SANTIAGO, Chile (November 18, 2023) – With two victories over Canada, the USA Goalball teams got off to a hot start during Saturday’s opening day of competition at the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
The USA men’s team played Canada in the morning session of preliminary Group B action and came away with a convincing 9-2 victory. After Blair Nesbitt scored on Canada’s first throw of the match, Christian King (Virginia Beach, Va.), playing in his first Parapan American Games, tied the game with a bounce-ball goal. Tyler Merren (Greenville, Mich.) converted a penalty throw less than a minute later to put the U.S. on top, but Canada responded with Nesbitt’s second tally to knot the game at 2-2 with 4:02 to play in the half.
After that, it was all USA.
Calahan Young (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and King scored on consecutive throws and Merren added his second goal in the final minute to give the American squad a 5-2 halftime advantage.
In the second half, three goals in less than a minute put the U.S. comfortably in front as Young converted a high-ball penalty throw, King netted his third goal and Young found the back of the net for his third tally to make it 8-2. Zach Buhler (Huntington, Ind.) capped off the scoring with a penalty throw with just under four minutes remaining.
“We know what’s on the line,” said two-time Paralympian Matt Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.). “To come out and get a win in the first game of this tournament is a big step for us. We’ve got our eye on that prize.”
The U.S. men’s team also benefited from playing a penalty-free game, a fact that was not lost on Simpson.
“We know that the only team that can beat us is us. If we play our game and don’t let other teams get the easy ones, it’s a lot harder for them. Strong defense and no penalties, that’s our identity.”
“We know when we start fast, we continue to run,” added U.S. Head Coach Keith Young. “To have all six players go out there and contribute to the win was great. The energy that we had and maintained was fantastic.”
The U.S. men’s team is back in action on Sunday against Argentina at 2:30 p.m. EST.
In the afternoon session, the U.S. women’s team and Canada played a tightly contested first half with the USA finally breaking through with 1:45 remaining when Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.) converted a high-ball penalty throw.
Dennis would convert another penalty throw to start the second half as Canada was called for an eyeshade infraction as they readied for play. Canada, however, would come roaring back with three goals in the span of 51 seconds to forge in front, 3-2, with 10:43 to play.
The score would remain 3-2 until the 4:07 mark when Canada found themselves in penalty trouble once again. Dennis made good on two of three penalty throws in a 90-second window, hitting the goalpost on her only miss, and the U.S. found themselves back in front, 4-3, with 2:38 on the game clock. Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.) would cap off the victory with an insurance goal in the final 12 seconds.
“Not only does it make us play our best because they are always a good opponent, but that sets us up to play our best in the tournament,” Miller said about facing a tough opponent like Canada in the first match. “It sets the tone for the tournament whether you start on a win, or you don’t.”
Head coach Jake Czechowski was pleased that his team played penalty-free compared to Canada’s five penalties.
“Something that we focus on is aggression with execution,” Czechowski said. “I thought our aggression was strong, but I also thought we were very, very patient. We work really hard on our specialty situations…our penalty block and our penalty throwing…and we were able to take advantage of that today.”
The U.S. women’s team will be back in action in preliminary Group D action on Monday when they take on host country Chile at 3:45 p.m. EST.
Watch livestream coverage at panamsportschannel.org.