The Chicago Inter Women went 4-0 over the weekend to return with the first place trophy from the Laura Walker Memorial Invitational. The annual women’s handball tournament is hosted by the US Military Academy at West Point and held in honor of 1LT Laura Margaret Walker, class of 2003, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on 18 August 2005 while serving with the 4th Infantry Division.
After a long day of travelling, the Inter ladies stepped on to the court against West Point Black. The West Point women have made tremendous improvements since the two teams last met, and even though Inter looked very disjointed at times they were able to hold on to a 23-18 win, behind the spirited goalie play of Anca Burca.
Jolanta Kunickaite took home top scorer honors by netting an amazing 30 goals in only 4 games, only one of which was a regulation-length 60 minutes. Regularly leaving the other team and even her own teammates in amazement, Jolanta caught passes with defenders hanging all over her and still managed to score almost 8 goals per game.
“Sometimes everyone in the gym knows that we’re going to pass to Jolanta… and they still can’t stop her,” said backcourt Kathy Darling. “I watch her make shots that shot no one had any business to make and I’ll just shake my head and be thankful that she is on my team.
With only one game on Saturday (easily defeating Boston Blue, 8:31) the Inter ladies were afforded the opportunity to tour the Military Academy Campus. Led by Inter President and West Point, ’02 graduate, Jacque Messel, the Inter team got to explore and learn about an important part of United State’s history and present. The evening presented further bonding time with a at the memorial dinner / social event in honor of the tournament’s namesake, 1LT Laura Walker.
“It was good for us to be together off the handball court,” said Jolanta. ”It really bonds us together.” Sunday would see the ladies exchanging those sassy heels for court shoes and defeating the always-scrappy University of North Carolina team 17-10 in the semi-finals before squaring off with Boston 1 in the afternoon championship.
With the head coach indisposed, Inter looked to long-time leaders, Malgorzata Gunka and Jolanta Kunickaite to take up double duty as player-coaches. ”When I first saw Boston play I was very impressed: very European; fast, dynamic, interesting to watch. I knew that we would have to play very well in order to beat them,” reflected Jolanta Kunickaite. Words that would prove prescient as Inter would face Boston in the championship game.
The game was tight early on and well into the first half, but going in to half time Inter began to pull away. The ladies would continue their momentum in the beginning of the second half and throughout the rest of the game. They build a lead that could not be compromised even in the face of Jolanta Kunickaite’s red card after her 3rd two-minute penalty.
“We won the final match 28:21, with great fight, and great team spirit. It was a great weekend with awesome teammates, what is there more to wish for?” said Francie Moehring happily. Gunka agreed but is already looking forward, ”I think it was very good tournament before Nationals. Now we know what our strengths are and what we still need to improve on. If we work on our already strong defense I think we will fight for the gold medal again!”
The Inter women would like to thank the West Point Team for hosting a wonderful event. We thank you for your hospitality and service to our country. We look forward to seeing you at nationals and next year!