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U.S. Women Take Paralympic Champion Turkey to Overtime at Goalball Worlds

Posted December 15, 2022  Uncategorized
USA Women's Goalball Coach Jake Czechowski reacts to the play on the court.
U.S. Women’s Coach Jake Czechowski

In a rematch of last summer’s gold medal final at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, the USA Women’s Goalball Team squared off with Turkey on Dec. 15 in the quarterfinals of the 2022 IBSA Goalball World Championships held in Matosinhos, Portugal.

Unlike the Paralympic final in Tokyo, when Turkey took advantage of a short-handed American team playing with injuries and went on to a 9-2 victory, the U.S. squad was at full strength in this game. The starting lineup of Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.), Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.) and Eliana Mason (Beaverton, Ore.) packed a combined 11 Paralympic Games appearances and eight Paralympic medals in their arsenal. That experience was on display from the opening whistle as the Americans went toe-to-toe with the powerhouse Turks.

A furious back-and-forth exchange two minutes into the contest saw the teams score four goals in less than a minute. Miller started the scoring with a deft shot down the line, but Turkey countered with two goals from the tournament’s leading scorer, Sevda Altunoluk. The U.S. responded with a game-tying goal by Dennis and the go-ahead tally by Miller before Altunoluk netted two more goals to give Turkey a 4-3 lead at the half, the last score coming with 18 seconds left on the clock.

After seven goals were scored in the first half, both teams tightened up defensively in the second stanza. The only score of the second half came off the arm of Mason who tied the game midway through the period on a quick return shot to force sudden death overtime. With a berth in the semifinals against Israel on the line, Altunoluk found the back of the net with a shot down the line just 31 seconds into the opening overtime period to send Turkey to the next round and eliminate the American squad.

The U.S. women went 5-3 in the tournament with wins over Brazil (11-4), Australia (9-1), Egypt (4-1), Portugal (12-4) and Great Britain (5-4). Losses came against Japan (6-2), Israel (9-7) and the quarterfinal loss to Turkey. The team had a balanced scoring attack with Mason leading the way with 13 goals, followed by Miller and Shavon Lockhardt (White Plains, N.Y.) with 12 each, and Dennis with 11. Other team members were Libby Daugherty (Austin, Texas) and Mindy Cook (Columbus, Ohio)

Sean Walker blocks a shot as teammates Tyler Merren and Matt Simpson back him up
Sean Walker makes a stop

In the men’s competition, the U.S. team fell just short of advancing to the quarterfinal round with a 4-3 record in group play. A last-second victory by Iran over Ukraine on the final day of preliminary round play officially eliminated the American team. The U.S. recorded wins over Egypt (15-10), Argentina (9-3), Iran (11-9) and Colombia (13-3). The three losses came against defending Paralympic silver medalist China (7-4), reigning Paralympic bronze medalist Lithuania (12-2) and Ukraine (11-5).

The U.S. men were led in scoring by Tyler Merren (Kalamazoo, Mich.) with 21 goals. Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.) and Christian King (Virginia Beach, Va.) both added 11. Other team members were Andy Jenks (Philadelphia, Pa.), Daryl Walker (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Sean Walker (Winchester, Va.).

The IBSA Goalball World Championships also featured Linda Welborn (Pelham, Ala.) as a head official.

The next opportunity for goalball teams to qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will come at next summer’s IBSA World Games being held in Birmingham, England, Aug. 18-27. The top men’s and women’s teams who have not already qualified for Paris will earn automatic berths from that event.