The men’s and women’s national teams made history this summer in Birmingham, Alabama as they took part in the 2022 World Games. The World Games is a multi-sport event that takes place every four years in the summer following the Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee oversees the organization and structure of The World Games as they look to add potential sports to the Summer Olympics. “Everything from the opening ceremony to the dining halls felt very Olympic,” said Ashley McGinn, an attacker on the women’s team.
The women’s team made actual history by being the first women to participate in a fistball match at The World Games. On July 10th, the ladies opened up the entire fistball tournament by taking on Switzerland followed by Austria later in the day. The women fell to both the Swiss and Austrians by the same score of 3:0. Despite the losses, the women were able to play in front of a very excited home crowd, something that very few athletes get to experience. The women had July 11th off as many of the players and staff went sightseeing, watched other sports like Beach Handball, and met with athletes from other countries.
On July 12th, the women returned to action take on their newly found rival, New Zealand. It was extremely hot, with the real feel being 105 degrees on the field, as the match kicked off at 1:45pm local time. Great service from Ashley McGinn and solid defensive returns from Christine Connelly and Emma Dollase helped the Americans to a 2:0 set lead. The Kiwis battled back and used momentum from a third set victory to tie the match at 2:2. The fifth and final set was a battle as both teams traded points in blistering Birmingham heat. With the fifth set tied at 9:9 New Zealand was able to score the final two points and win the match 3:2. Despite the defeat, the women gave an amazing effort and put on quite the show in front of their home crowd.
On the men’s side of the ball, their World Games started with the highest attended fistball match in United States history, as they took on Brazil under the lights at Birmingham Southern College. Chants of “U-S-A” and “You’re Not Todd” filled the stadium as American attacker Todd Strassberger dazzled the home crowd with his hard serves and high energy. After falling in the first set, the Americans took advantage of the home support and for the first time ever, took a set from Brazil. Even with the huge home field advantage of the Americans, the Brazilians would go on to the take the final two sets, 11:8, 11:5. Despite the outcome, this match was one of most attended matches in United States fistball history and winning a set against Brazil was an impressive moment for the men and fistball in the United States.
The following day, the American men took on a tough and motivated Italian team. Hard serves from Italian star Armin Runer paired with defensive mistakes from the Americans made this match difficult for the men to ever get into. The United States dropped the match 3:0. On July 12th, the American men returned under the lights to take on Austria in the final match of group play. After losing the first two sets, United States Head Coach Theo Theodorakoglu made several line ups changes. Defender Mat Ogin and attacker Cory Dahn gave the Americans the spark they needed and took the Austrians to wire in the third set, eventually falling 13:11.
After falling to 0-3 in group play, the American men were matched against Argentina for their placement match on the final day of the competition. Theodorakoglu kept the same line up from the third set of the Austria match. His strategy worked in the first set as the play of the Americans was stellar, pushing the favored Argentines to limit but falling short 13:11. The second set was very similar to the first set, as the Americans played hard and had the second set tied at 9:9, before dropping the final two points. An exhausted and injury riddled American team fought hard in the third and final set before eventually dropping the set 11:8, thus losing the match 3:0 and ending their World Games.
Despite not performing how both teams wanted, the World Games was an incredible experience for both the men and women. The competition was world class and the event was carefully put together. All games were streamed on fistball.tv and several matches were shown on the Olympic Channel. Through these streams and social media, the visibility of fistball has increased and it is the hope that more people will be able to try the sport in the near future.
A break for both teams will be limited as the US Fistball National Championships will take place August 13-14 at the Phoenix Sports Club in Feasterville, PA. In October, both the men’s and women's national teams plan to participate in the 2022 Fistball Panamerican Games in Brazil. Finally, the men will have a busy 2023 as they prepare for the Men’s World Championships next July in Mannheim, Germany.
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