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Local handball doubles team wins national title

Al Spencer and George Cavooris have played handball for more than half a century.

But last month, the Capital District duo won their first national championship.

Spencer and Cavooris defeated players from New York City, Miami, St. Paul and San Diego to claim the 80+ men's doubles title at the United States Handball Association's Masters Championships in Allentown, Pa.

I've played against some good competition before, but we've never won anything of this magnitude before, said Cavooris, a retired New York City fireman living in Clifton Park.

"George has been through very few national championships, but I've been to quite a few over the last 18 years," said Spencer, who lives in Albany. "I've won the consolation three times as a singles player."

Cavooris and Spencer's first match proved to be the toughest as they took on two former national master's singles champions " Sonny Schaefer of New York City and Joe Lenhardt of San Diego. Cavooris and Spencer won the first game 21-13, but Schaefer and Lenhardt took the second game 21-19 to force a tiebreaker. Cavooris and Spencer found the energy to defeat Schaefer and Lenhardt 11-5 in the tiebreaker.

Once they got past Schaefer and Lenhardt, Cavooris and Spencer had a clear road to the national title. They defeated Arnold Rinker (Miami) and Ted Bergstrom (St. Paul) 21-9, 21-18 to complete the round-robin tournament with a 2-0 record.

It was the first time Cavooris and Spencer played as a doubles team at the national tournament.

"When George and I both turned 80, we said let's give it a shot," said Spencer. "It was kind of nice [to win the title]."

"It's a game we love," said Cavooris. "We play regularly down at the Colonie Court Club."

Both players discovered handball when they were young men.

"I didn't even know about the sport until I was 25," said Spencer, who's been playing since 1956. "I started playing when I was 26, and I haven't stopped since."

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