Cinderella Plays Handball!

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Tatum Schoch traveled to Tucson, and she came home with a national championship title

A betting person would not have put their chips on Tatum Schoch. She began playing competitive handball for the first time her freshman year at Pacific University, and lost every game at the national championship. She then took a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 before returning to handball her senior year—and in her first tournament in January, every opponent defeated her.

   Yet, in late February, Schoch headed to Tucson for the US Handball Association national championships.

   “I was definitely nervous because I didn’t even think that I would win a single match,” admitted Schoch. But she came home with a national title.

   The tournament format is straightforward. The first few games determine which division you’ll play in and your seeding in that division. The remaining matches are against opponents in your division, and if you lose, you are eliminated. Every match is a best-of-three set; to win a set, you must win 21 points and two points ahead.

   Schoch immediately surpassed expectations by winning the first match 2-0. She lost the next two matches before winning three straight to be placed in the B division bracket. With each win, she gained more confidence and seemed to play better as she progressed through the bracket, sweeping each subsequent opponent 2 games to nil. In the finals, she faced a familiar opponent from the preliminary rounds, whom she had already defeated. Schoch triumphed once more, 2-0.

   Schoch was in disbelief during her victory, as if she were in a dream. Her teammates and coaches rushed to hug her, and her family from home texted her congratulations; the entire experience felt surreal to her.

   “This is what everyone on the handball team dreams of being,” explained Schoch. “This is as good as it gets, being a national handball champion. I’ve never really won anything in my life, so it was super cool,” explained Schoch. — Kaleb Makimoto


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