2014 US Open: Brute Squad vs. Traffic Semifinals Preview (Women’s)

Two underdog teams make their way into an unexpected semifinals clash in Minnesota at the US Open. Brute Squad dominated their previous meeting, but both teams expect a much different game this time around. Find out all you need to know about the matchup in our semifinals preview.

Half the teams that come to the US Open earned their spots, winning them through making it all the way to the semifinals of the Club Championships. The other four are invited, typically one US team and three international teams, including one from Canada. While last season, the four invitees were left out of the semifinals, this time around, two teams have crashed the party: Boston Brute Squad and Vancouver Traffic.

And now whichever one wins their battle in the semifinals will advance to the final.

Both teams finished pool play 5-2, beating both of last year’s finalists, Fury and Scandal, along the way. They even solidified their spots by winning their final pool play games this morning. Traffic defeated Showdown 15-10 while Brute Squad took care of Scandal 14-10.

In fact, Traffic’s only bad loss is at the hands of Brute Squad. Boston handed them an ugly 14-7 beating to end Friday play.

“We’re going to go in there with a totally different mindset. Last game, we were coming off a super-high beating Scandal, and were cruising a little bit,” said Traffic captain Catherine Hui.

“They’d come off a big win over Scandal and we’d come off a bye of sorts,” agreed Brute Squad Coach Mike Zalisk. “We haven’t seen the best of them yet.”

The other new element introduced has been the steadily increasing wind. Their pool play game was one of the first rounds to be affected, but today’s gusts are even stronger and more consistent. Both teams needed to work upwind to take care of their pool play games in the morning.

“We don’t have a lot of wind in Vancouver these days,” said Traffic captain Candace Chan. “We haven’t seen this kind of wind in a while.”

Traffic’s disc skill and strong zone defense helps them navigate zones, but the handler core of Brute Squad is playing excellently. Emily Baecher and Claudia Tajima have the aggressive and powerful over the top looks to attack even in the wind. Expect to see these pieces play important roles in their semifinal matchup.

“We’re kind of learning on the fly in general. We’ve tried to work on zone a little bit but haven’t had a whiff of wind at practice,” said Zalisk. “We’re trying to find our right roles.”

Traffic knows contain Tajima, Baecher, and the other Brute Squad handlers will be pivotal to their success. How they defend them – perhaps with Hui, Katie Berezan, or taller defenders like Carolyn Churchland – will be an important strategic decision.

“Their handler movement is insane so we’re going to clamp down with our reset defense,” said Hui.

Brute Squad will need to find an answer to Hui, one of the tournament’s most outstanding cutters, and the throwing talents of Eva Cham and Crystal Koo. Baecher has been one of the tournament’s premier dump defenders and Boston has speedsters like Kami Groom, Lien Hoffman, and Laura Bitterman to contend with Hui.

Both teams have to be pleased to have made it this far against the country’s toughest competition, but both recognize the opportunity to do even more.

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