After two months of preparation, our senior team was kicking off their season at the 2018 Michael Lipov Memorial Cup in Chicago from 10/26 to 10/28.
With very high ambitions this season and with several new additions to the roster, the men’s team flew to Chicago with high hopes, but no certainty on how a team with so many talented players would work out together once on the court.
After ending the first game, against a promising Team Handball Academy, on a 29-26 success after a well-controlled game, the second round-robin facing against West Point was going to be the team’s first true test. After controlling most of the game thanks to a solid defense and leading up to 9 goals, CalHeat experienced a harder last 10 minutes and let West Point come back from -9 to -3. Final score 30-27. With 2 wins in 2 games, a super strong defense and an offense that started to get into a real rhythm, SF CalHeat still needed to beat Houston to secure the semis.
Disciplined in defense, CalHeat never let Houston take control of the game and progressively built a lead that would culminate to 6 goals at half time. The first 15 minutes of the second half would prove difficult as the offense struggled against the opponent’s goalie. Ultimately, the depth of our bench would make the difference and the continuous defensive pressure coupled with the absence of Firehawks key player (Philipp Altong) led to several easy goals in fast breaks and a notable win 22-11.
In the semifinal, CalHeat faced the tournament host, Chicago Inter, for a rematch of last year’s semifinal. After a relatively balanced start, the game quickly ended up being controlled by the Californians who, once again, primarily relied on an aggressive defense and well-performing goalies. With a 26-17 win, CalHeat secured its first final in the tournament. In the other semi, a surprising Team Handball Academy, led by Greg Inahara, Amar Amitovic and Alden Mezick delivered a sensational performance against NYAC (33-28) and were prepared to face our team in the final.
Learning from their initial matchup, CalHeat made sure to maintain a firm grip on the game. Continuing to build on their signature aggressive 6:0 defense, the orange and blue built an early 8 goals lead within the first 15 minutes. At half time, CalHeat had even secured a 21-12 lead. The second half went on a very different pace as our opponent tried in vain to take on our back players individually. At the final whistle, CalHeat celebrated a 38-28 victory and their first ever victory in this tournament.
This first success marks the ambition of our men’s team to dominate the national scene and allow them to build an early lead in the hunt for a qualification to the U.S. Elite division. The team will have to confirm this first good impression in Dallas, TX early December and win a title that it let slip last year in a last minute defeat against Chicago. See you then!