SANTIAGO, Chile (November 22, 2023) – The USA Goalball men’s and women’s teams moved one step closer to qualifying for next summer’s Paris 2024 Paralympic Games with their respective victories in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round of the 2023 Parapan American Games. The men’s team defeated Colombia, 11-2, while the women’s squad beat Guatemala, 10-0.
Early on, the U.S. men’s team found themselves locked in a battle with Colombia. After taking a 4-0 lead in the game’s first five minutes behind the strength of three Calahan Young (Pittsburgh, Pa.) goals, Colombia battled back to make it 4-2 by halftime. The second half, however, was all USA.
Seven straight U.S. goals, including two more from Young and two from Christian King (Virginia Beach, Va.) fueled the resurgence in the 11-2 victory. Young ended the day with five goals, King added three and Tyler Merren (Greenville, Mich.), Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.) and Tre’Shaun Faison (Orange Park, Fla.) each added one.
U.S. Head Coach Keith Young on what changed in the second half: “Just energy, our conditioning, getting a little more action on the ball and a little movement. We saw where the spots were at and then we simply started hitting them.”
With today’s win, the U.S. men will know by Thursday’s semifinal against Canada if a victory in that match will punch their ticket to Paris. Brazil, who has already qualified for the Paris Paralympic Games, plays their semifinal match before the U.S. semifinal. If Brazil advances to the final a U.S. win in the semis will qualify the team for Paris.
“We’ve been working so hard just to qualify for Paris,” said Zach Buhler (Huntington, Ind.). “Just to be that one game closer is nerve-wracking but it feels so good at the same time.”
The U.S. women’s semifinal against Guatemala didn’t even make it past the first half as the American team was hitting on all cylinders and the game was halted on the 10-goal margin rule with 3:42 left in the half.
“Our goal hasn’t wavered,” said U.S. Head Coach Jake Czechowski. “It’s to hear that National Anthem and win that gold medal, and we’re one step closer. The thing I’m most proud of with the girls was their ability to execute today. They were able to hit their shots and the score reflected that.”
Six-time Paralympian Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.) led all scorers with four goals, followed closely by Eliana Mason’s (Beaverton, Ore.) three. Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.) added one along with Mindy Cook (Columbus, Ohio) and Ali Lawson (Jasper, Ga.) who both came off the bench late in the half.
“Those two work so hard,” Czechowski said about Cook and Lawson. “They are the epitome of what’s great about international athletics. To get them some extra time and get them goals, which they deserved, I couldn’t be more proud of those two.”
The U.S. men’s semifinal against Canada on Thursday starts at 3:30 p.m. EST, followed by the women’s semifinal against Argentina at 4:45 p.m. EST. Brazil plays Argentina in the other men’s semifinal while Canada and Brazil will match up on the other side of the women’s semifinal bracket.
The U.S. women’s team can qualify for the Paris Paralympic Games by finishing first at the Parapan American Games.