Peachtree City’s Amanda Dennis leads Paralympics team to silver medal

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Peachtree City native Amanda Dennis (center) receives plaudits from team members following the silver medal finish. Photo/USA Women's Goalball.
Peachtree City native Amanda Dennis (center) receives plaudits from team members following the silver medal finish. Photo/USA Women's Goalball.

Amanda Dennis — whose hometown is Peachtree City — and the USA Women’s Goalball team took silver at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics on Friday, Sept. 3, falling 9-2 to repeat champion Turkey.

Dennis, the team’s leading scorer throughout the tournament, was sidelined for the game by an injury. U.S. Coach Jake Czechowski took responsibility for holding her out.

Dennis finished her third Paralympics with 16 goals. This is her second medal. Her alma mater is the University of Georgia.

Defending gold medalist Turkey proved too much to handle for the short-handed U.S. women’s goalball team in Friday’s final of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall C. The tournament’s leading goal scorer, Turkey’s Sevda Altunoluk, scored six of her nine goals in the first eight minutes as Turkey built an insurmountable lead and never looked back in the 9-2 victory. The silver medal marks the 12th Paralympic medal in USA Goalball history and the seventh won by the women’s team.

The U.S. handed Turkey its only loss of the tournament five days ago but played the gold medal match without the services of leading scorer Amanda Dennis of Peachtree City, Ga.

“Clearly, everybody saw that we did not have our full squad available,” said U.S. coach Jake Czechowski. “That was my decision. We had a pre-game injury and I’m always going to err on the side of caution for my athletes. We want to play and compete and beat everybody in the world, but never at the expense of health.”

The U.S. team had rallied from behind in each of its previous three matches, including Monday’s tilt against Turkey and Thursday’s semifinal win in extra throws over Brazil, but didn’t have any comeback magic left today without their full roster available. The Americans scored the last goal of the first half when Eliana Mason (Beaverton, Ore.) found the back of the net and closed out the scoring in the second half on a goal by Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.).

“The goal was to win gold but we’re still really proud of that silver medal,” said Mason. “I always think of the semis as a silver-medal match. We won that silver last night and that was such a great win…a game I’ll always remember. It’s important to be really proud of that. We didn’t stop fighting at all, we just kept pushing and pushing, and all you can ever ask is to do your best.”

Showcasing the sport of goalball at its highest level on the Paralympic stage was also at the forefront of the players’ minds, especially after a string of live-streamed thrilling victories on the road to the silver medal.

“We are so excited for all the exposure that goalball has received from the Games,” said six-time Paralympian Lisa Czechowski (Boonton, N.J.). “We’re just so excited to see how it will just continue to take off in the United States and more and more people are going to learn about our amazingly great sport.”

Japan defeated Brazil in the women’s bronze medal match, 6-1.

USA Men’s Goalball finished fourth.

TOKYO 2020 GOALBALL GAME RESULTS:

USA Women’s Goalball:

August 25th USA v Brazil 8:30 PM (JST) 7:30 AM (EDT) 4:30 AM (PDT) – Won 6-4

August 27th USA v Egypt 7:00 PM (JST) 6:00 AM (EDT) 3:00 AM (PDT) – Won 10-0

August 28th USA v Japan 1:15 PM (JST) 12:15 AM (EDT) 9:15 PM (PDT) (Aug 27th) – Lost 3-2

August 30th USA v Turkey 7:30 PM (JST) 6:30 AM (EDT) 3:30 AM (PDT) – Won 4-3

September 1st quarterfinals vs Russian Paralympic Committee 7:30 PM (JST) 6:30 AM (EDT) 3:30 AM (PDT) – Won 5-3

September 2nd semifinals vs. Brazil 7:30 PM (JST) 6:30 AM (EDT) 3:30 AM (PDT) – Won 5-4 (extra throws)

September 3rd gold medal match vs. Turkey 5:45 PM (JST) 4:45 AM (EDT) 1:45 AM (PDT) – Lost 9-2