Fury-Riot Semi Ends One Career, Extends Another

Two icons of ultimate are in their final moments with their respective teams.

Gwen Ambler at the 2014 US Open
Photo by Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com

Another chapter has been written in the novel of Seattle Riot & San Francisco Fury.

This chapter ended with Fury triumphant, raging through the second half to end at 12-10 in the semifinals of nationals. Fury will head to yet a ninth straight women’s final.

While this matchup is the longest-standing and most exciting rivalry in the women’s division, today was the just the third time that Riot and Fury have met in the semifinals at Club Championships. In most years past, trophies have always been on the line.

Yet after years of intense, well-documented rivalry between Riot and Fury, Seattle knew to expect surprises. Riot and Fury have met five times this season, including at Worlds where Riot brought home gold. Before today, Fury had only bested Riot once this season at an early tournament, Eugene Solstice, and it looked likely that Riot would bring their world domination home. But Seattle knew they wouldn’t really know their rival until a game where everything is on the line.

They were right. Fury Coach Matty Tsang had a few tricks up his sleeve.

Both teams started the first half with fast-paced movement and brutal breaks, but Fury gained the lead to break for half. Despite the close score, Riot took the smallest of pauses out of half, and Fury attacked. The margin never grew past two points, but it was clear that Fury had changed Riot’s game through their targeted handler defense. Riot thrives off their inside breaks, but today those breaks were their poison as Fury applied pressure, and those breaks became turns.

Riot’s pace slowed in the second half; handlers holstered throws they had, and Fury devoured every opportunity. Nevertheless with so much on the line, points were long: both teams caught their passes with a determination that exposed desire.

Riot got their groove back, but it was too late. The cap loomed, and Fury held on for a 12-10 victory. Riot’s incredible season was over.

That final point ended more than Riot’s season, however. The final point also marked the end of a storied career for Gwen Ambler – the legend, the trailblazer, the idol for young women nationwide. She has lead Riot for five years as a powerful emotional and physical presence, and she is one of the most decorated women in Ultimate.

“I’ve been planning on this being my last season with Riot, so it’s definitely tough to feel like we didn’t reach our full potential,” Ambler recalls. “No, actually – we did reach our full potential. I think we had games this season that were far and away some of the best ultimate I’ve ever been a part of.”

With a World Championship, a deep nationals run, and a legacy effectively built, today’s game, for Riot, wasn’t about rivalry; it was about themselves. “I’m most proud of seeing the way people really trusted themselves, trusted their teammates, and trusted the process in order to really become their best selves,” said Ambler.

She paused, took a shaky breath, and amended, “It’s just disappointing to not have one more game.”

Riot may be disappointed to not have one more game together with Gwen, but in the other huddle, Fury was elated to have extended their season for two more halves with their own legend, Coach Tsang. For nine seasons, Tsang has been a staple in Fury’s nearly mythic run of finals appearances, and tomorrow he gets the chance to have the perfect ending to his final game with Fury.

  1. Katie Raynolds
    Avatar

    Katie Raynolds took a break from Seattle ultimate to test out the Midwestern scene, but now she's back in the Northwest to investigate this "bubble" she keeps hearing about. She played for Northwestern Gungho, two seasons with Chicago Nemesis, and now plays for Seattle Underground. Katie serves as Ultiworld's Women's D1 College Editor, and is damn proud to cover women's ultimate. You can reach her by email (katie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@kraynolds90).

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