A new tournament site, several new teams and all-star matches were among changes US goalball enthusiasts experienced this past weekend as the 2012 goalball season kicked off at the John Bakos/USABA Midwest Regional Goalball Tournament.
After many years at Kalamazoo, Michigan, the 28th edition of this tournament found a new home in Warren, Michigan and along with the change of venue, the tournament welcomed several US teams that participated for the first time or returning after an absence of several years:
Rose City Thorns – Men
South Florida Rage
After a heated round of pool play, the initial field of 16 men’s teams, including three teams from Canada, narrowed down to 8 teams that would advance to the quarterfinal round:
Michigan Wrecking Crew
New York Knights
As the dust settled on the quarter final round, three very tough teams from Canada and an outstanding California Earthquake would advance to the semifinals to battle for the right to play for gold in the finals.
In the first semifinal game against California, Nova Scotia took a 3-1 lead at halftime. In the second half, California pushed back with a goal, but couldn’t clinch the win. Final score 3-2, Nova Scotia. The second semifinal paired Canadian rivals Quebec and British Columbia. Fans in this gym witnessed another match equal in intensity and also ending in a 3-2 finish, this time with the victory going to British Columbia.
It was all Canada in the men’s gold medal match with a young Nova Scotia team facing a seasoned British Columbia. Ninety seconds into the match, Brendan Gaulin would capitalize on a penalty shot to put British Columbia in the lead. Nova Scotia would quickly bounce back to tie the game, but Brendan Gaulin would score again; the first half would end with 2-1 British Columbia lead. In the second half, Brendan Gaulin would score the hat trick, sealing Nova Scotia’s fate. British Columbia would take the gold medal with a 3-1 final score.
The lone US hope for a men’s medal, California Earthquake would relinquish the bronze medal to Quebec who overtook California 7-3.
The following women’s teams would emerge from pool play to the semifinal round:
In the first women’s semifinal match, the Georgia Firebolts, 2011 USA national championships women’s silver medalists, would face off against a team comprised of pool players Cathy Morgan, Tracey Sinkovic and Christy Ray. Although the pool team played valiantly, the Firebolts would prevail with a 3-1 win. In the other women’s semifinal pairing, the Kalamazoo Kraze would gain a 1-0 lead against New Jersey they would keep until the final buzzer. They would later meet Georgia to play for the tournament championship.
The women’s gold medal game was a nail-biter between the Georgia Firebolts and the Kalamazoo Kraze. Neither team would concede a goal with regulation play ending with a tied 0-0 score. Two minutes into the first overtime period, Leanne Merren would drive a ball down the line that would find its way into the goal and win her team the women’s gold medal. Final score: Kalamazoo Kraze 1, Georgia Firebolts 0.
The bronze medal match would be the Pool team versus New Jersey. In another very tight game, the Pool team, playing together for their first time a this tournament would find a way to overtake New Jersey and win by a 2-1 margin.
The next tournament will be the 2012 ABANJ/USABA Northeast Regional Goalball Tournament to be held in Westmont, New Jersey, April 14 and 15. The application deadline for teams is April 2. .