This year the Texas Cup organized a best of four games series between San Francisco CalHeat and Houston Firehawks women teams alongside the men’s tournament. These match-ups were held in a hope to establish a women’s tournament in the years to come.
Games between CalHeat and Houston Firehawks Women have proven in the past that the result cannot be predicted. This tournament was not an exception and therefore a great competition and an opportunity to practice as both teams evenly matched.
Led by their new coach Kristina ‘Tina’ Alavanja and the task to include three new player into the team, CalHeat started the tournament with a tie (19:19) as the players were struggling to find their marks collectively. In the second game of the day, CalHeat switched to a 5:1, and later 3:2:1 defense to get a lot more goals from fast breaks. This enabled the team to set a comfortable 21:14 win. One would think that from here on out it would be a boring series, but Houston knew how to adjust the next day.
On Sunday morning, the soreness and tiredness of the prior day started to kick in, and although CalHeat goalie Athena Del Rosario made some amazing saves, CalHeat saw this one slip away as the Firehawks prevailed 19:17. With the trophy on the line, CalHeat players gave every ounce of energy they had during the last 50 minutes game to snatch a close 19-18 success. Throughout the tournament, our ladies showed some brilliant sequences in offense, led in particular by Laura Savy & Constance Duvert.
On top of bringing a trophy home, the women’s team got their hands on all personal awards! Athena Del Rosario got a well-deserved MVG title (second in a row) and CalHeat’s very own Constance Duvert was named MVP and top scorer of the tournament.
After bringing home gold from the 2018 Michael Lipov Memorial Cup in Chicago, CalHeat men’s team had high ambitions for the Texas Cup 2018.
At a brand new venue (Drive Nation) and in a unique format with two groups of respectively four and three teams, the men’s team needed to secure the first place in the group to qualify for the final. Finishing second meant playing an extra game, a semi-final against the winner of the second group.
The first game was a rematch of last year’s final against the defending champion, Chicago Inter Handball. Stronger with TH Academy Greg Inahara and Kevin Gruzinsky, Chicago took an early and comfortable lead in the game (11:5 after 15’). CalHeat ran after the score for the entire second half and managed to be more aggressive in defense to tie the game at 18:18 with 5 minutes to go. However, the defending champion was more efficient in offense to secure the win 22:20. This first defeat was a sharp reminder that no game should be taken lightly and that the Californians would have to go the extra mile to bring another trophy home.
Now forced to win their two remaining games to reach the semi-final, CalHeat faced Dallas THC in its second round robin match-up. The strong 6-0 defense coupled with a more structured and patient offense allowed CalHeat to secure a first win in the tournament, 24:14. The team from the Bay Area had now to face the other host, Houston Firehawks, with the imperative to win to advance to semis. Building on the good performance of the previous game, as well as more fast breaks and second waves, CalHeat slowly but surely took the lead and was up 13-4 at half time. The second half continued at the same pace and the second place was secured with a large 31-16 win.
CalHeat was set to play the semi against Air Force. With a few injured players, CalHeat struggled to control the game and the first half ended up in a light 1-goal lead for the Californians, 14:13. The beginning of the second half continued at the same pace and both teams kept neutralizing each other. Gradually, CalHeat started finding more solutions in offense, through smarter plays with the pivot, and once again relied on a solid defense and goalie to stamp a final lead that had reached 10 goals when the horn blew, 30:20.
In a rematch of the opening game, CalHeat met up again with Chicago for the gold. The team started aggressively in defense, pressuring the Midwest shooters high on 9-10 meters. Carried by a high-efficiency in shooting, the boys took a comfortable lead 8:1 after 15 minutes. The pace of the game changed brutally with slower transitions from both teams and a decreased shooting efficiency across positions. It was 10:4 at half time. Although the second half was more balanced, CalHeat kept the control of the game and managed a lead that would never go below four goals. Rotating its roster, the team secured a well-deserved 22:18 win and brought home their second trophy of the season! This win allows the team to reach the top of the wild card race for the Elite Division (15 points) prior to CalCup. For note, CalHeat also brought back the MVP (Zuwed Akuro), MVG (Lucas Kroeger) and Top scorer trophies (Zuwed Akuro).
It is now time for both teams to rest during the upcoming Christmas holidays and prepare the annual California Cup tournament (Jan 25-27, 2019). Stay tuned, more to come in 2019!
Picture of the tournament: here