The US Open brings together the top women's teams in what could be a preview of the final rounds of the Pro Flight Finale and club championships. Find out about the day one upsets and drama, and the players to watch in day two!
July 3, 2014 by Keith Raynor in Recap with 0 comments
Day 1 of the US Open is in the books, and the women’s division provided some shocking results. Fury began the day 0-2 before routing reigning USAU National Champion and top seeded Scandal in round three. Riot and Brute Squad impressed, Showdown and the international teams struggled, and Traffic was all over the place.
Let’s take a closer look at the storylines from the opening three rounds of play:
Rough Start for Fury
When you think about Fury setting new team records, you don’t expect it to be by losing back to back games for the first time anyone can remember, let alone their first two games of the season. Their struggles through the first two rounds were the talk of the National Sports Center. Before their game against Scandal, people were forced to entertain the idea that the nine-time champions might begin the season 0-3.
“It’s not that we came out flat, because we do that,” admitted Coach Matty Tsang about each of the first two games, “but we never really recovered.”
The Bay Area team certainly appeared to be off kilter, failing to execute, even when given multiple opportunities. Precise players like Alex Snyder, Ness Fajardo, Lakshmi Narayan, and Nancy Sun were missing targets. Without playmaking cutters Maggie Ruden and Cree Howard, the offense often stagnated, leading to forced plays from behind the disc.
Missing those athletes also forced players like Kaela Jorgenson, Carolyn Finney, and Claire Desmond into tougher matchups that wore them down. Talented speedsters like Traffic’s Catherine Hui and Brute Squad’s Lien Hoffmann gave them a lot of trouble, contributing to 15-8 and 15-12 losses, respectively.
Of course, redemption awaited Fury in round three, where they trounced Scandal, who began to play the same turnover-heavy and stagnant offensive style Fury had in the previous two rounds, while the west coast powerhouse finally began punching in scores. The win was pretty important to the team’s chances of salvaging their performance.
“It would be a disappointment to me if we didn’t get into the bracket because of those two losses,” said Tsang after Thursday play concluded.
Fury faces undefeated rival Seattle Riot tomorrow, along with Bamboo and Showdown. Three total losses could still get the 2013 US Open champs back into semifinals, but there is some element of pressure in their four remaining games.
Brute Squad’s Opening Day Impressive
When Boston’s roster went up, the new names brought with them a lot of buzz. That was, in some ways, the case last year, and the team ended up disappointing. The opportunity to join the 2013 semifinalists for this early season competition offered Brute a chance to make a debut splashy enough to match their roster additions.
How about going 2-1 with a win over Fury – Brute Squad’s first ever – and a mostly-contested loss against Riot?
Brute Squad’s new additions played key roles all day long during the strong showing. Lien Hoffmann, an Ultiworld 2013 All-Club 1st Teamer, looks primed for another monstrous year with her dominant athleticism and killer instincts. Chelsea Murphy, Kirsten Unfried, and Chelsea Witte-Garcia were all fairly involved.
However, it was the play of less hyped rookies Qxhna Titcomb and Angela Zhu that surprised. The duo of college players took on large roles handling for Boston, who was missing Leila Tunnell and Dory Zipperstein. Titcomb was rock steady; Zhu did battle with Alex Snyder, one of the game’s most experienced and talented veterans (Snyder was winning club championships while Zhu was a preteen), and carried herself confidently.
Claudia Tajima and Emily Baecher also were key figures from behind the disc and defensively. Tajima came up with the big plays on both sides of the disc, whether it be assists, goals, or layout Ds. Baecher consistently delivered the glue plays, denying the disc on D and moving it smoothly on O.
Boston ran out of gas versus a buzzing Riot squad, but looks primed to have a strong shot at semifinals.
Not So Quiet Riot
With all the hubbub about Fury and Brute Squad, it would be easy to miss that Riot emerged from Thursday the only undefeated women’s team. They looked very strong, abusing Showdown and Traffic, and closing the day by fending off Boston. Alyssa Weatherford and Rohre Titcomb are healthy and terrorizing marks.
Seattle held an open rotation – as much as they could manage with their roster – and never really relied on their stars to carry them. Surge Griffith and Calise Cardenas both were effective, but were not called upon to dominate. Riot’s depth was crucial in helping them outlast their round three opponent, Brute Squad.
There’s some key personnel Riot is without: Gwen Ambler, Angelica Boyden, and Shannon McDowell are all out. Callie Mah is also injured and Charlie Mercer is nursing injuries that held her out at points today.
For Riot, who is still testing out defenses and offensive schemes, the success is secondary to the process. The team was smart in applying their adjustments, aggressive on defense, and really has the potential to be the total package.
However, Thursday’s games were only three games in one day and Riot faces both the top two seeds, Scandal and Fury, tomorrow. They’ll add reinforcements in the form of Angelica Boyden and Shannon McDowell, however.
Up and Down Traffic
Traffic has consistently produced some of the best teams in the series and it is no surprise to see them doing well to start this season either. They return plenty of talent and have good leadership. In fact, expectations are probably for them to be semifinals competitive.
Today lends some credence to that high a bar being set, at least from a talent perspective. Traffic thumped Fury to start the day, with junky defense and fast paced offense that utilized their speed. They pounced on their opponents’ numerous errors and that was enough to make an 8-5 halftime lead balloon into a blowout.
But then they flopped against Riot, really never in it in a 15-10 loss. Certainly not how you want to follow up a monstrous upset and dominant performance. Against a team that was executing, Vancouver struggled to find rhythm and that cost them.
In a recurring theme for an early season and four day tournament, Traffic is missing some big names. Chief among them is Kira Frew, who will be away from the team until the end of summer. But Catherine Hui is one of the best players in the women’s game and Vancouver has experience and firepower around her.
They’ll have the chance to build some of the consistency they lack tomorrow, facing Brute Squad and Scandal.
Every major team at the US Open was missing some pieces today and will be missing some all weekend. Whether it is travel, other commitments, or injury, rosters are dotted with absences. Take a look at this list of those sidelined or not in attendance today from the top teams:
Fury: Maggie Ruden, Cree Howard
Scandal: Anne Mercier, Alicia White, Sasha Bugler, Maddy Frey, Allison Maddux
Brute Squad: Betsy Calkins, Leila Tunnell, Dory Zipperstein
Riot: Gwen Ambler, Callie Mah, Rachel Bradshaw
Showdown: Kimber Coles, Diana Charrier, Janel Venzant
Traffic: Kira Frew, Allie Short
Add in various bumps and bruises teams are carrying from players getting back into shape or rehabbing from the effects of long term injuries. It all adds up to teams playing without their full decks. While these games matter and teams are certainly looking to play well and make the bracket, practice caution in taking results – particularly scores – at face value.
Players to Watch
Some of Thursday’s top individual performers to keep an eye on for the rest of the tournament:
- Catherine Hui (Traffic)
- Lien Hoffmann (Brute Squad)
- Claudia Tajima (Brute Squad)
- Rohre Titcomb (Riot)
- Alyssa Weatherford (Riot)
- Kaela Jorgenson (Fury)
- Alika Johnston (Scandal)