Minnesota participated in the 10th annual Michael Lipov Memorial Cup in Chicago. This is a tournament we look forward to every year as it is the top tournament for Team Handball in the nation. Chicago Inter always puts together a fun and competitive tournament. This year was no different. The tournament had arguably the top 4 teams in the country there as well as plenty of top representation of established Handball clubs as well as an international team from Minsk, Belarus.
Minnesota knew they had a lot to prove and they were ready to show the nation that we are no longer a team to look past.
Minnesota had a tough one in this game. NYAC is historically a tough game for the club, the same was said in this game. Some bright spots of the game was the team coming together later in the game to cut the lead down. All in all, it was needed as it set up the team for success the next day.
The team knew going into this one would be a challenge. This is a Minsk team from Belarus and is very experienced in high level Handball play. We had to learn from our mistakes in the past game and play to the level we knew we could play. The game was very close throughout the 60 minutes and had multiple lead changes. Both defenses were on point, both goalies had incredible shots. With the gamer tied at 17-17 with under a minute to play Minnesota had the ball. The team was setting up for the right shot while Minsk was pressuring our back court shooters. The ball eventually ended up in Left Wing Atanas Popov's hands with the right amount of room to go in for a good wing shot. He made it in the inside corner to help Minnesota take the lead. With 30 seconds left in the game Minnesota set up on defense with Minsk looking to score and go for the tie. Minnesota held its own and made Minsk take a bad shot with seconds left. Minnesota came out victorious and feeling good about what they can do the rest of the tournament. This was a perfect bounce back game for the team!
Minnesota had a chance to do something not a lot of people (besides them) expected, they had the chance to finish 2nd in their group. Many thought it'd be NYAC and Minsk fighting for 1 & 2 but Minnesota had other plans. If they win against Air Force, they would do exactly that.
The team took extra time to warm up. They knew they would be running a lot against Air Force.
The game started out very even on both sides. The game was very fast paced for the first 10 minutes with the score being very close.
Soon after Minnesota was gaining a little bit of a lead one of our players went down due to a freak accident going for a ball. Backcourt Stephan Storch was going for a loose ball while an Air Force player was at the same time. When both reach for the ball the Air Force players elbow accidentally hit Stephan in the upper eye.
The team had to play on with Stephan for not only this game but the rest of the tournament.
Minnesota would regroup and continue to add to their small lead. The help of Backcourts Etienne Gruber and Philipp B kept Minnesota in the game even with Air Force finding ways to get through the Minnesota defense.
Air Force kept the game close with tricky movements that Minnesota just couldn't figure out. The game could have been more in Minnesota's favor if not for the great play of Air Force toward the end of the half.
The saving grace for Minnesota having a comfortable lead at half was the play of Backcourt Liam Edward-G who came off the bench to score 4 goals in 7 minutes before half.
The beginning of the 2nd half saw Minnesota's offense still firing on all cylinders but the defense was still struggling to hold off the tricky Air Force movements. Isaac Odim and Philipp B kept Minnesota from losing their lead.
Then came the last 15 minutes of the game. Without a doubt the MVP of the game was Goalie Nick Melnic. He made great save after great save to help Minnesota grow a commanding lead.
With 2 minutes left to go all Minnesota had to do was to play keep away. Air Force is known to have a great 1-1 press defense. They have come back to win a few games in this scenario. Minnesota knew they had to be on point and they were.
They even had some help from the MVP!
Minnesota came out victorious and were feeling great about finishing 2nd in their group.
After goal difference knocked them out of the semi finals they were heading to the 5th place game against one of the best clubs in the nation; New York City.
Minnesota was pumped to get a chance to play against an elite team like NYC.
The game started with New York showing how good they were but Minnesota was standing side by side with the giant. Throughout the game Minnesota took the lead and held on for some time. Eventually, New York's experience in big games was the deciding factor. They end up winning a close game 26-23 but Minnesota felt good about how they played.
Overall, a great start to the 2019-20 Handball season. Minnesota feels like they can take on anyone in the nation. They will have a chance to show that when they have their first Midwest Team Handball League game day in a few weeks.