Belle Vernon’s Viva Kreis playing high-level international handball with U.S. national team

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | 6:16 PM

Viva Kreis has been on a global barnstorming tour training with the U.S. junior and senior handball teams.

The rising senior at Belle Vernon is sightseeing and bonding with her teammates, with her mother, Mary, by her side, as she continues to extend her budding playing career.

The trip also has been a cultural experience for Kreis.

“The best part about being a part of Team USA is traveling and playing alongside my incredible teammates,” she said. “On our team of 17 junior players, we have 14 girls that are dual citizens of Germany, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Great Britain and Canada.

“All of them either attend boarding schools or are in elite clubs that are specifically for handball athletes. With them, I am experiencing eight different languages, cultures and traditions on and off the court. It is a unique privilege to learn first-hand about their countries, their schools, their families and their handball experiences.”

Kreis began with a trip to France, where she spent four days and toured the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Cœur.

A two-week camp was held at the Maison du Handball.

“We had never seen anything like this before, for any sport,” Mary Kreis said. “The team lived, ate, practiced, attended meetings and video sessions and played there. Multiple legendary French coaches and players gave the team motivational talks and even led training sessions with them.”

Players were given tickets to attend the elite Challenge Cup Championships.

The U.S. team was the first to visit the Olympic Training Center, which will be open to athletes at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Viva Kreis played four matches with her teammates, three against French teams and another against the national team from Morocco. Classified as a junior athlete, she started for the senior team at left wing.

“My favorite part was the intense training of handball techniques with my team,” Viva Kreis said. “We were trained by some of the very best coaches and players in France, including Olympians and world champions.”

Handball is like soccer, only players hold and pass the ball, attempting to throw it in the goal. There are seven players on each team.

Kreis was one of four 20-and-under junior players invited to the camp.

After France, Kreis moved on to Budapest, Hungary, for the junior team’s 10-day training camp, which was the lead-up to the World Junior Handball Championships that began Wednesday in Slovenia. Kreis scored a goal in Team USA’s opening match against Poland.

Mary Kreis has been hands-on with her daughter’s experiences, serving as a team volunteer.

The Kreises also traveled together to the USA Women’s Junior National event in April in Mexico.

Her duties: “Laundry, cultural event planning, interviewing, videography, writing and more,” she said. “I have now been asked to serve as the head of the American delegation to represent the team and assist the coaches and primarily to support the players. I am honored to serve in this role — and to have been recognized for my laundry and tour-guide skills.”

“It has been exciting to have the entire team come together in Hungary and to welcome some new team members that have joined our team since our qualifying competition in Mexico,” Viva Kreis said. “I’m looking forward to growing as a team heading into the World Championships.”

The Kreises stayed at a handball boarding school on Lake Balaton in Hungary.

“We are living in their dorms, eating great meals in their cafeteria and training on their impressive hardwood handball floors,” Viva Kreis said. “For the past three weeks, I feel that, not only has my on-court performance improved, but so has my understanding and feel for the sport. It is all coming together because of the quality and quantity of coaching I have received. Three weeks is a long time to do nothing but train. … I loved every moment of it.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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