| After the departure of the WNT, the Cortland Team Handball Club is picking up the gauntlet for women's handball in Cortland. And with the folding of the North East Team Handball Conference due to lack of interest, the club was forced to join the Quebec Junior League to find regular competition.|
"We were really disappointed when there wasn't enough interest to run the NETHC this year. We still really wanted to play and so we had to do pretty much the only other option available," said Cortland Club's founder and president, Lindsay Coons.
The team is over mid-way through their season having now competed in three tournaments. Coons admits that, "The season has been tough. While I'm really proud that this year the 'Cortland and Friends' team, as we've jokingly referred to ourselves in the past, is mostly Cortland students, that translates into us not being very experienced. So we're always glad to add some experience in the form our friends on the WNT," reports Coons.
Gifted, young WNT right wing Melanie McCormick is still a student at SUNY Cortland and plays with the club full time. "It's so different," she says. "It's a completely different feeling. We aren't training together 10 times per week like with the WNT, but its my only option for staying active with handball at the moment." Mel, who has over 15 international matches under her belt, is definitely a future star of the WNT and her continued involvement with handball is critical.
Sarah Gascon and Erin Kizer joined the Cortland Club for the first two tournaments. Former WNT Co-Captain Edina Batar, intended to play, but was sidelined by a knee surgery, and is now adjusting to her new role as a coach for the team. "It's hard because I really want to be on the court. I try to help from the sidelines now." The first tournament was quite a challenge for the Cortland handballers; sloppy play by Cortland resulted in runaway victories for the talented Laval and Champlain squads, who usually end up battling each other in the finals.
The second tournament was hosted by Cortland and saw drastic improvements. Commenting on the improvements, Coons said, "Everyone was playing together. We had a better flow on offense and the defense was tight and forcing Drummondville and Chaudiere to take more perimeter shots. Gascon was a huge offensive contribution at right back and at circle. And both Mel and Erin made the defense pay for cheating on the wings." Sadly, the team still fell just a few goals short of securing a victory, losing to Drummondville by three and Chaudière by five.
Continuing its development, the third tournament was easily the best for the Cortland Club team. Giving the team an additional boost, WNT member, Anne Colter was able to join the team for the first time. She started out playing her traditional position of circle but halfway through the first game she decided that she wanted to be a left back. Coons remarked, "I was surprised when she asked to play at backcourt. It's totally different from circle, but I was pleasantly surprised that her attack was well timed and she was able to draw her defender up and dish either to the wing or the circle. We were also able to run some nice combinations with her as a second circle." The team played even with Laval for the first 50 minutes, but fell short in the last 10.
The final game was a rematch against a Champlain team who had been dominant in the first meeting at the beginning of the season. Champlain came out with a quick 6-2 lead off three fast breaks and four well placed shots from their left back, and held varying lead of 4 to 6 goals for pretty much the entire first half. Champlain started the second half in a 4-2 defense, which the Cortland team used to its advantage. With no one really covering the wings, Erin Kizer and Melanie McCormick were left to score at will. After numerous one on ones and 6 goals from the right wing, McCormick was able to set up several nice assists for her right back, Torill Lunde of Norway. Within the first ten minutes of the half, Cortland had closed the gap to two, and with consistent play found themselves only trailing by one goal with seven minutes remaining in the match. Each team passed several scoreless possessions before Champlain came up with two steals and converted two fast breaks to break away at the end and win by 4.
Despite the progress, Cortland is still looking for their first regular season win, and hopes to find it at the annual West Point Tournament which will include teams from UNC, Furman, Texas Shooting Stars, and naturally, West Point. "We're obviously really pleased with the way we are playing now compared to the way we started the season," remarked Coons. "But at the same time you get tired of the moral victories and we're aiming for a win."
Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com