Southern California beach handball success in the U.S.

30 Aug. 2019

Southern California beach handball success in the U.S.

Following on from the success of the 2018 edition, the 13th edition of the ‘SoCal Beach Handball Championship’ was held last weekend (24-25 August) on Huntington Beach, California, the second competition of the 2019 US Beach Handball Tour.

‘SoCal’, an abbreviation of ‘Southern California’, is the spiritual home of beach handball in the USA and is the largest and longest-running beach handball tournament in the United States of America with the tournament organised and hosted by the Los Angeles Team Handball Club (LATHC)

Six men’s and four women’s teams took part with LA’s RIP-CAGE taking men’s gold after beating Mexican side Manzanillo in the final thanks to a golden goal and RIP-LA defeating Winners Get Sprinkles 7:4 in a shootout in the final of the women’s competition to top the podium.

The tournament also highlighted the closeness of the global beach handball family with one of the two LA RIP teams renaming themselves ‘RIP Niteroi’ in honour of all of those affected by the tragic accident at the beginning of the year when Artur Rodrigues of the Niteroi beach handball team, on his way to the Taca Kika tournament in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, lost his life in a car accident.

Earlier this month, the USA Team Handball Association announced their men’s and women’s beach handball squads for the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games in Qatar this October and nearly all the names were in action in California this past weekend.

In the men’s competition, Andres Espinosa (RIP Niteroi), Jacob Garcia (RIP Niteroi), Bill Bigham (RIP Niteroi), Bryan Cook (RIP Niteroi), Eric Finch (LA Wizards), Charlie White (RIP Cage), Alex Browne (RIP Cage) and Ebiye Udo-Udoma (RIP Cage) were all in action with just Willard Johnson (training with the Vietnam national team) and Andrew Donlin (with Ademar Leon in Spain) unable to attend. All three USA men’s replacements for Qatar were also in action - Luke Nyugen (RIP Niteroi), Chalmers Brown (RIP Niteroi) and Gabe Goodreau (RIP Cage).

Assistant USA men’s coach Jamil Abdalla was playing for the LA Wizards, while men’s head coach Michael Hinson played for the Sand Storm team where he was joined by USA women’s head coach Juliano de Oliveira, all of whom are part of the leadership team for the event. In addition to the USA players, both the Manzanillo and Colima men’s teams featured Mexican national players.

Over in the women’s competition USA national team selections Ashley Van Ryn, Staci Self, Christine Mansour, Kourtney Rhodes, Cedar Bellows, Melissa ‘Missy’ Sponagle and Renee Snyder formed the ‘Winners Get Sprinkles’ team – coached by USA assistant coach Lisa Dunn – along with USA national team replacements Jence Rhoads and Rachel Wong. 

Elizabeth Hartnett and Katiann Scherer and national team replacements Athena del Rosario and Elise Zvirbulis played for RIP-LA and the final member of the Qatar squad, Courtney Heeley, was on the sand, but could not participate due to injury.

In addition to the club matches, an exhibition match between the United States of America and Mexico men’s national team also took place. 

The game was a rematch of the final of the North American and the Caribbean (NAC) Beach Handball Championship in Trinidad and Tobago last month which saw the USA win to grab a place at 2019 ANOC World Beach Games in Qatar in October and the 2020 IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championships in Italy. 

This time around it was another victory for the Americans, coached by Hinson, as they won 2-0 (26:20, 24:6).

“Each tournament over the years has taken on its own vibe,” said Hinson after the event. “This year’s edition was incredibly fun to watch as the level of play continues to increase, and we were fortunate to be joined by two strong teams with a mix of national team players coming up from Mexico.

“Beach handball is growing fast in the United States and becoming more visible day-by-day, “ he added. “This year we have had important sponsors join us in Essentia Water, and, together, we are looking to help grow the sport further – something we are seeing first-hand through the club recruitment and development which has been amazing to watch.

“We have nothing but enthusiasm for next year’s edition as we know it will likely be the largest-ever with the post 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games surge coming our way.”

The USA Beach Handball Tour features a number of events across the country, with events taking place in San Francisco, San Diego, California, Chicago and Texas.
For more information about the USA Beach Tour visit their website here: and for more information about the SoCal Beach Handball Championship, visit the Facebook page of the Los Angeles Team Handball Club.

2019 SoCal Beach Handball Championship – rankings and awards

Men’s Competition

2. Manzanillo 
3. Colima
4. LA Wizards
5. RIP-Niteroi
6. Sand Storm

Most Valuable Player: Alex Browne (RIP-CAGE)
Most Valuable Goalkeeper: Gabe Goodreau (RIP-CAGE)

Women’s Competition

2. Winners Get Sprinkles
3. Sandy Bottoms 
4. SF Cal-Heat

Most Valuable Player: Missy Sponagle (Winners Get Sprinkles)
Most Valuable Goalkeeper: Staci Self (Winners Get Sprinkles)

Photo: Maria Boldina