One year ago, we’ve left our women and men’s teams with a little feel of disappointment after ending up ‘only’ third at their home tournament.
This year’s competition was fiercer. The men’s division regrouped eight teams, and among them, the USA Team Handball reigning champion (NYC Team Handball Club), former winners Chicago Inter Handball (2018, 2015) and Houston Firehawks, as well as the freshly crowned Open Champion and State rival Los Angeles Team Handball Club. The opening day already offered thrilling match-ups, between NYC THC and San Francisco CalHeat 2 (15:12) and, especially, between San Francisco CalHeat and Los Angeles THC (28:27). Led by former Brazilian National Team player, Gil Pires, the South Californians were close to an upset in the final seconds.
During the second day, games became even more intense, and ended up in close win/lose. In group A, Chicago won 26:25 against NYC THC to secure the first place in the group and defend its well-deserved 2018 title. In the other group B, San Francisco defeated the Houston Firehawks despite a disputed first half and a brilliantly fought game by the Texans. The last game of the day between Los Angeles THC and US Air Force closed on a 28:27 with, again, a final seconds win.
Sundays are for the champs, they say. First of, our second team won their 7th place game against US Air Force. For their first appearance this season, they didn’t disappoint. West Point took the 5th place against Houston Firehawks (diminished by a large number of injuries) and Los Angeles secured the Bronze after a well-controlled game against NYC THC (also without most of their top players). The final game offered another duel between Chicago Inter Handball and San Francisco CalHeat. Despite an extraordinary Greg Inahara (10 goals), the Midwestern fell off short to the Californians, who were crowned champions for the first time since 2013. This makes it the 3rd title in a row and a secured first place in the wild card race for the Elite Division. No surprise, Greg Inahara was named MVP for his (now not anymore surprising) brilliant performance during the weekend, and our own Lucas Kroeger was elected MVG. Gil Pires (38 goals) finished Top Scorer.
In the women’s division, the San Francisco CalHeat teams, as well as the Houston Firehawks (2018 CalCup champion) were all facing the mighty NYC THC – 6 times winner of the Northeast League. In the opening games, San Francisco CalHeat 2 defeated Houston 18:14 backed by an astonishing collective performance and incredible goalkeeper efficiency from Sofia Otero; San Francisco CalHeat had the hard task to face off the New Yorkers, and despite some nice offensive sequences, didn’t have the strength to battle throughout the entire game (10:24).
The second day started with a very interesting encounter between San Francisco CalHeat 2 and NYC THC. And hell, this was a game! Despite losing 13:6, our second team delivered their best performance in years. Though the offense had a hard time to find weak spots in the NYC defence, the defense was incredible, all as one and backed up by … Sofia Otero, her again! The Spanish goalkeeper had her hands on almost all shots and saved some crucial 6 meter attempts. In the other game, San Francisco CalHeat beat Houston 17:15, another game decided in the final minutes. Those results clearly confirmed that NYC THC would play the final, and the Houston Firehawks were set to play the game for Bronze. However, it was then up to the San Francisco CalHeat teams to decide on the final schedules. While many would have expected this game to go in favor of our second women’s team (especially considering results so far), it wasn’t the case at all. The women’s first team delivered a great performance (18:11), in both offense and defense, and confirmed their intention to replay the final against NYC THC.
And this final was surprising. From the bleachers, many (if not all) would have thought this game to end similarly to the opening one. But hell we were wrong. The team led by Kristina Alavanja showed they would be more than just an underdog, and fought neck to neck with the New Yorkers. Constance Duvert and Kathrine Agger kept on scoring while Athena Del Rosario started becoming a hard wall. At half-time, NYC THC was leading by only one goal (10:9), and it went on in the second half. However, the San Francisco CalHeat ladies lacked strength and (maybe talent) to bring this game in the deciding minutes. Nevertheless, our ladies delivered a strong performance over those 3-days and are now looking towards Myrtle Beach with more confidence than ever. No surprise, individual awards went mostly to NYC THC. Louise Ganitis was named MVP, Cecilie Maria Nielsen got the Top Scorer award, together with Kathrine Agger (16 goals). Adela Valenzuela (Houston Firehawks) was elected MVG.
That was it for this 13th edition of the California Cup. We’ve had the chance to meet some of the legends of the club, and former Olympians during the unveiling of the Championship Banner. We also want to thank our sponsors – RockTape, Dish Dash – and partners – Decathlon, BreakThrough Physical Therapy, Health Integration Chiropractic – for their amazing support during the event. We also want to thank all our volunteers, fans and friends of the club, who made it all the way to Fremont.
We hope to see you again in 2020, with intense games and friendly atmosphere!
Find all game footage from the tournament here.
Link to the current men’s wild card standings