U23 Worlds 2015: Team USA Semifinals Recaps, Presented By VC Ultimate

The United States advanced to the U23 World Championships finals in all three divisions on Friday after continued excellent play from the teams. Here’s a look at what happened to send the teams to Championship Saturday.

Open Division

Team USA’s Dalton Smith. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

For the second time in the tournament, the United States met the host country, Great Britain, at U23 Worlds. This time it a semifinals match that would eliminate the loser from the tournament. Great Britain triumphed over Germany in the quarterfinals match and was clearly prepared to take on the Americans again in the game that mattered most.

The athleticism and experienced coaching of the US team triumphed, sending the Americans to the U23 Championship with a score of 15-12.

The USA, excelling in person defense, landed the first break of the game after a monster layout catch block from Ben Snell. The US went on an early run, but Great Britain was able to get back on the board and earned two breaks of their own. There were several sloppy turnovers from core handlers on the US team, including Xavier Maxstadt and Chris LaRocque.

“I was surprised at our difficulty completing throws at times and our inability to go upwind,” said coach Bob Krier. “They adjusted [from the first game] and had a strategy to keep us from going upwind. We did not adjust enough, but I do believe we have the throwers and the ability to go upwind.”

The US and Great Britain traded points all the way until halftime, despite a monster layout block from GB’s William Rowledge. Chase Cunningham fired a flick to Jack Williams streaking downfield who then dished the score to Bobby Ley to take half.

The USA made several adjustments going into the second half of the game, including simple sets to make the passes come from swings and more hard under cuts.

“We showed a lot of grit when things got ugly,” said Krier. “We never got down on each other, we supported each other and kept everything positive. We focused on the next point and not on mistakes or failures or getting broken.”

Marcus Ranii-Dropcho started the second half with a huge deep block that opened the door for a momentum changing break out of halftime for the USA. However, Great Britain wasn’t quite ready to exit the game. The two teams continued to trade points until another point-saving block from GB’s William Rowledge to hold.

After an eventual GB break, the USA found themselves on offense and marched down the field to put in the dagger and finish off the game.

While Great Britain battled until the very end, the USA earned their spot in the final vs. Canada tomorrow at 4:00 PM local time.

Women’s Division

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

Bethany Kaylor. Alika Johnston. Meeri Chang. Jesse Shofner. Erynn Schroeder. Shira Stern. Jaclyn Verzuh. Michela Meister. Alex Ode. Marisa Rafter. Carolyn Normile. The list doesn’t stop there. The women representing the USA in the U23 championships are some of the brightest stars of women’s ultimate for years to come.

Their fundamental dexterity, physical person defense, and ultimate IQ has been victorious in every match they have faced. The USA were challenged by Australia for the second time in tournament and trounced the Aussies with a final score of 17-7.

“The ladies played fantastic ultimate today,” said elated coach Mike Whitaker. “They did it in not-so-perfect conditions and they were efficient. We took advantage of our chances. We took smart risks. We attacked on opportunities and we really got the momentum going.”

The star of the game was Oregon Fugue and Portland Schwa player Bethany Kaylor. Kaylor was responsible for two layout scores, several assists, and a monster layout catch block from a poach on an upline cut.

Kaylor was accompanied by strong defensive handlers Alika Johnston and Jesse Shofner. Johnston demonstrated her strong ability to lead her teammates through bracket play, as she has done with her club team, DC Scandal, for the past two club seasons.

While the USA was in complete control of the game, Australia is certainly a team that should be on everyone’s radar in the upcoming 2017 U23’s and beyond. Rebecca Brereton was seen catching every other downfield from star handler Kathryn Smith.

“That is a very good team,” said Whitaker. “That is a country and a team that is on the ascendency. They are doing all the right things to be up with the elites and be in contention consistently for medals, which is great to see.”

Beyond the quality of ultimate played, the spirit exemplified from both teams was extraordinary. Australia was seen high-fiving the US after they made a jaw-dropping play and the Americans happily returned the gratitude.

WFDF requires teams to have spirit captains who help keep game play as clean and fair as possible. Lyra Olson, one of the spirit captains for the USA, has been praised for her ability to lead the team to a high spirit score in the tournament. Olson crafted the idea to gift players from the opposing team a postcard with a personal address from a US player with the intention of starting a pen pal relationship. This gift is to breed friendship internationally and support the women’s ultimate community around the world.

Tomorrow’s matchup is a rematch of the 2013 U23 Women’s final against Japan.

“I love that we get to play Japan tomorrow,” said Whitaker. “From my experience last time in 2013, the energy they bring to ultimate, the joy they bring to the game, the style of ultimate being different: there is something that feels like Worlds.”

Stay tuned tomorrow at 1:30 PM local time!

Mixed Division

Team USA's Elliott Erickson. Photo: Jolie Lang -- UltiPhotos.com
Team USA’s Elliott Erickson. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

The first game of the day was quick and efficient for the USA Mixed team. Having seen Germany earlier in the tournament, the Americans were physically and mentally prepared to take on the Germans and blasted them 17-4.

The United States played as a complete unit as Germany struggled to complete simple passes between players. Germany lacked the polish needed to score against the experienced USA team.

The USA are eager for a gold medal and will face the Australians in the first match of the day.

Tune in at 11:00 AM local time for the Championship game!

Follow @ultiworldlive on Twitter for all-day coverage of the Championship games.

  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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