Earlier in April, Clemson’s Handball team travelled to Auburn, Ala. for Nationals. It was only Clemson’s second time competing in Nationals, and after a poor finish the year before, expectations were low. The Tigers were a No. 2 seed in a bracket with Ohio State and Virginia, and their first game was against No. 1 Ohio State. But Clemson never trailed and ended up pulling off an 18-13 upset. Clemson went on to defeat Virginia 18-15, winning their bracket pool and advancing to quarterfinals for the first time in the club’s history.
In quarterfinals, the Tigers faced Illinois State, who defeated them at Nationals last year, but this time Clemson dominated. Illinois State did not score for almost 40 straight minutes, and Clemson got the victory with a score of 24-6. The Tigers then went on to face defending national champion Army in the semifinals, which unfortunately proved to be the conclusion of Clemson’s remarkable
run, ending the competition with a fourth place finish.
In a later interview, one of Army’s players labeled Clemson’s team as a “scrappy bunch.” Team member Chris Richert appreciated this branding. “This was a term and an identity that this team really personified, playing hard in every game from start to finish,” Richert said.
The team was founded in 2011 by Shane Williams, who learned how to play from an exchange student and wanted to get exposure for the sport. However, the group was not initially large enough to field an entire team. However, after the 2012 Olympics, the sport began to gain popularity, and Richert and others were drawn to the team.
With no coach or formal training, the team finished 0-5 in 2013 Nationals, but the squad was resilient. After spending time training and gaining experience under new coach Henry Hebert, a former US National Handball Team member, Clemson entered the 2014 Nationals looking to make a name for themselves, and they did.
“Nationals was a great experience for out club, as it really gave our university great exposure because of the massive amount of respect we had from the effort that our players put into every game,” Richert said. “It was just an amazing journey, and now going into next year Clemson has secured a No.1 seed in the tournament and a No. 4 national ranking for Team Handball.”
The future is bright for the team, as they have numerous players returning to the squad. “Although programs like Army, UNC
and Air Force own the upper
echelon of teams, Clemson hopes
to push their way to possibly becoming the best team in the country … It really is quite amazing that in just one year this club went from finishing dead last at Nationals, to finishing fourth,” Richert said.
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