2014 US Open: Riot vs. Fury Semifinals Preview (Women’s)

There’s no lack of history for a matchup between Riot and Fury. They have long been the flagbearers of the women’s club game. It is doubtful anybody is surprised to see these two teams make the semifinals of the US Open. It’s the circumstances that are unusual.

Fury slid under the closing door, just barely making it to qualifying at all.

“Three teams earned their way into it and we kinda fell into it,” said Coach Matty Tsang, obviously relieved after pool play concluded, “But we’ll take it.”

The 2013 US Open champs needed stumbles from Scandal and Showdown to avoid getting into dangerous three tie situations, most of which would have had them missing out on the bracket. After a 1-3 start the tournament – with the lone win being a critical victory of Scandal playing their worst – it looked bleak for Fury. They have yet to really play their best.

Meanwhile, Seattle Riot has been by far the strongest outfit in the division. They emerged from pool play as the only undefeated team; only one of their victories was by less than five. Both on the scoreboard and by the eye test, Riot has looked more polished than their opponents. Their disc movement is crisp and their defense is staunch.

“For us, it is a lot about process,” said Riot’s Sarah Davis. She explained how the team has been pleasantly surprised with how strong the results of their process have been and credits their progression this early in the year to strong and focused work by small groups the team has formed within their roster. The result is a more cohesive, thoughtful, and focused Seattle team.

In their previous matchup, Riot thumped Fury 15-7. After starting off fairly even, a few big plays by Riot were enough to open up the lead. Seattle kept Fury from every recovering to make it a close game again.

“Basically, we turned it over, and they made us pay with one possession points,” said Tsang. “We have to work really hard to get it back.”

On the other sideline, the concern isn’t so much about execution as it is with their mental game. Riot has demonstrated they can be effective on offense, with a strong combination of skill and athleticism. Davis said the team was focused on not getting swept up in “emotional waves” and wanted to run hard, ignoring the context of a semifinals game against their rivals on ESPN3.

Riot’s greatest strength this weekend has come from the play of their handlers. Rohre Titcomb has been one of the tournament’s most outstanding performers, while Alyssa Weatherford, Gwen Ambler, Shira Stern and company have all done well. Weatherford’s break throws have been stellar. Defending them will be key for Fury.

“We play a lot of saggy defense on them,” said Tsang. “I think if you just one on one give them the lane, you can’t really contain them with the mark, so we try to help with people in the IO lanes.”

Seattle may make themselves the frontrunners for a World Championship and USAU title with continued strong play. The opportunity represents a reprieve for Fury, and they believe that they can make anything happen now that they’ve gotten to the bracket.

Tsang summed it up: “We did get lucky and we don’t get second chances very often, so we really should take advantage of our second chance.”

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