U23 Worlds 2015: Team USA Wednesday Recap, Presented By VC Ultimate

Another spotless performance from the American teams, but the pressure is mounting as bracket play approaches.

The US teams again finished 6-0 on the day, but the opponents are getting stronger from here on out. The Open team enters bracket play tomorrow afternoon, the Women face off against Canada, and the Mixed team has its biggest challenges yet against Japan and Canada.

Here’s a look at what happened around the London fields today.

Open Division

Team USA's Marcus Ranii-Dropcho
Team USA’s Marcus Ranii-Dropcho gets the block. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

The US Open team set the tone of vitality and excitement in their first two games of power pools today. The warm ups were strenuous and contained a lot of ladder work to sharpen the men’s mental strength as well as their agility. Other than Great Britain, facing the US in the opening game of the tournament in the showcase arena, no team has yet to score double digits against the American men.

Their strong defensive performance kept both Australia and Ireland to low scores today: 17-6 and 17-4, respectively.

In their first contest of the day, Australia’s strategy mirrored the US’ — big hucks to tall cutters streaking deep — and while it worked for a few points, the USA was able to earn many blocks. “We are facing a different test in every game,” said assistant coach Joe Durst. “AUS has a great deep game. They are tall and they want to play big ball. This game was a lot more about stopping big plays.”

Australia had a few playmakers that shined in the matchup against the US: Tom MacCallum is a lefty handler who often found star receiver Robert Andrews, who was able to make a play either underneath or skying a US player in the endzone.

While they succeeded on a few attempts, the effort was not enough to stop the USA from easily winning their early morning matchup.

The US encountered Ireland in the fourth round of the day. This matchup was a highly anticipated game for both the US players and coaches. Ireland had already defeated Australia, Belgium, and the Philippines earlier in the tournament.

Before the game, Durst said, “A big surprise for us in this [tournament] will be Ireland. We knew they were young last tournament and they are returning almost everyone.”

However, the US men started their matchup with a tenacious seven point run before Ireland was even able to get on the board.

USA’s Zane Rankin stood out on the field, tipping away several hucks and launching full field bombs to any open receiver he laid eyes on. Those receivers included Chase Cunningham, Abe Coffin, Trent Dillon, and Jack Williams. Other defensive powerhouses included Marcus Ranii-Dropcho and Stanley Peterson, each with 4 layout D’s across today’s brace of games.

Tomorrow, the US will be challenged by the brute squad from Austria for their last power pool game and likely compete in their first round of bracket play in a quarterfinal game.

Mixed Division

Team USA's Khalif El-Salaam. Photo: Jolie Lang -- UltiPhotos.com
Team USA’s Khalif El-Salaam. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

The London weather was not friendly to the US Mixed team in the first round of games. During warm ups, the skies opened wide and dumped rain on the players from the US and Ireland for the entirety of their stretches and drills.

As the game was ready to begin, the rain stopped but the fire in the bellies of the Americans had just started to build. Each player acted as a cog in the well-oiled machine — led by captains Eli Kerns, Sarah Meckstroth, and Qxhna Titcomb — that defeated Ireland 17-0 and Australia 17-10.

The highlight of the Ireland game came from Simon Higgins and Khalif El-Salaam. Higgins bolted deep and got the huck. With an IO edge on the throw headed out of bounds, Higgins leapt for the disc and tossed a greatest to El-Salaam, who laid out to make the catch and then dished it for a score.

With one point left in the game and the opportunity to completely earn a shutout, Sharon Lin laid out for an up-line block to give a short field advantage to the US. Jon Nethercutt took advantage of the field position and fired a flick to a wide-open Arianne Lozano for the dagger.

Kerns, a two-time U23 player and captain, shared his passion for playing on the mixed team. “By playing on the mixed team, I am getting exposure to a much bigger breadth of ultimate experience,” he said. “It’s something that I am really passionate about experiencing and getting to know people. The connections that I make here are really so valuable in my everyday life.”

The second game of the day against a skilled Australian team proved to be the pressure the US has been waiting to experience.

Each team scored their respective offensive points and held the serve until it was tied at five points apiece. Australia was not afraid to challenge the US with their deep throws.

Australian head coach Yew Eng “Yowie” Ng said, “As we progress through the tournament, we are learning the connections between our lines. It is something we have been focusing on throughout the campaign. Also approaching this American game, we had a focus of taking big wins out of this game even if we lose big points. You can see from the general vibe of the team everyone is really happy with a big loss to a big team. There are big smiles and the spirits are up.”

With great layout blocks from San Francisco Fury’s Lisa Pitcaithley and patient handler movement from Titcomb and Kerns in the Australia zone, the USA walked away from the game unscathed with a 17-10 final score.

Tomorrow the US face off against two big powerhouses in the Division: Japan and Canada.

Women’s Division

Team USA's Jesse Shofner. Photo: Jolie Lang -- UltiPhotos.com
Team USA’s Jesse Shofner. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

So far, it’s simple: the USA women are unstoppable. While the women faced more pressure today from their German and Australian opponents, the Americans easily held on to their perfect record of 6-0.

The German team came out energetic and were able to earn one break back in their favor early in the game. However, with blocks from defensive stalwarts Marisa Rafter and Bethany Kaylor, the women were able to run away with the game, 17-6.

Their second match of the day was against a fearless Australian team who challenged the Americans in the deep space. Matching the height of Jaclyn Verzuh, the Aussies relied on their top receiver, Rebecca Brereton, to snag many of their scores. The USA clamped down on the long ball and implemented a four person cup to slow down the Australian offense. The women closed it out with a final score of 17-11.

Erynn Schroeder, the DIII all-star from St. Benedict, demonstrated her versatility both behind the disc as a starting offensive handler and also on defense, where she was seen flying through the air attacking each upline her opponent attempted. She is very light on feet and often times appears to be prancing down the field and adjusting her footwork to counter her defender’s every move. Other top performers include Lisi Lohre, Alika Johnston, Carolyn Normile, Nora Landri, and Jesse Shofner.

While every player is enjoying earning another “W”, the women are focused on appreciating each other and celebrating the individual victories that each one of them brings to the table. “I’m playing with a ton of ballers!” exclaimed Shofner. “Every day is getting better, easier, and we are finding our rhythm. If we stay on this trajectory, it will continue to be a blast!”

The women cleat up against big rival Canada tomorrow in the second round of play (a team they could well see again late in bracket play) and will finish off their last game of the round robin against Sweden.

As always, follow along with @Ultiworldlive for play-by-play updates from the U23 World Ultimate Championships!

  1. Eryn Ogren

    Eryn Ogren is a content and event strategy consultant. Previously, she was the Business Development Manager for Ultiworld. You can reach her on Twitter (@iveyeryn).

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