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June 28th, 2006

 

Opening night tough on USA

hand

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Amanda Gillette of Marathon plays defense for the United States National Handball team, being warded off by Girard Emmanuelle of Canada on opening night of the USACup. Canada won 29-22 at SUNYCortland.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

The opening night of the USA Cup had concluded and each of the three women’s handball teams showcased at SUNY Cortland’s Alumni Ice Arena seemed to have the same thought in mind.
Everyone seemed to agree they could, and would, play better.
The United States squad, the hosts of this rejuvenated event who train at SUNY Cortland, had to pull double duty when an invited team from Croatia was unable to attend.
So after being nosed out by the GoConnectIT/Fortissimo team from The Netherlands 25-24 to get Tuesday’s twin bill underway, the USA switched jerseys from red to blue and suffered a 29-22 loss to the Canadian National Team in the nightcap. Fatigue may have figured in letting the second game slip away.
“You don’t like to use that as an excuse, especially when you’re in training,” said Coach Christian Latulippe of the decisive second half stretch where his USA squad went over seven minutes without scoring a goal as Canada pulled away.
But getting in games against solid competition is what this event — which will play games tonight, Thursday and Saturday before crowning a champion Sunday at 4 p.m. — is all about. That is especially true for Canada and the USA. Both are gearing up for the Pan-Am Championships in May of 2007 (which Cortland hopes to host), a possible trip to the Pan-Am Games in July of 2007 in Argentina and a chance to advance to the World Championships being played in December of 2007 in France.
“We had our ups and downs,” was the review Coach Mike Nahmiash gave of his Canadian team after beating the USA. “We can play better. This is the first time we’ve been together since last April.”
And Nahmiash isn’t talking about a few months ago. He’s referring to April, 2005. The Canadian National Team has played just eight matches in the past two years, had only a four-day camp this past Christmas before gathering together the day before the USA Cup got underway.
“I think we will play better. We were a little tired,” said Sanne Mocking from The Netherlands, The 22-year-old pivot player netted eight goals in the win over USA for the team from the small village of Cothen that competes in the highest Dutch division.
“We just finished playing and were on vacation. But when we got the call to come here, everyone was so enthusiastic we decided to come,” she added. This was the first game the team had played in three weeks. When they worked out earlier in the day, it was their first practice session in two weeks.
For the USA, the more matches the better — win or lose. Experience creates the biggest gap between the USA and the rest of the world, where handball is more of a way of life.
“They started playing as 12-year-olds. Some of our players started playing four months ago,” noted Latulippe, who is in his fourth year directing the USA National Team.
THAT WOULD MAKE Amanda Gillette somewhat of a veteran for the USA, the former Marathon Central and SUNY Cortland track and cross country standout having played this sport for two and a half years now.
Gillette had a pair of goals in the loss to The Netherlands, and pumped in another goal from her right wing post against Canada.
She is one of three players on the roster linked to SUNY Cortland. Jennifer Robertson, who attended Binghamton Seton Catholic School, is a past softball player currently studying at Cortland to be an athletic trainer. Former gymnast Melanie McCormick, who joined the team handball club team when she arrived on campus, is a physical education major from Sachem on Long Island.
Gillette was just looking for a new athletic endeavor once her running career concluded. Handball, described as a sport that combines the elements of soccer and basketball, fit the bill.
Each team has six players trying to throw a melon-sized ball past an opposing goalie. That keeper protects a goal that measures three meters in width and two meters in height. A player can dribble the ball as much as they want. You can run with the ball for up to three steps before having to dribble or pass, and can hold the ball for three seconds before you have to move.
Oh yes, and there is plenty of grabbing and pushing and colliding — which Gillette enjoys.
“Just the contact,” said Gillette when asked what she likes most about the sport. “I like the competitiveness of it. It’s not refereed like other women’s sports. You can actually hit someone. It’s nice to be able to play a sport and make contact with someone.”
BY COMPARISON, Mocking has been playing handball since 1992. She is a veteran who has played in the World Championships and the European Championships.
“I think America is a good team,” were her impressions after the opening game victory. “If it were The Netherlands National Team, it would be different.”
She went on to point out there are more handball teams in The Netherlands, more chances to develop players to compete on a national level. “They need more money and more training,” said Mocking of the USA.
“It is nice to play a team you have never played before. It’s different, a different game,” she added. “I think we play more quiet. We move the ball around more before we go for the shot. They shoot faster at the goal, so they also make more mistakes.”
Still, the USA had an 18-15 second half lead and was ahead 24-23 with just over three minutes to play when Jennifer Farrell scored.
The lead did not last long, Mocking putting her side ahead with 2:20 left to play. That was the last goal of the game, a turnover with 1:32 left really hurting the USA.
Kathy Darling, a former basketball and track standout at Johns Hopkins, scored eight goals in the loss. Edina Batar, who played handball in her native Hungary before moving to New York City in 1995, tallied five times.
Darling had seven goals and former Colgate basketball player Megan Ballard added four goals in the loss to Canada, the winners overcoming a short-lived 16-15 second half USA edge. Anne Marie Cloutier and Caroline Pilon had six goals apiece for the Canadians.
“It was a little tough to play two in a row, but we’ll get them back tomorrow,” said Gillette, who will get a rematch tonight at 7 p.m. after Canada takes on the Netherlands at 5 o’clock.
“It’s good to see we’re not that far away, and we have a year to prepare,” said Coach Latulippe. “We’ll see what happens.”

 

G-mac awaits his fate

SYRACUSE (AP) — Syracuse said goodbye to gritty Gerry McNamara on a record-breaking Senior Day in March. Is it time now for him to say hello to the NBA?
McNamara, who never missed a start in his four years with the Orange, will watch the NBA draft Wednesday night and hope to hear his name called. But the toughness he’s always exhibited as a player might have hurt his chances.
Despite an impressive 16-point performance during the first day of the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Orlando three weeks ago, the lingering effects of a groin injury that hampered him during the second half of last season and limited him to a career-low 26 minutes and no field goals for the only time in his career in the Orange’s first-round loss to Texas A&M in the NCAA tournament, could leave him undrafted.
His agent, Bill Neff, said there was a lot of interest after that first game in Orlando, but the injury resurfaced and hindered his offensive and defensive performance the next day.

 

 

Gammons stricken by brain aneurysm

BOSTON (AP) — Peter Gammons, an ESPN analyst and a member of the writer’s wing of the baseball Hall of Fame, underwent brain surgery Tuesday after he was stricken with an aneurysm near his Cape Cod home.
The 61-year-old Gammons was resting in intensive care Tuesday night following the operation, The Boston Globe reported on its Web site.
Gammons was taken to a Cape Cod hospital Tuesday morning and then airlifted to the Boston area. The newspaper said he’s expected to be in intensive care for 10 to 12 days.
Several ballplayers called the press box during Boston’s game against the New York Mets for updates on Gammons’ condition.
“Peter is one of the Hall of Famers we have on TV, and everybody has a lot of respect for him,” Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez said in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game. “I wish him well.”
Gammons has been a regular on ESPN’s Sunday night telecasts this season, working the Braves-Yankees game in New York on Monday night. “Our thoughts and best wishes are with Peter and his family at this time,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said.