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20th Annual Coloplast International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament

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20th Annual Coloplast International

This past January, the Tampa Generals hosted the 20th Annual Coloplast International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament in Tampa, FL.  This is one of the longest running tournaments and brought together participants from around the globe for 3 days of hard hitting action. The tournament featured 10 teams, including Minnesota, Michigan, St. Louis, Jacksonville, London (Ontario), and Brazil.

Attendees awoke to a comfortable 70 degree day; a pleasant change from the 20 degrees and snow some teams left behind. The tournament began with the Brazilian national team losing their first ever game in the U.S. to the Lakeshore Demolition (Birmingham, AL) by a score of 45-33.  On the other court, the Brooks Bandits (Jacksonville) lost convincingly to the St. Louis Rugby Rams.  Later that morning, the tournament host Tampa Generals opened the day beating London and followed that up with a win against Brazil.  The remainder of the day went as expected with all of the higher seeds winning their games.

Saturday would prove to be a long day with teams playing 3 games from 9am to 7pm.  St. Louis was easily the most impressive team of the day as they won all 3 of their games by a comfortable margin.  Team Brazil shook off their opening day jitters by beating Michigan and Ontario.   Tampa couldn’t continue their early tournament success and started the day with losses to Minnesota and Lakeshore.   As the afternoon approached, pool play was coming to a close and crossover games to decide final placing began.

Tampa kicked things off against the Raleigh Sidewinders, their Southeastern rival.  This would be Raleigh’s first game against Tampa with Eric Ingram and Sheldon Lane, who joined Raleigh after the collapse of the East Coast Cripplers.  Tampa came out of the gate fast with a 4 goal lead after the 1st quarter and never looked back.  The victory would set Tampa up with a rematch against Brazil on Sunday to determine 5th/6th place.

In the final 2 crossovers of the day, fans witnessed St. Louis breezing over Minnesota and Lakeshore battling Shepherd in what might have been the best game of the weekend.  From start to finish, neither team was able to get more than a 1 goal lead as Lakeshore’s all-tournament class 2.5 Shin Nakazato and Shepherd’s Rob Deller carried their respective clubs.  As teams traded goals throughout the contest, it was Cassie Mitchell who scored the final go-ahead goal and put Shepherd in the championship versus St. Louis.  Lakeshore would face Minnesota to decide 3rd/4th place.

In the 9am games on Sunday, London sent Brooks home winless and a disappointed Raleigh team had a comfortable win versus Michigan to finish in 7th place. 

In what was easily the game of the day, Tampa faced a much improved and determined Brazilian team.  Tampa ended the 1st quarter with a 1 goal lead and looked to be handling Brazil again.  Brazil would not let Tampa pull away this time and fought back to take a 2 goal lead in the 2nd quarter.  This game would remain tight as tensions flared from the Brazilian delegation. With the game tied and 10 seconds remaining, Tampa quickly advanced the ball and scored the game winning goal as time expired to win the game 45-44.

In the 3rd/4th place game, Lakeshore being led by National Team selection Delvin McMillan and veterans Eddie Crouch and Bob Lujano cruised to a 48-41 victory over Minnesota.  Everyone was expecting a closely fought championship; however it turned out to be a continuation of St. Louis’ dominance.  St. Louis, led by the play of tournament MVP Eric Newby, used their balanced line to beat Shepherd 54-43.

Thanks to Coloplast, Tampa General Hospital, Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Department, Uromed, Xcaliber, and Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay, and all the other sponsors and volunteers that made this tournament possible. 

January 27, 2012 — 8:11am