The first round of Spain’s women’s first division goalball league got underway earlier today in Madrid, with a pair of games played concurrently on two courts at Centros de Recursos Educativos ONCE. The first match on the right court saw Canarias Cludeon beat Catalunya 9 – 2.
Neither the Catalan side nor the Canaries had very deep benches. The Canaries had two options on their bench while the Catalans had only one.
Both teams evenly matched early on, though it took them a few throws to find the out-of-bounds. The team from the Canary Islands scored first, and appeared to have overall better on court conversation skills. The Catalyuna team answered back quickly though off a goal from number 1 who was playing in the center. Number 3 for the Cataluyans often seemed to play a bit out of her area, though this may have been a strategic decision to give player number 1 more room to move. The second goal by the Canary Islands team exploited the hole between number 3 and number 1. After they scored, the Catalan team took a time out. The third goal for the Canaries exploited the same whole. Following this, the Catalans moved player number 3 to the other side of the court. Because of the unannounced change, the Canary Islands got a penalty shot but were unable to get past player number 1. When the Canaries went back to trying to go to the side originally occupied by number 3, number 4 was able to stop it. The Canaries scored a fourth point after shooting the gap between and 4. The Canaries were awarded another penalty shot. Number 4 guarded the goal for her side, but was unable to block the short to give the Canaries their 5th goal. They led 5 – 1 at the half. On the other court, the team from Valencia was losing 1 – 2 to the team from Aragon. Teams for the next games were warming up on the center court.
The teams changed benches and sides of the court, with the Catalans making a change that saw number 3 go to the bench. The change appeared to give the Catalans some momentum, though number 5 bobbled a ball or two she could have handled more easily as it almost resulted in a goal for the Canaries. And then it did, as the ball hit the bottom of her feet and went in. Following that, the Catalan side put number 5 on the other side, with number 4 doing a better job defending that corner as the Canaries did not correct by shooting for that side. The Canaries did a change, brining in number 5 for number 2. Following that, the Catalans put number 4 on the other side and the Canaries managed to score on her to make the score 7 – 1. The Canaries took another timeout and the Catalans moved number 4 to the other side. The Canaries made another change, taking number 3 out and putting number 4 in, and in the center position. Number 4 for the Canaries had problems with her sight blocking goggles during the match, which was stopped twice to deal with this. The game was then stopped to deal with the goggles of number 4 on the Canaries. Number 1 for the Canaries was given a penalty for disruption, with number 4 taking the shot for her side. She scored as number 1 lunged in totally the wrong direction. At this point, it looked like the Canary Islands team had lost the plot as one player was facing the wrong direction and could not find her lines when the Catalans were shooting. The Catalans took a time out, and following a few throws back and forth, number 2 for the Canaries scored to bring the score to 8 – 2 off a whole left by number 5. The Canaries then scored again by getting past number 4 for the Catalans. Number 4 for the Canaries, playing in the center, still had issues with her location on the floor, almost letting a goal sore as she was facing the wrong direction, and then followed up by tossing the ball out almost at the half court line. The game ended 9 – 2 in favor of the Canaries. The game on the other court between Valencia and Aragon finished 8 – 1 in favor of Aragon.
Despite the game being played in Spain, the comments from the referee were all in English: “Play.”, “Out.” and “Block Out.” Directions for people watching the game though were in Spanish. The competition’s first game was not very well attended, with most of the people there either support staff, officials or players. Given the high level of play on display in a few games, it is a bit disheartening though a few people did show up to later games.
The contest was an important one as it gave additional high level domestic experience to Spain’s women national team players. The team currently has ten players, all of whom were competing today. The national squad is still looking to qualify for the 2016 Summer Paralympics, and those ten will eventually be cut down to five ahead of the 2015 IBSA World Games in Seoul. The team plans to use as their qualifying path as going through the European Championships is much more difficult as there is much greater depth in Europe than there is in the Americas where there are only really three teams, and Africa which is still looking for a women’s team to be created.