lombard (2), Van Ryn (2), Gascon (1), Darling (1), Elder (1), Fithian (1), Hartnett (1), Rhoads (1)
Official Score Sheet (PDF)
– Team USA faces Greenland today (Sunday, May 24, 2015) at 11:00 am EST.