TOKYO, Japan — The U.S. Women’s Goalball Team had won every single one of their matches at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, save for one preliminary match against Japan. They had proven themselves a force to be reckoned with, but to be fair, so had Turkey. They had also been undefeated– except for against the U.S. in preliminaries, for which they redeemed themselves in today’s Gold Medal Match by winning against Team USA: 2-9.
The U.S. women’s team won Silver, which is no small accomplishment.
“Well, you know, the goal was to win gold. But we’re still really proud of that silver medal,” said U.S. women’s team #7 Eliana Mason.
Mason said that she likes to think of the semis as “the silver medal match,” and that their semifinal match against Brazil the night before was the highlight of the tournament for them.
“We won that silver last night, and that was such a great win. It was amazing,” Mason said.
The match against Brazil had not only gone into double overtime, but into extra shots– a last resort shootout in the case of a tie that hasn’t been broken. In the end, the U.S. team scored and won the game in a spectacular finish. Mason said she’d been so excited, she’d scooped up #9 Marybai Huking right off the ground in celebration.
“It was a game I’ll always remember, and so I think it’s important to be really proud of that, and also to be proud of how we didn’t stop fighting at all. We just kept pushing and pushing, and all you can do is your best,” Mason said.
They did their best in their gold medal match as well, but Turkey played an aggressive offense and according to Head Coach Jake Chechowski, a pre-game injury kept U.S. team captain #5 Amanda Dennis from leading them in the game.
“I am always going to err on the side of caution for my athletes. We want to play, and compete, and beat everybody in the world, but never at the expense of health,” he said.
The two who had managed to score were Mason and #4 Asya Miller, but that was all they could manage to get past Turkey. Still, #3 Lisa Chechowski, one of the most experienced Paralympians on the team, felt no bitterness at the outcome. In fact, there seemed to be nothing but an outpour of satisfaction for the team’s performance from its leadership.
“So very proud. I was so very, very proud. It was such a great tournament. Kudos to Turkey, they played a fantastic game. Kudos to our team, we had a fantastic tournament,” she said. “Every moment of every game meant so much to me, and I’m so proud of these girls.”
Coach Chechowski, husband of Lisa Chechowski, also felt they had a mainly positive experience.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team. We came up a little bit short tonight, but in terms of the progress that we’ve made since world championships, oh– I couldn’t be more proud of the journey,” he added.
Mason and Huking said they had amazing on-court and off-court moments throughout the games, such as with Mason’s birthday a few days previous.
“That was one of my favorite things, everyone sneaking around trying to decorate,” said Huking.
“And then I can’t even see the decorations!” Mason exclaimed to resounding laughter from her teammate.
They said they cherished those moments of friendship these past couple of weeks. The team cares about each other immensely, and it shows.
“We use the words ‘believe’ and ‘faith’ a lot, and just trust in each other. Last night was an example of our strong team, and so when someone’s down, we pick ‘em up and we just come together as a team and do our best,” said Mason.
Just as the men’s team swore this wasn’t the end, coach Chechowski says that the “beauty of it” is that women’s team also still has a bright future ahead of them.
“There’ll be more tournaments. There’ll be more opportunities. We’re going to take a couple moments, take a couple deep breaths. . .[then] we’re gonna get right back to work,” he said.
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