Team Handball News

MNT Juniors Qualify for World Championships

by Matthew Collins

Junior Men’s National Team wins Silver Medal, Qualifies for 2023 IHF Junior World Championships

With only a loss in the gold medal match versus a formidable Cuba team, USA Team Handball’s Junior Men’s National Team came away with a silver medal at the IHF Junior Trophy NACHC Championships in Mexico City from December 12 to 17th.

With the 2nd place finish, the squad has qualified for the 2023 IHF Junior World Championships, to be held in Greece and Germany next summer.

The tournament in Mexico City was ripe with intense competition with teams representing the following nations: Cuba, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Greenland, Mexico, Martinique, Puerto Rico and the United States.

In the first match of the competition, the USA met Greenland, and walked away with a 31-18 victory. Mahmound Hashim was solid in goal, only allowing 5 goals in the first half for the Greenland team. Jakob Christiansen and Nepomuk Grabner led the team on the offensive end, with 8 and 5 goals respectively.

After the win against Greenland, the USA squared off against Guadeloupe, which was a much closer match. With only five goals separating the teams at halftime, the goalkeeping from Camron Hicks was imperative. Hicks had an exceptional save percentage of 48% (20/42) to hold the Guadeloupe attack at bay. Elliot Robertson led the USA in goals with 6, followed closely behind by Loic Karrer with 5, to complete a 29-25 victory for the Americans.

A day of rest was followed by a match with Martinique, with the USA coming away with a 34-24 win. This match saw contribution from across the squad on the offensive attack with Lennox Loetzke and Mark Miller contributing 5 goals each to the cause. Gary Phillips and Pedro Gomez each chipped in 4 goals to ensure the 10 goal victory and locking up a spot in the gold medal match.

In the championship match versus Cuba, the USA were outlasted, dropping the match 36-23. With 11 goals by Cuba’s Maiko Vazquez, the USA couldn’t match Cuba’s output on the offensive end. Jakob Christiansen led the team with 6 goals and Elliot Robertson added 4 to the tally.

Reflecting on the tournament as a whole, Head Coach Danilo Rojevic says “This is an incredible achievement for our Junior Men's Team program and, more largely, for US handball after both our Youth and Senior men's teams successfully qualified for the world championships.”

“To be honest, neither my colleague, Tomasz Morawski, nor I expected such a result. Despite missing on a few key players, and an intense competition, the team adopted the strategy and tactics while showing outstanding commitment and discipline throughout the tournament. There were a lot of unknowns, but the blend between the local players and those with European experience came out nicely.”

In addition, Rojevic applauded every member of the squad and what they brought to help the USA secure qualification, adding, “Everybody had a meaningful contribution towards this success. Even though two of our players received individual awards (Jakob R. Christiansen was elected best right back, Elliot Robertson was named Most Valuable Player), this was a team effort.”

“The World Championship is 6 months away and there's a lot to be done until then. Players need to continue growing and clubs, in particular those in the US, need to put more emphasis on development. I hope that this success will increase the awareness of our program and attract new players across all age categories so that we can form even more competitive pools of athletes.”

In addition, the technical staff of assistant coach Tomasz Morawski, medical provider Madeline Iswalt, and High Performance Manager Krista Austin were crucial in the success of the team.

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