(Team USA with Silver Medals; Front: Hendrik Schultze, Javier Coba, Patrick Mulligan, Ben Liberty, Alex Binderis Michael Lee, Sean Zimber; Back: Head Coach Robert Hedin, Gary Hines, Eric Finch, Ian Hueter, Antoine Baup, Abou Fofana, Melvin Wheaton, Patrick Hueter, Manager Andreas Hertelt, Asst Coach Mark Ortega)
After playing two extra times of handball the night before, Team USA ran out of steam vs rivals Cuba Sunday night in the Gold Medal match, losing 37-36 in extra time. The match started out evenly, but Cuba gradually built up a 5 goal lead midway through the first half and an eventual half time score of 21-17.
In the second half the U.S. defense stiffened up and the U.S. was able to gradually pick away at the lead. With 11 minutes left in the contest a penalty shot save by Hendrik Schultze and two goals, 1 each from the Hueter brothers gave the U.S. its first lead, 27-26. Cuba, however, came back and even had a 32-29 goal lead with 5 minutes to play. The U.S. was able to again claw back with goals from Gary Hines, Patrick Mulligan and Michael Lee. With time winding down the U.S. was behind 33-32. Ian Hueter force a 7-meter penalty and Gary Hines converted to send the match into extra time, 33-33.
The extra time was close throughout and in the final minute Cuba pulled ahead 37-36 with a goal from Omar Toledando. The U.S. on the subsequence possession had an opportunity to tie, but a steal by Cuba sealed the win for Cuba. As winners of the NORCA Championships, Cuba also qualified for the Final Emerging Nations Tournament to be held in Tbilisi, Georgia from 8-16 June.
The U.S. had a balanced scoring attack led by 7 goals from Gary Hines and 6 each from Michael Lee and Patrick Hueter. Cuba was led in scoring by Omar Toledano and Reinier Taboada, who both had 12 goals.
Reflecting, after the tournament, Head Coach Robert Hedin, indicated that while he was disappointed in not taking the title he was still pleased with the team’s overall performance and progression as a unit. He also noted that the team is still learning to play together and that the more competitive matches they play the fewer mistakes they will make in crunch time.
Coach Hedin will continue to evaluate Europe based players and stateside players at the U.S. National Championship next May in Myrtle Beach, SC. The main target continues to be PANAM Games in July, but he’s also hopeful that the U.S. might still end up joining Cuba at the Final Emerging Nations Tournament in June via the 1 wild card slot that is still to be awarded. Certainly beating qualifiers, Cuba, in Group Play and losing the Gold Medal Match in Extra Time makes a pretty solid case.
Gary Hines, 7
Michael Lee, 6
Patrick Hueter, 6
Ian Hueter, 5
Sean Zimber, 4
Abou Fofana, 3
Javier Coba, 2
Antoine Baup, 1
Alex Binderis, 1
Patrick Mulligan, 1
USA – Cuba (Gold Medal Match) Official Match Statistics: Link
USA – Cuba (Gold Medal Match) Photo Gallery: Link
USA – Cuba (Gold Medal Match) Video: Link
Team USA Cumulative Statistics: Link
Official Tourney Website: Link