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Date: 9/7/2017

In addition to the action taking place at the 11th Annual SoCal Beach Handball Championship hosted by Los Angeles Team Handball Club last Saturday and Sunday (Sept 2-3) on Huntington Beach, California, USA (read the review HERE), both the American men’s and women’s national teams played exhibition games against Mexico and the first-ever USA Beach Handball Referee Certification Course was held.

The 2017 SoCal Beach Handball Championship was truly an international event with 18 nations represented across 15 teams including both the Trinidad and Tobago men’s and women’s national teams, an IHF World Championship-winning goalkeeper from Brazil and players from both the Australian and New Zealand men’s and women’s teams.

Antônio Peixe - multiple IHF Beach Handball World Championship and World Games-winning Brazil men’s national coach - spent time ahead of the competition coaching the USA national teams – including the men’s junior team – as well as being Competition Director for the championship, yet another part of the long-standing relationship between Brazil and the USA on the sand.

Both the men’s and women’s USA vs Mexico games were livestreamed around the world on Facebook Live with the men playing on the Saturday and the women on Sunday in front of a large group of passionate beach handball fans.

USA vs Mexico (Men) 1-2 (13:12), (13:18), [6-7 SO]
The first set was evenly-matched between the two Pan-American sides with the host nation going ahead in the last seconds by one point to win (13:12). However, the Mexicans brushed the sand off and took complete control in the second set to win clearly, 18:13. 

A penalty shoot-out was needed and with strong goalkeeping at both ends of the court, Mexico squeezed past the Americans to win 7-6 and take the honours.

USA vs Mexico (Women) 2-1 (12:10), (10:11), [5-2 SO]
The women’s exhibition game was held on the Sunday morning and a small piece of history was made as it marked the first-time the American women had played together in the USA shirt – and they played for their badge, winning 2-1 after a shoot-out.

In a tight first set, America took the win 12:10 and going into the second period, both teams had found their rhythm in a defensive encounter which ended all-square (10:10) after the allocated time resulting in a golden goal, and after Mexico won the tip-off they scored the one point they needed to take the game to penalty shots, which they won after they saved four of the five Mexican attempts and they scored five simple points of their own.

New referees
USA Beach Handball held their first-ever Beach Handball Referee Certification Course on the fringes of the tournament too in a course ran by USA Beach Handball Director of Officiating Garrett Perkins and USA Women’s Beach Handball Head Coach and USA Beach Handball Referee.

Potential new referees went through classroom training, before spending two days on the sand practising their skills, setting up courts and learning how to manage the officiating table. Once the training had been completed, new referees were then presented with their certificates.

17-year-old Andrew Burda, started playing beach handball at 13 with Los Angeles and is a member of the USA junior team who finished fourth in the preliminary group of the men’s beach handball competition.

“It was an amazing feeling playing at such a high level and being able to represent your country,” he said. “We had an amazing team and really competed in each and every game - we kept improving with each game we played.”

“We were so fortunate to be able to host another international competition in our backyard,” said Bill Bigham, captain of the USA men’s national beach handball team. “It always means that much more to compete in front of our home fans.  

“The SoCal Championship was extremely fun, and it was fantastic having athletes from so many other countries come and participate at a high level.”

His thoughts were echoed by his counterpart, Marilyn Elder, captain of the USA women’s national beach handball team.

“I was grateful to be able to put on the USA uniform again and show folks our dedication to the beach handball craft,” she said. “This tournament has always been an opportunity to bring the best of the best together in SoCal and every year more and more teams are added and the level of competition is just the challenge we need.”

“Getting all these club and national teams together is always a challenge for the organisers but it is so worth it in the end,” said Juliano de Oliveira, USA Women’s Beach Handball Head Coach and USA Beach Handball Referee. “Every year the level of play gets better and better, and adding the exhibition games shows how far beach handball is coming as a sport in the United States.”

For Michael Hinson, Tournament Director and Head Coach of the USA Men’s Beach Handball team, 2017 represented another step on the long path of beach handball development in north America.

“It has been 11 years since our first tournament and it has flown by so quickly,” he said. “To watch the USA men’s and women’s teams compete on our own sand means we have come a long way.

“I was thrilled at the turn out for this year’s SoCal competition and the fact that we had so many nations represented proves that the handball family is truly international.”

For more information about the tournament, check their Facebook page HERE. For more information about Beach Handball USA, visit their Facebook page HERE.

Photo: Kimberly Graham/Various