Good Times at Handball U
They don’t get to go to Disneyland. They don’t win new pickup trucks. They don’t even make it to the front of a Wheaties box. Nevertheless, the men and women of Pacific’s combined handball team are aglow from winning the national championship. Again.
In February, the combined men’s and women’s team won the national title, beating much bigger schools like the University of Texas and the University of Illinois. It was the Boxers’ fourth straight national championship.
The funny thing is, most of the team members never planned to play.
Junior Julie Huestis ‘20, captain of Pacific’s women’s team, came to Pacific intending to play softball. Phoebe Brookes, a visiting student from Leeds, U.K., found herself on the team after believing she had signed up for European- styled team handball. Freshman Abby Evan ‘22, who had one of the most dramatic wins at the national championships, decided to come out for the team after taking a class that introduced her to the sport. And Corey Hedger ‘18, MAT '19, says his former professor and former handball team coach Mike Steele encouraged him to come out for the team, but he resisted.
Then Steele showed him his championship ring. “I said, ‘All right, that’s pretty cool,’” Hedger said.
Handball is a lean sport. It requires a ball, some walls, a glove, athletic shoes and, if you’re smart, a pair of goggles. That’s it. At Pacific, it is a club sport, a notch below the Division III competition in football, soccer and basketball.
Since 1981, the teams have appeared in 39 consecutive collegiate national tournaments and captured numerous individual and team national championships. Coach David Steinberg was named U.S. Handball Coach of the Year in 2018.
It has been, said Evan, who started playing over the winter, “really cool.” ■
This story first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Pacific magazine. For more stories, visit pacificu.edu/magazine.