Except for the occasional thud of bodies falling to the floor to block a jangling ball from crossing the goal line, the gymnasium was still.

No cheers from the crowd. No pep band blaring in the background. Not even a peep from a proud parent.Just quiet.

And that's how goalball is played among the visually impaired. The game ball is equipped with bells to help competitors pinpoint its location. Players use tactile floor markers to determine their place on the court.

Unlike athletes who are urged on by the roar of the crowd, goalball fans assist by biting their tongues.

"It's so hard sometimes," said Pam Williams, whose son Quintin competes for the Jordan School District. "Sometimes I cheat and say something like `Way to go!' You're not supposed to say anything."

That may be the greatest challenge of all when players are diving to stop the ball or manage to roll it so smoothly that the jingling of the bells is barely audible. The ball hits hard. Once a player retrieves it, he or a teammate has only eight seconds to roll it again.

"This is fun," said Gary Durrant, father of player Quinn Durrant, 15.

"This is a game where they actually have an advantage over someone with sight because they're used to listening."

On Friday, goalball competitors met at Crescent View Middle School for the state tournament, which was swept by three teams representing the Jordan School District.

Each competitor is blindfolded to even the playing field since their visual disabilities vary in severity.

Players roll the ball - roughly the size of a basketball - to the opposite side of the court, where defenders attempt to keep it from crossing the goal line.

Teams consist of three players, a center and left and right wings. Defenders deploy a numbers of strategies, some squatting like hockey goalies, others lying on their sides to form human barricades in an attempt to stop the ball.

The ball is punishing as it hurtles across the playing surface, sometimes pounding players in chests and extremities.

"I've seen kids get their noses broken," said Jayalyne Jermain, a national goalball coach who teaches visually impaired students in the Alpine School District.

The pain of being struck by the ball is minor compared to letting it slip by for a goal, said player Ginger Guymon, representing the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

"As long as I haven't broken anything, I'm OK," said Guymon, 19.

Parents and coaches praise the little-known European sport for enabling visually impaired students to develop teamwork skills and boost their self-esteem.

Kim Williams said her son Quintin has five brothers who compete in team sports.

"He doesn't ask any more why he can't play with his brothers or have to feel badly. He has goalball, and he looks forward to it. He used to complain and now he doesn't. He has a sport."

A team composed of Quintin Williams, Oquirrh Hills Middle School; Quinn Durrant, Hilllcrest High School; and Brawney Jensen, Gunnison Valley High School, Sanpete School District, won first place.

A group of up to six players will be selected among all of the players who competed in Friday's tournament. That group will represent Utah at the national tournament in October.