WJUC 2014 Finals Recap: USA Women and Canadian Men Capture Gold

The United States and Canada met in both the Women's and Open championship games of the World Junior Ultimate Championships in Lecco, Italy. After dominating the field, the matchup of destiny was split: the US Women and Canadian Open squads both triumphed, the latter in dramatic fashion.

The Canadian Men and American women celebrate their WJUC 2014 victories.
Photos by Neil Gardner — UltiPhotos.com

The two most dominant teams in both the U-19 Open and Women’s divisions met in the finals in Lecco, Italy, on Saturday: the United States and Canada. Three of the four teams were undefeated, with the only blemish being Canada Open’s 9-6 loss to the US squad that was cut short by weather issues. When the games concluded, the neighboring nations would split the series: the US Women took home Gold with a 17-9 victory, while the Canadian Open team locked up top honors in a dramatic double game point 17-16 win.

The international rivalry has many chapters, most recently adding last year’s finals at the U-23 Championships, where the US beat Canada in both the Mixed and Open title matches; Canada didn’t reach the final in the Women’s division.

Weather played the role of the villain in Lecco, canceling games and thrashing fields. Gusts of wind peppered both finals, particularly the Women’s game, and conditions were slick and slipping was plentiful.

Certainly, the Open game will go down as one of the more exciting entries in the series. The Canadian crew began the game with a pair of breaks. Once the Americans found their footing, the game tightened up, and despite some silly turns from the US, they were able to keep the game close throughout the first half. The Canadians held them off behind the steady handling of Hugh Knapp and forceful cutting of Darren Wu, taking a 9-7 lead at halftime.

The gap would be extended to three when Canada would strike deep to make it 13-10. From there, the game would be even more hotly contested, with Natan Lee-Engel catching a giant layout score and the US following that up with a handblock to help them break and make it 13-12. After Canada dropped a tight catch in the front of the endzone, the US took a deep shot and tied it up at 13’s.

Canada responded with back to back scores, but the US fought back and brought the game to 16-16, double game point.

The disc was centered to Knapp, who found Alan Scarth on the open side on a comeback cut. Wu, matched up with the US’s Terrence Mitchell, jabbed an under cut from the center of the field before streaking deep. Scarth launched a floaty flick to the end zone, and Wu used superior positioning to take off for a monstrous sky over his helpless defender to haul in the gold medal goal.

As the score indicates, the Women’s game was less contested, but not without shortage of big plays. Both teams were very aggressive throughout the match – the US with their deep looks and the Canadians with their zone offense – and that led to some lengthy points full of rushed turnovers. The windy and wet conditions played right into the hands of the American zone, a constricting four man cup anchored by the wingspan of Jaclyn Verzuh.

All game, Canada struggled to get to the break side, falling into the trap of the US zone, which often resulted in their handlers taking high stall and suspect deep shots that defenders were happy to bat away. When their hucks were in the flow of the offense, the Canadians were able to take advantage of the speed of players like Ellen Au-Yeung, who had a huge layout grab to help bring Canada within one, 4-3.

The US zone tactics and plucky play from Clea Poklemba, who tallied 2 goals and 2 assists in the first half, captured them a 9-6 lead at the halfway point.

There was no relenting from the Americans, who kept applying suffocating defensive pressure and picking up the pace after turnovers. Hayley Wahlroos, Ultiworld’s  2014 All-College Freshman of the Year, led the offensive charge with her breaks and give and go maneuvers. Canada couldn’t keep up, growing fatigued, and falling further and further behind. Angela Zhu found Verzuh – a tough matchup for Canada all day – for the game winning score.

All in all, it was another high powered performance for both countries, which still showed they rule the international roost. For the US, the Open loss (which came after the Women’s game) ended a 54-game winning streak for the United States in international competition. The American and Canadian teams will have to be in great form at WUCC’s to continue the legacies.

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