A look at the West Coast WJUC tryouts.
February 1, 2016 by Robert Gough in Coverage, News, Recap with 5 comments
SEATTLE — As many of today’s star players gathered in Florida to battle for roster spots on the U.S. World Ultimate and Guts Championship team, the stars of tomorrow gathered on the opposite side of the country to fight for the same rights on the Under-20 World Junior Ultimate Championship rosters.
After pleasant weather on Saturday, Sunday brought chilly, cloudy conditions with a light breeze. These contrasting environments reflected the contrasting styles and personalities of the two groups trying out on the second day: the boys were bright, cheerful, and relaxed; the girls were rigid and quiet, slowly working through their warm-ups and initial drills. The girls would eventually ratchet up the energy and excitement after entering scrimmages later in the day, but the boys were flying around the facilities all day, which was mostly 7-on-7 scrimmaging, with drills few and far between.1
Girls’ coaches Jamie Nuwer and DeAnna Ball — supported by regional club players Rohre and Qxhna Titcomb, Molly McKeon, and Bethany Kaylor — led the girls through a full set of warm-up movements before breaking the group into four pods to run drills. The first series were four similar drills focusing mostly on cutting, defending, and winning space. Each of the drills required some level of physical play, which benefited some girls, but left others struggling to come up with discs.
The day continued with pods running through Triangle of Death rotations before finally breaking into 7-on-7 scrimmages. The first leg of the scrimmages, before the lunch break, saw a healthy amount of mistakes, miscues, and fatigued players. After a thirty minute break for food and water, the girls rebounded in a big way as the level of play reached i’s peak as the day would eventually end with scrimmages that featured some Worlds-ready competition.
Many of the standout players were Seattle’s very own: Claire Trop and Ally Constantino showed off a level of athleticism that no one seemed able to contain. Maya Powell, Kaia Roast, and Carly Campana used their tall frames to win discs and break marks. It seemed every local player made a noteworthy play or two throughout the course of the day. But the Northwest wasn’t the only region on display on Sunday: Midwest attendees drew attention as Minnesota’s Hannah Cowan showcased a complete, balanced game all throughout scrimmages, and Illinois’ Mindy Radike bid at every chance during drills, while many other players seemed stiff and hesitant.
It has to be noted that girls started the day slow and quiet. If it wasn’t for the hooting and hollering from the open side of tryouts, the venue would have been silent. While not an entirely fair comparison because of the boys’ more scrimmage-focused schedule, the girls seemed tight, maybe nervous. Even at their best form later in the day, the sideline talk, excitement, and what can only be called “hype” paled in comparison to the boys’ side, who would rush the field on every score, chest-bumping and high-fiving everyone in sight.
Speaking of the boys: these guys were honestly flying around the field all day. Between maybe seventy minutes of the day spent on drills, the open tryouts were all scrimmages: four groups of roughly ten players played round-robin style in games to five or so. The most notable aspect of their tryout was the parity and depth. Every player on the field seemed speedy, athletic, and focused. Playing on slightly small fields with seven players on a side created tense, exciting gameplay that seemed to find each touch of the disc reaching stall seven or higher. Defense was tight, and cutters had to grind to get open, but the handlers remained collected and weren’t afraid to let the stall count climb as they worked to find open targets.
As previously mentioned, every player seemed stoked to be out and playing for a spot on the team, and everyone embraced the high-energy sideline style that Northwest teams like Sockeye and Rhino and Oregon have shown in the past: rushing the field, jumping all over in celebration. This was done in good spirit as well, as players routinely celebrated the accomplishments of their on-field opponents.
While there were a couple standout plays, it’s nearly impossible to say any specific players were that much better than those around them; this was some of the most balanced, evenly-matched, high class ultimate that I have seen in person. It seems like you could pick twenty-five of those players out of a hat and have a good chance at a gold medal finish. No one will envy the process of cuts and selections the coaches face after Sunday, but everyone should enjoy the final product if it maintains the level of play seen Sunday.
An interesting difference in attitudes and dynamics was revealed between the two teams this weekend, and each group will likely see a different process of growth and adaptation as the tournament nears and progresses. The tryouts were rich in talent and potential, but only time will show how it all comes together.
Note: I had a detailed list of participants for the girls, but not the boys. ↩