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Am Samoa’s Beach Handball women place 2nd in SoCal championships

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Women’s National Beach Handball Team flew into Los Angeles feeling confident after their week long training camp in Erie, Pennsylvania. After meeting up with June Ames, who was unable to attend the camp, the team headed for their Air BNB rental just off of Beach Blvd in Huntington Beach, California.

“The house was really nice and the location very conveniently located.  We could walk to buy essentials and either call Uber or take the bus to the beach — which we did a little of both,” said head coach CJ Sagapolutele Floor. 

Settling down for some rest after a long day of traveling, the team concentrated on stretching, team bonding and staying loose.  Coach CJ explained, “This was a tricky tournament to prepare for. Our Gannon University Women couldn’t leave their university for a camp in LA so I had to bring the team there, to Erie Pennsylvania.  Traveling from Pago to the East Coast for a week of intense training then flying half way back for a tournament presents scheduling problems, interrupts daily eating and sleeping habits while creating jet lag nightmares if not properly considered. I made sure that the girls got their nutrition and rest during their normal hours which was the middle of the day in Erie and when we arrived in LA, I asked my daughter Stephanie who is majoring in [an] Athletic Trainer [degree], to prevent injuries with good stretching exercises because we cannot afford to lose anyone being short a player.”

The SoCal Championships is the USA’s longest running beach handball tournament, this being its 15th year. Seven USA Men’s Clubs entered along with two men’s teams from Mexico and a men’s team from Canada.  Only two USA Women’s Beach Handball Clubs entered, Twist and Shout and the Sea Dragons from San Diego along with the women from American Samoa.  The format would be two rounds with the top two teams meeting in the finals.

The first game was against the Sea Dragons, a very experienced team from San Diego and it was clear from the start that they were on their game.  ASA’s women did a great job in getting their defense together and in transition and they held the Sea Dragons to under 25 points each half.

“I coached from the defensive line to help the women understand the tactics and strategy of their positions. They learned and understood quickly and I am impressed with the success of their effort,” said Coach Floor

The offense found it very tough to score against the world’s top goal keeper Staci Self.  Self, along with many of her team mates is coming off a two month international road trip which included training camps and two international world class competitions, The International Handball Federation (IHF) World Beach Handball Championships in June at Crete, Greece and the World Games this past July held in Birmingham, Alabama USA.

Time and time again the ASA Women would show their frustration after successfully breaking through the Sea Dragon’s defense only to hear the wows and whoas of the audience after another successfully executed block by keeper Staci Self.

The women did manage to score 10 and 12 points per half however their effort wasn’t enough giving The Sea Dragons a 2 to 0 win.

“The difference in the score was essentially 6 goals per half,” said the coach, adding, “offensively we really missed a few of our top scorers who were unable to make the trip, however the way Staci and her entire team was playing, it may not have mattered.  They were solid and she made some amazing blocks.” Game two began about three hours later against Twist and Shout out of LA.

The game was a sea saw battle right from the start with some spectacular plays from both teams.  American Samoa’s defense found it’s groove and began to execute some dive blocks and cut off some angles to assist our goal keeper, Stephanie Floor who was also finding her groove blocking some tough shots.

Danielle Floor was very accurate from the wing and the Liu sisters Jasmine and Lynette also began to hit their mark, despite some fine goal keeping from Twist and Shout’s keeper. Twist and Shout, with 10 seconds remaining in the first-half found their mark and won the first half by 2 points.

The second half was much like the first half but this time Team ASA changed their strategy a bit sending keeper Stephanie Floor down court to also play offense as specialist along with Lynette Liu.  The tactic proved correct as our women began to pull away as time ran out to tie the game.

Overtime was just as exciting as both team made some spectacular shots and both keepers displayed quality blocks, however American Samoa’s Women would score the final points as Stephanie Floor was called upon to take their last shot.  Scoring two, she secured the win 2-1.

The Sea Dragons would finish the day with a win over Twist and Shout and the teams ending the day with The Sea Dragons at 2-0, ASA at 1-1 and Twist and Shout at 0-2 setting up a playoff between ASA and Twist and Shout.

Game two between Twist and Shout was much like the first game, a tough sea saw battle of determination with some high level play by both squads.  Twist and Shot scored first and kept the lead throughout the first half. Leading by two points with 30 seconds remaining Team ASA tied up the game however leaving 10 seconds on the clock was enough for Twist and Shout to score two for a 15 to 13 first-half win.

Once again the second half was much like the first as both teams repeated just about everything, exchanging scores exchanging defensive blocks and high level goal keeping.   With time running out and ASA down by two Stephanie Floor was able to score two to tie the score and force a golden goal.

A golden goal is when the score is tied and the team, which scores first wins the period.  The golden goal was exciting as well when Twist and Shout won the jump ball but missed their shot.  ASA would have an opportunity as well only to miss.  Twist and Shout got the rebound and took a shot that was blocked.  Team ASA would then bring the ball down court and Naomi A’asa would score to give ASA the second half win to tie the game and force another overtime shoot out.

Twist and shout would shoot first and score and after all five shooters completed led by two points with only ASA’s Stephanie Floor remaining to shoot.  Receiving her pass from Lynette Liu, Stephanie would score to tie the game once again forcing a second shootout.

This time Team ASA shot first with Danielle Floor opting to score one point leaving Twist and Shout with the option of tying the score or trying for a two point win.  Hannah Ross of Twist and Shout took the two point shot, which was high and partially blocked by keeper Stephanie securing the win and a finals appearance against The Sea Dragons.

The Sea Dragons once again proved to be the dominate team as they swept team ASA in both sets. Just as they did in the first game the Liu sisters would often break through the defense only to have their shots blocked by some amazing goal keeping by Stacy Self. 

The ASA defense held their ground in keeping the Sea Dragons to under 20 in the first half however fatigue began to set in in the second half as our women had to settle for second place with another silver medal. Self was voted beast keeper and our own Stephanie Floor was awarded tournament MVP for her combined efforts to the team.

Coach Floor said, “We’ve accomplished our mission.  We played competitively, we learned and gained experience, we bonded and we won games.  We came from behind, twice facing elimination and seeing them fight for the win is so satisfying for me.  We will build off of this as we continue to pursue the goals that we set for ourselves.”

The next beach handball tournament of interest will be the 2023 Oceania Championships for U17 Boys and Girls and for Adult Men and Women.   Interested athletes should contact ASHA AT ASTEAMHANDBALL@GMAIL.COM OR CALL 272-1735.

Coach CJ added “ I’d like to thank our may supporters, our sponsors Manua Store, Bluesky, Tufuga Print Shop and Young Electric Services for helping us get back on track.  A special thanks to Kimberly Pop from USA for helping me coach and to all the Gannon University students and staff who helped us prepare.”