Cheers and chants of “USA” sounded across the Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum as the men's and women's handball USA teams reigned victorious over the Canadian National Teams.
Both handball matches took place in the coliseum on Sunday, at 3 p.m. for the women's and 5 p.m. for the men's. The women's team won against Canada with a score of 22-20, and the men's team was also triumphant with a score of 36-24.
On the women's USA Team Handball, Nicole Andersen led the way with eight goals, while Kathy Darling and Jence Rhoads followed up with four goals each.
As for the USA Men’s Team, Aboubakar Fofana led the team with nine goals. Ty Reed scored eight goals, and Gary Hines with seven.
Fofana, who was the recipient of the MVP Award for the men's match, described the audience as energizing for him.
“This is the first time in seven years that I have played in the U.S.,” Fofana said. “Seeing all of the excited and energetic people in the crowd gave us the energy and confidence we needed to do our best.”
Christian Latulippe, head coach of the women's USA Team Handball, said the matches were important as the team reaches toward its Olympic goals.
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“We’re playing for the Pan-American Games, which is the first leg for the Olympics,” Latulippe said. “Now we need to finish the job in Canada, which will require a lot of sacrifice and good execution, but I think that we can get it done.”
Both the men's and women's USA handball teams will face off against Canada once more in Montreal, Canada, Wednesday, Sept. 5 to determine which nation will advance to the Pan-American Games.
The winner of the series will be the North American representative of the 2019 Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru, where the victor will qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Auburn residents of all ages gathered to watch the national teams square off against each other to express their support for the national teams. Ashley Van Ryn, a USA Team Handball supporter described the event with admiration.
“This was incredible to watch,” Van Ryn said, dressed in red, white and blue. “It’s such a powerful and electrifying sport, and it was really fun to feel the intensity of what was happening on the court.”
The Auburn Opelika Handball Club, an organization developed earlier this year to foster physical health among elementary and middle school children, appeared on the court during the halftime periods to play a short game of handball to showcase to the crowd.
Kristin Roberts, administrator of outreach programs at Auburn University, said attendees could donate different foods instead of paying an admission fee for the games.
“We reached out to the East Alabama Food Bank, so rather than charging admission, we’re just accepting non-perishable food items as donations to give back to the community,” Roberts said.
USA Team Handball also sold T-shirts as a part of their fundraising program. The earnings from the T-shirt sales will go toward the men's and women's USA Team Handball's food, lodging and travel costs as the teams compete, Roberts said.
The School of Kinesiology in Auburn’s College of Education has been partnered with the men's and women's USA Team Handball for about five years. The school arranges reservations and facilities, promotes the teams’ events and supports the athletes however they can.
“We had great support from the School of Kinesiology at Auburn University,” Latulippe said. “Anytime we can come here and have an official match in front of a few hundred people is always good. A lot of our motivations come from all the hard work our players put in for the past two years. Now we just need to finish it.”
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