Gary Hines (C) lifts the trophy alongside his teammates after winning the 2022 NACHC Handball Championships on June 30, 2022 in Mexico City.
While Hines is the oldest member of the team, the rest of the US roster is made up mostly of younger players who have shown potential on the court, including several who play professionally in Europe.
The Americans like to run and use their athleticism to score on other teams. And unlike in the past, they have enough depth so there’s at least two players capable of starting at every position.
“It’s very satisfying because I remember when I started out. I was one of the ones that’d have to play multiple positions because the talent or players weren’t there,” Hines said. “It’s just a joy to see there’s more talent around than normal.”
Hines admitted it was “devastating” when he learned the US had decided to withdraw from last year’s world championships only a few days before the team was expected to fly to Egypt.
While the pandemic limited how much the team could practice together, Hines said everyone remained focused and bought into head coach Robert Hedin’s philosophy at last month’s Men’s NACHC Handball Championships.
The Americans opened the tournament with a 36-28 win over Greenland on June 26. They then knocked off host Mexico and Cuba in back-to-back days to set up a second match with Greenland two days later in the championship round.
“Once we come together, it can be very special and we proved that with all the naysay and people behind the scenes saying, yeah, we’re not going to do good this tournament and we’re going to get beat and it’s not fair , blah, blah, blah,” Hines sat. “So we put a lot of naysayers to hush.”
The US and Greenland went back and forth in the championship match, but the Americans took control with around 10 minutes remaining and pulled away to secure a spot in the world championships.
Sam Hoddersen finished with eight goals in the championship match, and Ian Hueter added seven goals to help the Americans go undefeated in Mexico City.
A few days later, the US learned its future for the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championships. The team was included in a group with Egypt, Morocco and Croatia.
“It was very exciting. It was a huge relief so to speak,” Heath said of the US qualifying for the world championships. “No one on (the current) team has ever played in the world championships, so… we’re very excited and we’re very grateful that we have the opportunity to be put in the position where we can qualify and come out victorious. “