U23 Worlds 2015: International Thursday Recap, Presented By VC Ultimate

Double game point finishes, huge upsets, and semifinals set in stone. What a day in London.

Photo: Andy Moss -- UltiPhotos.com
Photo: Andy Moss — UltiPhotos.com

Day five was the first day that some top tier nations lost out on the possibility of a medal. The level of intensity shot through the roof, and they’re only going up from here. With semifinals set in all three divisions, we take a look at how teams got there.

Open Division

What a wild day in the Open Division. Canada was a few points from having to play the US in tomorrow’s semifinal, thanks to the Germany defense.

A big crosswind changed the dynamic for the day, and early on it looked like it Canada was in total control. William Vu threw an inside out scoober that broke Germany for the second time. At 4-2, Vu eyed his defender off of a timeout. He sized him up, then went deep. The simplest offense in the world gave Canada a 5-2 lead.

Around this time, Canada head coach Patrick Mooney was ejected from the game. In a weird exchange, Mooney was over the dotted line to keep players off the sideline. Without warning, he was told to leave. He left to go sit in the stands, but was quickly told that wasn’t good enough. And then, in what you only would imagine in a TV sitcom, Mooney disguised himself in a button down shirt, hat, and sunglasses. He would watch the rest of the game through the hedges of the adjacent field.

Despite the ejection, Canada soldiered on. Their early surge bought them a 10-6 lead late in the game. It seemed at this point the only reason the German offense played was to have a chance to get the defense back on the field. The tight downfield coverage was constantly troubling for Canada, but they had yet to falter. After a quick offensive hold, Germany forced a turn and got a break back. Then another. And another. With the game tied at 10’s, Mo Brucklacher threw a beautiful backhand huck to Samuel Buettenmuller who dished for the score. Germany had their first lead of the game, 11-10.

Canada got back into their flow and tied it up. Nearing the end of the game, Fred Lam for Canada stepped up big. Not with a D or a goal, but with the pull. Lam’s pull sailed over the top of the grandstands before riding the wind into the back left corner of the end zone. Because of the pinpoint placement, Germany was forced to play inside their own end zone for nearly two minutes. Against Canada’s cup, all they could do was throw one yard pops until trying to force something downfield. Peter Yu flew through the air to get a catch block two yards outside the end zone. After the easy score, there was no looking back for Canada. A huge German comeback was snuffed out by a 14-11 Canadian victory. After the game, Mooney returned to the field to shake the German hands in a great show of respect.

“We needed a game like that to get going,” said captain Peter Yu after the game. “We appreciated how hard our first four teams played, but they did have a little fear in their eyes. No matter how you choose to ignore it, it is there.” Germany didn’t have the fear Yu is talking about. They believed they could win, and that belief woke Canada up. “Thank God we played this game today, otherwise we’d be woken up a lot later on.” Time will tell if a now wide awake Canada squad can make the run all the way to gold.

The quarterfinals hosted two matchups that went down to the wire. Austria and Japan squared off in a stylistically contrasting affair, with both teams giving it their very best. Japan began to pull away in the second half, looking more and more comfortable as the game approached the finish. When the cap horn went off at 15-11 (game to 16 by WFDF rules), it sparked something in the Austrians. Simon Hormann got a Callahan on a wild tipped dump throw, and the breaks started to pile up as the Japanese offense withered.

The Austrians rattled off three more to force a thrilling double game point. But they couldn’t complete the comeback, even with the Japanese giving them a chance on the final point. Ryo Senda found Shotaro Kinoshita for the win and the opportunity to play Canada in the semis.

After that, the host nation Great Britain took on the powerhouse Germany squad. In one of the best games of the tournament, Great Britain played their best game of the week. With the game tied at 12, Ben Poole laid out on an under and immediately shot up in front of the home crowd. As he waved his arms up in down for the British supporters, the atmosphere of the game changed. Great Britain took control. Poole would later find the end zone to extend the lead to 14-12. James Mead found Ed Hammond for the last offensive hold the British would need. Final score, 15-13 in a shocking upset.

“Both teams were rolling back and forth,” said Hammond after the game. “At halftime, we said the last team to roll would win.” The “rolling” Hammond referred to was the five lead changes throughout the game. With a surprising win, Great Britain showed the potential to push the US to their limits on Friday.

Mixed Division

Australia has completed their unlikely run to the semis. Liam Grimmond found Loughlin Murphy for the final score in a 17-12 win over Japan, a truly complete game for the Aussies. “We didn’t really set a value in terms of a goal,” said coach Yeweng Ng after the game. “We wanted to come here and achieve growth out of the whole team.” Growth is a good way to describe Australia’s week. After a close contest with Japan early in the tournament, the Aussies haven’t looked back.

Australia is bolstered with both returners and players that have switched divisions. Since the U23’s in Toronto, multiple players have made the move to the mixed side from both the Men’s and Women’s division. Because of that, they have a good amount of experience. “I think we’re starting to realize that our awareness on defense is where our strengths lie,” said Ng. “We just need to work on our communication.” They’ll need to have the kinks worked out if they want a chance against the US tomorrow.

Women’s Division

The Australian women have shown they belong. Huge wins over New Zealand and Colombia today put them firmly in the top four with a shot at a medal. Kathryn Smith is a scoring machine, posting a gaudy 24 assists and 8 goals line so far this week. Her scoring total of 32 currently leads the Women’s division. They needed Smith in their extremely windy contest against Colombia. The Colombians, of course, threw zone, but as head coach Steven Wright said after the game, the Aussies were prepared for it. “Our zone offense is a bit different,” said Wright. “We have a lot of players cycling through very quickly.”

Australia is helped by their multiple defensive looks that are halfway in between zone and man. Through random calls on the sideline, they transition between three or four looks extremely quickly. This puts players in interesting positions, so while some cuts may look open for the offense, the lane is being covered. Still, they’ll have their hands full with the US tomorrow. 

  1. Preston Thompson

    Preston Thompson has been a staff writer for Ultiworld since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama where he played for four years. He started playing ultimate in the AFDC in Atlanta, GA in 2009. You can reach him by e-mail ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@pston3).

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