News & Events

Internationals Shine in Tampa

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The 23rd Tampa International Wheelchair Rugby Tournament was held this past January and saw some great competition. Rugby and weather in the 70’s is all it took to get some of these cold weather teams like St. Louis, Grand Rapids, Indy and London to make the trip South.

The tournament host, Tampa Generals kicked off the tournament beating RIH Indy, who was making its 1st ever appearance at this tournament. Next up on the schedule was Grand Rapids vs St. Louis. The game featured two dynamic international players with Leevi Ylonen leading his new St. Louis team and newlywed Lars Mertens, who recently joined Grand Rapids.

St. Louis came ready to play and jumped out to a 3-goal first quarter lead. The 1-2 punch of Leevi and Chuck Melton proved to be too much for Grand Rapids to overcome as St. Louis rolled to a 61-51 victory. London displayed their usual poise and balanced lineups, to cruise throughout the first day easily beating Shepherd and Grand Rapids.

The game of the day was between the Atlantic Section rivals, Shepherd and Tampa. Shepherd was without their top player Rob Deller and Tampa was without Belgian import Raf Hendrix. The game was close from the opening tip with neither team gaining more than a 1-goal lead throughout. With under a minute remaining, Shepherd forced a Tampa turnover and was able to take the final lead of the game with time expiring to win the game 42-41.

Saturday’s games were uneventful as all the favored teams easily advanced to the crossovers. London and St. Louis ended up being the top seeds with Grand Rapids and Shepherd finishing pool play as the #3 and #4 seeds.

On Sunday, the day opened with St. Louis winning their crossover with Grand Rapids by 7 and London blowing out Shepherd 43-17. In the 5th/6th placing game, Tampa used everyone on their roster to beat Indy for the second time over the weekend and Grand Rapids once again beat Shepherd by double digits to secure a 3rd place finish.

The championship game had St. Louis squaring off against London, who was led by tournament MVP, Dave Willsie. The 1st quarter was tight as both teams were able force turnovers; however it wouldn’t stay that way for long. St. Louis only bringing 4 players and playing “ironman rugby” would finally catch up with them as the balanced rotation of lineups from London would eventually wear them down. London was able to pull ahead by 5 at halftime and never looked back. The final score ended up being 55-49 with the London Annihilators bringing the championship back to Ontario with them.

This tournament would not have been possible without the support of Tampa General Hospital, Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County Sports, Recreation, and Conservation Department, and all the volunteers.

February 19, 2015 — 4:02am