On the final day of the Michael Lipov Memorial Cup, the Inter women beat the Army cadets again to go 4-0 and easily secure another first place trophy. Jolante Kunickaite added another MVP trophy to her basement collection for her inspirational play in the face (or ribs – she cracked her ribs during the first day of play) of injury.
On the men’s side however, Hurricane Sandy was the ultimate winner of the tournament. With 3 out of the top 4 teams hailing from the New York region they had to hasten back home before the “frankenstorm” stranded them in our fair city. This result was a disappointingly abrupt end to what was shaping up to be a pair of highly competitive medal games.
The tournament was still a successful for many, including our special guests, the Legion XXI handball club from the Ukraine, the home country of the tournament’s namesake, Michael Lipov. “We really loved playing in the Michael Lipov Memorial Cup. Compared to other tournaments we have been to, this tournament was so well-organized and we got to play more games in a great facility. Our stay in Chicago has been very enjoyable. Inter has been a great host, very friendly and welcoming, and we would be happy to come back to play again.” Genadi Dikhtiar, manager and captain of Legion XXI said through a translator.
Everyone was impressed with the play of the experienced Legion club, which tied host team Inter Black in the tournament opener and later defeated Inter Yellow. Inter Yellow’s pivot, Zak Dich observed, “The Legion team were true sportsmen: brutes on the court and super nice guys off the court. I think having a team from Ukraine here, gave some of the young Americans to a glimpse into the handball world.”
The always competitive New York Athletic Club also had a great showing at a truncated tournament. One of many USA men’s national team players on the NYAC roster, returning to Chicago was a little like coming back to his handball roots for Jordan Fithian. “Several years ago this was the very first tournament that I ever played in, so it was nice to come back to Chicago. It was even better for us to beat New York City [two-time defending National Champions]. I was disappointed the weather on the East Coast kept us from seeing them again in the finals.”
A sentiment echoed by pretty much everyone. Even though handball players are notoriously crazy, it was more important for everyone to get home safely. “It was upsetting that we couldn’t have the men’s finals,” commented Inter Women’s coach, Felix Murokh. “We look forward to a complete tournament next year and will continue to develop the women’s side of the tournament to rival the competitiveness of the men’s event.”