Twenty teams from across the United States converged on Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 15-17, to compete for the coveted title of national champion at the 2022 U.S. Association of Blind Athletes’ National Goalball Championships. Due to the COVID pandemic in 2020, this marked the first national championships held since 2019. It also marked a return to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site at Turnstone Center, the training base for the USA Men’s and Women’s Goalball Teams, for the first time since 2018.
Three days of spirited competition and camaraderie ended with the awarding of team medals and individual awards on Sunday, July 17. Here’s a look at the competition in the three divisions…
What better way to cap the weekend’s events than with an overtime game to determine the gold medal. Those in attendance along with viewers of the live stream broadcast were treated to an exciting back-and-forth affair between the Atlanta Force and Michigan OG’s. After 2020 Tokyo Paralympian Calahan Young scored for Atlanta to break a 9-9 tie with 26 seconds remaining, the Force seemed destined for gold. However, Young’s Paralympic teammate John Kusku tied the game back up for Michigan on the final throw with just two seconds remaining.
In overtime, a sliding save by Michigan’s Jim Debus to keep a loose ball from entering the net kept the score deadlocked. Finally, on the 12th shot of the extra session, Kusku made the winning throw from the right post through the center and left wing to send the Michigan OG’s into celebration. Other players on the national champion Michigan squad were Jason Meddaugh and Camilo Glas. The team was coached by Jessica Kusku. Young claimed the silver medal with his Atlanta Force teammates Tito Vega, Lewis Burdette and Josh Olukanni. The Force was guided by head coach Hal Simpson. In the bronze medal game, the BSO Jawns defeated New York Empire, 8-0. The Jawns, led by coach Ernie Tyler, included players Andy Jenks, Jason Capati, Mike Coughlin, Josh Schwartz and Shannon Cantan.
Like the men’s gold-medal final, the women’s championship game pitted two Paralympic teammates against each other. The New Jersey Honeybees, led by two-time Paralympic medalist Amanda Dennis, faced the Sirens, led by two-time Paralympic medal winner Eliana Mason.
Behind the scoring of Dennis, the Honeybees opened up an early lead and kept their foot on the gas to cruise to a 12-7 victory. Joining Dennis on the national champions were Shelley Palmadessa, Jenna Tiberi and Jasmine Murrell. The team was coached by Jake and Lisa Czechowski.
The Sirens took home the silver led by Mason, 1984 gold medalist and 1988 silver medalist Karen Helmacy Zabel, Adiana Brennan and Iman Awad. The Sirens were coached by Bailey Buhler and John Potts.
The Maryland Minks took home the bronze medal in the women’s division with a convincing 13-4 win over the Atlanta Blazers in the bronze-medal tilt. Team members included Makalia Lama, Breanna Pumphrey, Bridget Cassidy, Shavon Lockhardt and Rebecca Levasseur. The team was coached by Kelvin Atkinson.
Four teams battled for supremacy in the men’s B division and when the dust settled, the New Jersey Thunder stood above the others, capped off by a 7-4 victory over DC in the title game. The Thunder roster was comprised of Jeremy Capati, Omar Atin, Alphonso Harrell and Dan Palmadessa. The winning squad was coached by Don Richards. Silver-medal winning DC included Kurt Sloop, Caleb Berkemeier, Elijah Mehrkens and coach EJ Sloop.
Capturing the men’s B division bronze medal were the Atlanta Wolves. The Wolves defeated Florida United Red in the bronze-medal matchup, 13-3. Coach Wellington DeLuna led the Wolves who were comprised of Kendal Newson, Christopher Morgan, Brian Moore and Kaijan Sheppard.
At the conclusion of the tournament, each team voted for the most valuable player in the men’s and women’s divisions. Garnering the most votes in the men’s division and earning the Tom Parrigin MVP Award was Calahan Young of the Atlanta Force. In the women’s division, Eliana Mason received the Sharon Gunderman MVP Award. Parrigin and Gunderman, longtime contributors to goalball in the U.S., both passed away within the last two years and their legacies will live on through these annual awards recognizing excellent play at the USABA National Goalball Championships.
The final award presented was the Cody Carmicle Spirit of the Game Award, named in honor of USA Men’s National Goalball Team athlete Cody Carmicle who passed away in 2021 after a courageous battle with cancer. The award exemplifies all that Cody embodied and is voted on by the competing teams. It is presented to a player who displays dedication, commitment to excellence and love of the game. The inaugural recipient was Karen Helmacy Zabel, a member of the silver-medal-winning Sirens team in the women’s division. Zabel was on the first women’s Paralympic gold medal team in 1984 and also won a silver medal at the 1988 Paralympic Games.
Full results from the 2022 USABA National Goalball Championships can be found on Goalball Scoreboard.