The Minnesota State Mankato Handball team finished second in the country at the United States Handball Association’s (USHA) National Collegiate Handball tournament. The tournament was held on the University of Minnesota’s campus on February 24-28.
50 schools from the United States, Ireland, and Canada sent players to compete for individual and team titles in Men’s, Women’s, and combined team championships.
Wells was very pleased with the team as a whole, and how they support each other.
“We put in literally hundreds of hours of work. We would come to class and they would spend some time doing insanity workouts for 20 minutes and come back and play,” coach Mike Wells said. “When we go to the nationals, we have what we call a buddy system. So everyone has a buddy assigned to them and they go to their matches. Nobody is at a match by himself or herself.”
The buddy system works great for the MSU Handball team. The team enjoys being around each other and watching each other play in matches.
“I am most proud of how they support their teammates. It is really a wonderful group of young men and women we have here,” Wells said.
Lake Forest College (LFC) of Chicago recorded their eighth straight combined team championship. The Mavericks finished second to LFC this year and in 2014 in the combined competition. The Mavericks finished ahead of perennial powerhouses such as Texas, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Illinois, Missouri State, and University of Minnesota.
The Maverick men finished third behind the University of Limerick (UL) and LFC.
Sophomore Tyler Stoffel became the first All-American ever for the Mavericks. Players can achieve All-American status by making the semi-final round in singles or the finals in doubles in the Open Division.
Stoffel is honored to be the first player to achieve All-American honors in his hometown.
“It is an honor. Its fun to be the first of anything,” Stoffel said. “It’s an honor to do it here because I grew up here. I have always wanted to do it here.”
Stoffel overcame 10 straight match points in the second game of the quarterfinals against Galen Riordan of Ireland and then went on to win the tiebreaker 11-0 to achieve All-American honors.
“My goal all year was to be an All-American,” Stoffel said. “So when I was down eight points, and then faced 10 match points, all I was thinking was don’t lose, don’t lose, don’t let him beat you, don’t let him beat you. I just got lucky enough to come out on top.”
Stoffel loves the competition and the people that he meets at the tournament. Handball, for Stoffel, is a one-on-one sport. There is no team to rely on, and that brings out Stoffel’s competive nature.
“Its one of the only sports were you can go head-to-head against somebody and be competitive and then afterwards you are best friends,” Stoffel said. “Some of the best people I have ever met are at tournaments.”
Stoffel lost to Peter Funchion of Ireland 21-8, 21-14 in the championship finals. Stoffel has had quite a year winning the USHA’s 19 and under junior national title and finishing third in the 19 and under World Champions in Calgary, Canada.
Other Maverick men scoring points for the Mavericks were sophomore Jordan Taylor (13th), senior Jerad Michels (25th), sophomore Ricky Ness (25th), junior Tyler Fipps (37th), and sophomore Hugo Cervantes (37th).
Sophomore Adrian Anderson was the most improved player from last year’s team. He finished 105th in 2015, but advanced to 41st this year.
Jordan Taylor won one of the two Sportsmanship Awards given to a player that is nominated at the tournament for demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship during the event.
Seth Troyer finished runner-up in the Men’s C1 Division losing to Alex Sadegholvad of Stony Brook University.
The Lady Mavericks were runner-up in the A Division and finished 4th overall.
The Lady Mavericks were led by senior Jessica Herion, who improved to 11th in the country, the highest finish ever by a Lady Maverick. The rest of the Lady Mavericks scoring points for the women’s team were Leah Grisim (41st), Nikki Theobald (51st), Laurie Hiebert (53rd), Stasha Zetah (57th), and Courtney Johnson (66th).
“Our women are pretty inexperienced,” Wells said. “We had one senior and she finished 11th in the country and she has been here four years. Everybody else is two years and under. So we are a year away from being pretty tough on the women’s side.”
Courtney Johnson finished runner-up in the Women’s B2 Division losing to Catalina Rodriguez from the University of Texas.
If you are interested in joining the handball team, the best place to start is by joining the handball intro class held every semester. Join early, spots fill up quick.