Pacific University is 'Handball U'

(KPTV image)

FOREST GROVE, OR (KPTV) – It’s called “a lifetime sport” – one that you seemingly never age out of and can play after high school and college.

Did you know some of the best handball players in the nation live, learn and play for Pacific University? 

Forest Grove is home to Pacific University and home to the four-peat national champions.

“It’s really awesome to go to a small school like this and have a big name in the handball world,” said masters student Corey Hedger.

Unlike European team handball in the Olympics, this wall ball has put Pacific U on the handball map. 

“It’s kind of unreal because we are the only team at Pacific that even goes to a national event,” said Tessa Debartolo.

Mike Steele was thinking outside the box when he formed the Boxers’ first handball club team back in 1977. 

“The first time we ever went to nationals, I took two players. He just took 18,” Steele said.

Now, Pacific is a U.S. Handball Association national collegiate team champion four times in a row under the world championship guidance of the handball double grand master himself, David Steinberg. 

“22 players that went to collegiate championships last year at Missouri State, only five returned so it was a big challenge in getting new recruits from campus,” Steinberg said. 

At 64, head coach Steinberg can still bring the ruckus on the court with his Pacific pupils. 

“He’s almost 65 and running around the courts kicking our butts,” said Debartolo.

When asked if any of them can beat him, Steinberg laughed, “They like to think they can.”

“There's nothing to it” is what they say but that's not the total truth. 

“It's 90 percent coaching and 10 percent athleticism,” said Zach Saros. 

Multiple individual golds were earned last month in Minnesota by wily vets of three seasons on campus and some spending less than three months in the sport. 

“I didn't know until I toured here for football and we saw the thing upstairs, 'Three-time world champions, what's that?’ What is this sport?” said Dillon Savage.

Steinberg said, “The ones that really want to play have a tenacity that is really easy to see the first day out.” 

Racking up the Boxers’ all-time total of 36 national titles.

“It is a little surreal like... mind-blowing,” said Abby Evan.

Julie Huestis said, “Coming into college, I knew I would need something to keep me active and I was just kind of on the lookout for something and handball became that and so much more.” 

Next season, Pacific aims for five team titles in a row in Austin, Texas. The Boxers were just undefeated against the Longhorns.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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