Inter Ladies Take Third Despite Small Roster

April 7, 2013

“You never know what can happen in handball.”  This is what Chicago Inter kept telling themselves as the roster seemed to keep shrinking in the final days before the Laura Walker Invitational Tournament, March 29 – 31.  First, Gabi Stilwell tears her ACL in the final practice before the trip and then team captain, Jolanta Kunicaite, becomes too sick to travel.  Nonetheless, the ladies from Chicago pull together and commit to making it a great competition.  The tournament is one that Chicago looks forward to every year.  First Lieutenant Laura Walker was a 2003 West Point gradate and the first female graduate to be killed in combat, in Afghanistan.  The tournament is held every year in her honor.  This year, nine teams from the United States and Canada competed.

The Ladies clean up well for a dinner in honor of the tournament's name sake, LT Laura Walker.

The Ladies clean up well for a dinner in honor of the tournament’s name sake, 1LT Laura Walker.

First up is West Point Gold.  Chicago Inter struggled early as players tried to get used to playing new positions and next to new people.  Francie Moehring stepped up in the pivot position, where Jolanta usually dominates.  Francie had played pivot in Germany, but has been a left wing for many years since coming to play for Chicago.  Aurelie Bie started at the playmaker position, which seemed a bit risky since she has only played in the wing position since joining Chicago Inter.  It turned out to be a stroke of genius by Coach Felix Murokh, and she had a fantastic tournament.  Veteran player, but new to Chicago Inter, Sunny Chen proved her worth on defense as she stepped up to take on a very physical Army team.  With new players and some in new roles, Inter worked out the kinks and came out with a 16 – 11 win over the cadets.

The next game proved to be much tougher as Inter took on the younger, but experienced, Canadians from Levis  The game was evenly matched at halftime, 7 – 7, but Levis got a good start and went on a run to start the second half.  Chicago could not recover and Levis took the win, 11 – 16.  After losing a game they knew they could have won, Chicago was ready for rivals, Carolina.  This was a hard-fought and physical game from the first minute until the last.  Fast breaks from Tabby Hardison gave the team a big boost and helped set the tone for the game.  Chicago played tough defense and was supported by Jacque Messel in the goal.  It was good to see Jacque playing in her first game of the season as an injury has kept her off the court since September.  Inter was in the lead most of the game but Carolina battled back to make it an exciting finish.  Chicago was able to hold on, 18- 17, with help from a 7m save by Messel and Carolina’s last-second shot bouncing off the goalpost.

Sunday started with a cross-over game against NYC.  Chicago’s offense struggled for the entire game against the defensive wall and solid goalkeeping of NYC.  It was back and forth with Inter fighting to take advantage of fast breaks and mistakes by NYC’s defense.  Katrine Buur played a great game at the right backcourt position, but this game showed how much the team missed the rest of the players who were not able to travel.  NYC was slow to start,  offensively, but found their groove in the second half.  Costly mistakes at the end allowed NYC to grab a one goal lead and hold on to win, 12 – 13.  This was a much more bitter loss than the one against Levis and Chicago is looking forward to a rematch in Reno at USA Nationals.

Chicago ended the tournament with a 12- 4 win against Levis B, the second Canadian team from Levis.  Chicago is certainly not used to finishing third, but it still felt like a victory given the circumstances.  This team will be a force to contend with in Reno.

Exhausted, but satisfied.

Exhausted, but satisfied.

2013 Laura Walker Tournament Results

1. Levis A
2. NYC Team Handball
3. Chicago Inter
4. Levis B
5. WP Black
6. Boston
7. Carolina Blue (Alumni)
8. WP Gold
9. Carolina