Mannheim, Germany (July 28, 2023) – History was made by the United States Fistball Team as they participated in the first-ever fistball match at the 12,000-seat SAP Arena. The stadium was filled with pre-match excitement and entertainment as loudspeakers and jumbotrons boomed out audio and images of the players throughout the venue. Pre-match nerves were evident on the faces of each player during the national anthems, as this was the largest crowd any player on either team had ever played in front of.
The Americans came out firing on all cylinders, taking an early lead as Todd Strassberger continued to pressure the Namibian defense with his hard-paced serves, leading the United States to win the first game 11:7. Namibia began to shed their pre-match nerves and found their rhythm in the second set, but solid defensive play by Mat Ogin and precise setting by Jack Stern enabled the United States to eventually take the second game 11:9. In the third set, Head Coach Rodrigo Salas made several adjustments to the lineup, and the large crowd was treated to a back-and-forth battle that went to extra points. However, Namibia managed to outlast the Americans 10:12, forcing a fourth set.
Throughout the fourth set of the President's Cup Final, the intensity inside the SAP Arena soared. The United States stuck to their game plan of playing tough defense, keeping balls alive, and relying on a powerful service game. Todd Strassberger lived up to the hype as he compiled 17 service points, leading the United States to an 11:8 fourth-set win, which sealed the match 3:1 in favor of the United States.
The United States players were jubilant as they rushed the field to celebrate their victory, lifting the President's Cup for the first time in their history. Their triumph against Namibia also avenges a 3:1 defeat from the 2019 World Championships, now tying the all-time meeting record to 2-2 between the two nations. The 9th place finish marks the United States' second-highest finish at a World Championships, improving on their 10th place finish at the 2019 World Championships. This victory is particularly significant for the USA Fistball program, as it may very well be the last time we see this core group of players competing together.
USA Fistball would like to thank the players, coaches, and staff for their hard work and dedication to the program over the past year in preparation for these World Championships. Finally, USA Fistball would like to extend thanks to the fans and members who supported the team both online and in person in Mannheim. Without your support, none of this would be possible. Please stay tuned for a wrap-up article from the World Championships, as well as future news and information from USA Fistball.
Photo: Moritz Kaufmann (IFA)