US women open home International Qualifier with win
Date: July 2, 2019
The hosts’ women registered their first victory at the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball and Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne on Tuesday (2 July), with a 7-3 opening match win over Denmark.
Eliana Mason was the star of the show for the USA, netting five goals at the Indiana Tech venue.
“It’s great, we have been working so hard all year for this. We just stuck with the game plan and went off the way were hoping too,” Mason said.
“No secret, we just trained really hard and practised hitting accurate spots and we just executed really well as a team.”
The first half of USA v Denmark ended 2-2, leaving it all to play for.
The US opened strong, scoring three goals without reply. Amanda Dennis and Lisa Czechowski added to Mason’s goals with one each of their own.
Denmark’s Anja Christensen managed to pull one back with just over three minutes left on the clock but it was not enough to halt the US charge.
A further two goals came from Mason before the final whistle.
The US women will play Canada tomorrow at the Turnstone Centre for Children and Adults with Disabilities.
“We take it one day at a time but we have definitely being doing game prep on every team we’re seeing in pool play and we’re ready for tomorrow’s game,”” Mason concluded.
It was a different story for the US men as they were felled 7-4 by rising stars Ukraine.
Ukraine have enjoyed a successful few months which began with promotion to the top European division in goalball following their win at the Euros Championships B in Chorzow, Poland, in October 2018.
Facing the Paralympic silver medallists at home did not unsettle the Ukrainians.
Powering a shot right down the centre of the court, it took Yevheniy Tsyhanenko just 20 seconds to open the scoring for Ukraine in a tense first half.
Tyler Merren then equalised shortly after but it was another seven minutes before either side breached the goal line again. The USA’s Andrew Jenks fired a bouncing ball which deflected over the Ukrainian defence for the hosts to take the lead.
The US then conceded a penalty with just under 50 seconds left in the first half, and Rodion Zhyhalin was happy to send Tyler Merren the wrong way to equalise.
The tension continued into the second half. More than six minutes ticked by as both teams tested each other’s strong defensive lines.
Zhyhalin eventually broke the deadlock for his second goal, followed by a successful penalty attempt from Vasyl Oliinyk to give Ukraine a 2-0 lead – and some breathing space. Zhyhalin then added another straight through the USA’s defence.
But the USA responded. Josh Welbourn propelled the ball fast, straight and into the net to slow the Ukrainian momentum. Welbourn then found the net again to drag his team to within one goal of Ukraine at 5-4.
The game flipped on its head again when another penalty was awarded to Ukraine in the final two minutes, spurring the side to rediscover their groove.
With the US now two goals behind, Oliinyk saw an opportunity to capitalise with just 20 seconds left of the game. That proved to be the final action and the match ended 7-4.
Welbourn said: “To tell you the truth, even though it wasn’t the result we were hoping for, I think it was an amazing result for us as a team. Even though the scoreboard might not reflect it, I think in terms of team chemistry, how we were playing with each other on the court, I’m very satisfied with that and really looking forward to all the games going forward.”
Elsewhere in the men’s reigning Paralympic champions Lithuania managed to stretch out a 14-6 win over Sweden.
The opening six minutes of the first half saw both teams draw level at 2-2. But at the five minute mark Justus Pazarauskas showed his quality with a powerful cross-court effort that went straight into the corner of Sweden’s net.
That was Pazarauskas’ second goal of the game and Lithuania claimed another before Sweden got one back to stay within one goal of their opponents.
After more minutes ticked by, Pazarauskas managed to extend his team’s lead once more and bagged another two goals before the end of the first half.
With the score at 6-3 at the restart, Lithuania got out of the blocks early and scored another two goals. Mantas Panovas opened the second half scoring followed swiftly by Pazarauskas for his sixth and final goal of the game.
Pazarauskas was then substituted, but Panovas was more than comfortable to take over.
He secured another four goals to extend Lithuania’s lead. Their strong start to the tournament was cemented by two goals from Nerijus Montvydas to end with a 14-6 victory.
After the game Panovas said: “To win the first game is very good but this one is very important for our emotions and our game. I think that we played pretty well.”
Turkey took on Canada in a very close match, just edging the win by one goal which came in the last 10 seconds.
Turkey took an early lead with two goals on the scoreboard mid-way through the first half. Canada got one back but by the whistle, Turkey were up 3-1.
Canada came out fighting in the second half, as Ahmad Zevidavi clawed back two goals as Turkey could only add one. The Canadians then converted a penalty to draw level – once again by Zevidavi’s hand – but as the clock ticked down, it looked like a draw was on the cards.
A substitution by the Turkish team, bringing on Ekrem Gundogdu at 7:43, proved to be a tactical masterstroke. Gundogdu struck with just over 10 seconds left with a bouncing ball that proved too tough for Canada’s Zeividavi to stop with his legs.
Turkey’s Huseyin Alkan said: “It was really important to start the tournament with a win. It will effect our psychology during the rest of the tournament. We are feeling amazing now. In the previous years and in previous games, we have faced these kind of situations and we get used to this kind of excitement anyway, because all of our games are the same. But in the end after all this, we are winning.
“We focused on winning this tournament and we have spent a lot of energy, so we deserve to win it.”
Relative newcomers Argentina – who only made their World Championships debut one year ago – won their opening game against Greece.
The Argentines ended the first half with a one goal lead of 3-2, going on to double their score in the second half. Greece struggled to respond and only netted one more as the game ended 6-3.
Finland ended their opening game 14-8 over Poland. The Finnish goals were shared between Erkki Miinala who scored the lion's share with 11 and Ehsan Zoveidavi with three.
South Korea beat Spain 6-2 in the final game of the day.
In the opening game at Indiana Tech, Germany drew 2-2 with South Korea. The Germans came back from a 2-0 deficit with two goals within three seconds in the final few minutes of the second half.
Israel beat Great Britain 5-3 with all of their goals coming in the first half. Lihi Ben David starred in Israel’s attack, netting all but one of her country’s goals.
Canada, the fourth place finishers from the 2018 World Championships, suffered a shock 7-5 defeat against Finland.
All of the goals came in the second half after a nervy opening 12 minutes. Finland opened the scoring less than 60 seconds in and doubled their score a couple of minutes later courtesy of Lida Kauppila.
Canada did find their feet shortly after but Kauppila was on a roll and added another four before the end of the game. Her efforts just put Finland out of reach by two goals despite four that came from Canada’s Megan Mahon before the end of the game.
“It was a great game, it was very exciting,” said Finland’s Susanna Halme. “The first half was 0-0 so really good defending and the other half was really tough game, both scored but it was really exciting. I am very happy now.
“We have done a lot of preparations for this tournament and this is the one we have waited for.”
The Ukrainian women matched the performance of the men’s side with a convincing win over Greece.
Liliia Pasko netted five of their eight goals, four of which came in the second half. Greece did get on the scoreboard with two goals in reply from Konstantina Driva.
China only needed seven minutes to rip through Spain’s defence in their opening game, finding the net an incredible 10 times to end the match early.
The 2019 IBSA Goalball and Judo International Qualifier features 13 women’s teams and 14 men’s teams. The gold and silver medallists from Fort Wayne 2019 will punch their tickets to Tokyo 2020.
Judoka from around the world will also compete to improve their place in the world rankings towards qualification.
The competition is being shown live at the IBSA Goalball and Judo Facebook pages and IBSA’s YouTube channel.