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Michigan goalball teams win national titles

July 9, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Men's and women's goalball teams from Michigan, both with strong ties to Western Michigan University, took national titles in a recent tournament in St. Augustine, Fla.

The two teams concluded the 2007 season by participating in the United States Association of Blind Athletes' national goalball tournament May 31-June 2, winning men's and women's national championships. Both teams are supported by the WMU Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and are composed of several current WMU students and graduates.

The women's team, known as the Kalamazoo Chaos, won its third straight national championship and fourth in the last five years by defeating Colorado in the title game, 1-0. Colorado last won the championship in 2004.

Members of the Chaos got revenge from their 2-1 loss to Colorado in the Mid-east Regionals in April by scoring mid-way through the first half and then playing tight defense to preserve the win. New Jersey took third place by defeating Florida.

Members of the Chaos are: Nikki Buck, a graduate of Paw Paw High School now living in Kalamazoo and a student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College; Susie D'Mello, a student at Michigan State University; Asya Miller, a WMU graduate; and Kristin Millerov, a current WMU student. Buck was named female tournament MVP, while Buck and Miller were named to the all-tournament team.

The men's team, called the WMU Wrecking Crew, won its second national championship in three years by defeating the Pennsylvania Venom, 6-4, in the title game. Pennsylvania last won a national championship in 2003. Earlier, in round-robin play, Pennsylvania defeated the Wrecking Crew, 9-8, with a furious second-half comeback. A video of the contest can be viewed online for a limited time. But in the championship game, the Crew broke a 2-2 tie with four unanswered goals and then held on to preserve the win. Northeast Florida defeated defending national champion Utah for third place.

Wrecking Crew members include: WMU students Steve Denuyl and Tyler Merren; John Kusku, a WMU graduate and future WMU graduate student; and Junior Ortiz of Battle Creek. Merren was named male tournament MVP, while Denuyl, Kusku and Merren were named to the all tournament team.

The sport of goalball itself has a long history in Kalamazoo, thanks to the efforts of Drs. Paul and Sue Ponchillia, professors in the WMU Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies. Many of the players on the two teams were introduced to goalball at annual sports camps at WMU that the Ponchillia's organized.

Others at WMU also are directly involved with the two teams. Sherry Gordon, a part-time WMU faculty member, is instrumental in the administrative tasks of organizing team trips, while John Hulsebus, data architect for the WMU Office of Student Academic and Institutional Research, was head coach of the women's team and assistant coach of the men's team. Hulsebus' counterpart is Mike McAbee of Kalamazoo, who coaches the men's team and is assistant coach of the women's team.

Several members of both the men's and women's teams will be representatives on the U.S. National men's and women's goalball teams which will complete in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China.

More information on Michigan goalball may be found online at michigangoalball.com.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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