Belfast, Northern Ireland, WPH Press, 2/4/20- Seven members of the Missouri State Handball Team made the trip to 4,000 mile trip across the pond to Belfast to compete in the 2020 ICHA Collegiate Nationals. R48 qualifiers Sam Esser and Max Langmack led the MO State Bears into the mecca of 4-Wall handball, with all seven of the Bears seeking titles against the best men’s and women’s collegiate players in Ireland at St. Paul’s Handball Club.
Men’s ICHA Singles
Esser advanced to the semifinals with a two-game quarterfinal sweep against Peter Donohue, 15-10, 15-1. “In the Irish Collegiates they only go to 15 each game and they use a different ball so it took a little adjusting,” reported Esser. “Peter was one of the fastest players I’ve ever played. Both games felt more competitive than the score shows.”
Esser cruised in two games in the semifinals as well, downing Irish upstart Kevin Diggins, 15-12, 15-13. “Kevin is really starting to become a great player,” stated Esser. “The first game he started lights out and had me 10-3, then I switched to a lob serve and tried to make him go for low percentage kill shots and it worked out as I came back to win 15-12. Second game I started fast, up about 11-3 but he started finding the bottom board again to make it 13-14 before I finally found the bottom board myself to end the game 15-13.”
R48 #17 Fergal Coughlan, Jr. advanced to the final to meet Esser, as FCJ overcame former top 20 R48 pro Max Langmack in the semifinals in two games, 15-7, 15-5. “Fergal was just hitting great shots against Max,” stated Langmack’s Mo State teammate Esser. “Fergal was hitting a great serve and then keeping Max off balance with either a pass or kill on after the return of serve.”
In a battle of the future of the sport, Esser and Coughlan demonstrated their prodigious talents in the final, with the first game featuring several huge swings. “I started fast against Fergal, going up 11-3 but he closed that to 11-10 before I finally got my kill shot going again to end the game 15-11,” stated Esser. “Both my serve and kill shot were working game two and he seemed pretty tired. I was able to pull away and win the second game.”
Final: Esser def Coughlan, Jr. 15-11, 15-3
Women’s ICHA Singles
Three-time WR48 semifinalist and WR48 #3 Fiona Tully entered the 2020 ICHA Women’s Singles as the top seed and cruised to the final with wins against Kelly Curran (15-3, 15-1), Doireann Murphy (15-6, 15-4), then survived a tiebreaker against Eilise Mc Crory in the semifinal, 13-15, 15-4, 15-5 to face Niamh Heffernan in the final.
Tully found herself in her second consecutive tiebreaker in the final against Hefferman, taking the first game and dropping a close second. Tully retook control of the match in the third, building a huge lead and fending off a Hefferman comeback. “I was playing really good in the first game, then the second game a lapse in concentration and played the way she likes to be played against and I lost,” stated Tully. “The breaker it was really always in my favour, I went up 14-5, however, couldn’t get the last ace, she got to 10, but I was always on top!”
Final: Tully def Heffernan 15-1, 12-15, 15-10
Thank you to Sam Esser and Fiona Tully for reporting from the 2020 ICHA Collegiate Nationals. Trophy photos from Belfast courtesy of Sam Esser and Fiona Tully.
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