LIMA, Peru — The U.S. goalball teams are both returning home with silver medals around their necks following a highly successful tournament at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. More importantly, the U.S. men’s team secured their qualification into the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with their performance.
“We had one big, big mission here and that was to qualify the team for Tokyo and we did that,” said team member and 2016 Paralympic silver medalist Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.).
In Saturday’s gold medal contest, the U.S. men went up against defending world champion Brazil. In the first half, the American squad was its own worst enemy committing five penalties resulting in four penalty throw goals by Brazil. At the half, the U.S. trailed 8-3.
In the second half, sparked by two goals from Simpson and two by Josh Welborn (Birmingham, Ala.), the American squad clawed its way back into the contest, drawing to within two on a goal from Darryl Walker (Jacksonville, Fla.) with 46 seconds remaining. But that would be as close as they came as Brazil responded with another goal to make the final tally 12-9.
“Any time we get to play the best team in the world it’s an opportunity and it’s a challenge and we came up a little bit short tonight. But I think we know we left some things out on the court that next time they’re not going to be so lucky,” added Simpson.
The U.S. men’s team went 5-1 in the tournament with Welborn leading the scoring with 19 goals. Tyler Merren (Coral Springs, Fla.) scored 16 and Calahan Young (Irwin, Pa.) added 15. The squad had a goal differential of plus-34 after outscoring their opponents 62-28.
Likewise, the U.S. women’s team suffered its only loss of the tournament in their final against Brazil, dropping a 4-3 decision in the second overtime of that contest. It was a heartbreaking loss for the team after Brazil scored with 14 seconds left in regulation to tie the game. Following a scoreless three-minute sudden-death overtime, the teams entered a second overtime period where Brazil netted the game winner in the opening minute of play.
“It was a great game to be a part of,” said U.S. coach Jake Czechowski. “We know whenever we play Brazil, especially a second time in a tournament, it’s going to be a great battle. Both teams played like warriors and Brazil just happened to get the right bounce at the right time. Congratulations to them for being Parapan Am champions.”
The American women’s squad finished the event with a 6-1 record, outscoring their opponents 53-12 in the seven games. Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.) led the team with 14 goals, Lisa Czechowski (Boonton, N.J.) scored 12 and Eliana Mason (Beaverton, Ore.) added 11.