Usually handball teams in the U.S. take a break after Nationals in May. Everybody takes their well deserved vacations, visit friends and families at home and waits for the new indoor season to start in September. That was not the case in California and especially not for SF CalHeat.
Summer time is Beach Handball time in California. Under the direction of USA Beach Handball Elite Team Player Michelle Mensing, the SF CalHeat players soon found a new home court at Ocean Beach, in San Francisco and on the grass fields of Mountain View. From June to September the orange lines and white PVC goals attracted not only club members, but also non-handball players and international guests to play Beach Handball, which is in consideration to become an Olympic Sport.
A SF CalHeat record of 22 practices (10 beach and 12 grass handball) provided attendees with fun, lessons in basic beach handball techniques, and a lot of new friends. But the practices were not just for the lovers of the game, they were the perfect preparation for the summer season highlight: The 11th annual SoCal Beach Handball Championship in Los Angeles.
As a tournament regular, for SF CalHeat it means meeting old and new friends, and it is always a pleasure to play under the Californian sun in Huntington Beach. SF CalHeat was able to send a women and a men team to this year’s tournament, with Jean-Marc Junique Froloff attending for his 11th time (tournament record). This year’s tournament saw the strongest line-up ever with National Teams and players from Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
The men team consisting of nine SF CalHeat players started strong with two straight wins in the tournament. During group play the team only lost against Jacob’s Birthday Party and Electric Bird, both teams featuring multiple USA Beach Handball National Team players. With the second place in group B the team went on to the semifinals to face RIP HC, another team consisting mostly of National Team players. SF CalHeat managed to win the first half, but was forced to shootouts and lost those by 4:1 goals. In the bronze medal match they faced Jacob’s Birthday Party again and as in the group play were not able to have the upper hand, finishing the tournament in 4th place.
The women team, competing only with six players throughout the entire tournament, missed the start of the tournament. Losing the first half by golden goal and the second half by dominance of Mexico’s brilliant center-pivot combination, the women lost their first match against last year’s tournament winner. The team was able to recover and win one half against the Tornado (Team USA/LA), but the Tornado kept the upper hand in the shootout. Determined to win their next game, which would result in direct qualification for the semi-finals, the team regrouped and changed their strategy leading them to win against Trinidad & Tobago.
On Sunday the women team faced the second USA Nationals / LA players team, named Two Points. With newly won confidence and a great offensive strategy the team played itself into a rush, dominating the first half and winning the second. The next game would see the women facing team Tornado again in the semi-finals, with the bitter loss in the shootout payback time was on and the women team delivered. Winning both halves they qualified as in the previous year for the tournament final and like the year before the opponent would be Colima/Mexico.
Without a warm up (the sun and playing with only one substitute for 5 games was warm up enough) the women kicked-off the game one last time with a strong “CALHEAT”. And strong they started, almost eliminating the center-pivot plays the girls won the first half. The second half was hazard to bad passes, too many simple errors and fatigue, and forced the game once again to shootouts. Shootouts create legends and so did this one. Lead by two incredible saves from Helena Bondan, the team could win the shootouts with two simple one-point goals (end score: 7:6) securing their first ever gold medal at the SoCal Beach Handball Championship.
SF CalHeat wants to thank USA Beach Handball and the Los Angeles Team Handball Club for hosting this excellent tournament and would like to invite everyone to our own beach handball tournament on September 23/24 in Ocean Beach, San Francisco. (More information here: https://www.facebook.com/NorCalBeachHandball/)
SF CalHeat will resume its indoor practices on Monday September 11th at the Centerville Junior High School Gym in Fremont, California.