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WUGC 2016: International Sunday Recap, Presented By VC Ultimate

Check out the action from the first day of Worlds!

Opening ceremonies. Photo: Jolie Lang -- UltiPhotos.com
Opening ceremonies. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

This post is presented by VC Ultimate. All opinions are those of the author; please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at VC Ultimate!

272 staff working across the event.
123 teams across all divisions.

You can feel the energy as you walk from the car park to the main fields. It is electric, sparking wildly from each conversation as old friends reunite and new friendships are ignited, the great spirit of ultimate shining on every participant’s face. Even the sky can’t help but beam down on the attendants. Crowds are pouring in to the sold-out event, a mix of local players, friends, and relatives. Welcome to the show.

Men’s Division

While most games in the Men’s Division went to seed and largely as expected, there were some exciting games and a smattering of upsets.

In what was probably the game of the day, old European rivals Switzerland and France met in a crucial pool play game (Pool F) for both sides. The contest opened up with a scrappy point before Switzerland was able to wrestle a break from France to get the score.

With the early game jitters out of the way it was time for some clean offense, and both teams scored much more fluidly. France would earn the break back before the game descended back into miscommunication and inaccuracy. Switzerland called a timeout to break the bad habits before their reliable veterans Luca Miglioretto and Robin Brüderlin combined for the score. France responded with two more scores pushing the lead back out to 5-3. The second score came after a turn filled mammoth point. France were on the verge of making it 6-3 before hard endzone defense from the Swiss earned them a momentum-crushing turn. They picked up the disc and zig-zagged rapidly down the pitch before two beautiful breaks give Tobias van Baarsen his first score of the tournament. The Swiss locked it at 5-5 before the teams traded to 7-7. After some chippiness (“the teams know each other very well,” said Gille Nève), the Swiss

The French overshot a huck to the endzone before Sebastian Gloor decided that enough was enough and ran the Swiss team down the pitch and into halftime with an 8-7 lead.

The game stayed close early in the second half before France tied it at 10 when Bosser Mathieu, in stunning fashion, snatched the disc from gravity’s outstretched arms. After a Swiss turn, Nasser Vogel decided to take the opportunity to remind the world why he’s known as one of Europe’s finest, putting an ‘absolute money’ huck into the wind and in front of Vincent Lepagnol. The French, on a three point run, were looking to put the game away.

The Swiss had other ideas. They went on a three point run of their own, aided by Severin Ris’ perfect deep defense, to go up 13-11. All worries of poor spirit are forgotten as these teams focus on the game. The crowd is treated to a battle of the Euro titans as France’s Vogel matches up against Robin Brüderlin. Ultimately it proves to be not enough as the French get one more back before collapsing under Switzerland’s pressure. It was a delightful spectacle for the gathered crowd and a vital upset for the Swiss.

***

On the showcase field, Colombia took on Australia in a rematch from the battle the two teams had at TEP a month ago. The Colombians came out on top of that affair 15-12, but it was clear early on that the Aussies had done their homework in the interim. The game opened with a huge layout grab from Australia’s Michael Neild and a collective gasp of excitement from the crowd. Colombia responded with their trademark speed and agility, favoring setting up big unders at the end of swings rather than looking for the deep option. What follows is a half of exciting high flying play as every player involved leaves it all on the pitch, some of whom to the extent that they must be carried off it.

The Australians seem to be scoring with more ease than their opponents, but gain no numerical advantage for their endeavor. The turns are plentiful as the Australians battle to earn a break while the Colombians fight to stay in the game. It is a beautiful style-clash as the bigger Australians continue to shoot long against the nippy, if less imposing, Colombians. The half ends when Eshan Wickrema puts a beautiful outside-in huck to Calan Spielman, inches out of the grasp of his marker, before Spielman pops it in to the chasing Gavan Moore.

A rough-and-tumble first half, full of mistakes and turns being repaid in kind, is done. The Australians come out firing in the second half. The game remains scrappy but it’s clear the men from down under are starting to come out on top. They rattle off four breaks in a row. Ryan Davey epitomises the invigoration with a stellar layout block at 10-7.

The Aussies are in their element now; they’re starting to show off. Colombia’s captain Mauricio Martínez Lung refuses to lie down, outreading two Australian defenders to add a score to his four assists and get his side’s first point of the half. Unfortunately it was too little too late. The Australians shut down the Colombians’ reset expertly and, as Coach Chris Stoddard pointed out, “They [didn’t] know what to do.”

Mark Evans ended the game with a cross-field hammer with the confidence that permeated the second half.

Can the Aussies play like they did in the second half for a whole game against the top four in the Division? A tantalizing question the latter half of the week shall answer.

***

Germany and Finland played an exciting, if sloppy, game early in the afternoon. Finland took an early lead with a break, but gave it back to Germany just a few points later, leading to an 8-7 German lead at the half, on serve.

Despite a large majority of points ending as offensive holds, the turnovers were frequent and few points were delivered with clean sheets. Germany pressed their small halftime advantage into an 11-9 lead — that two point gap the largest of the game — after Martin Wohlleber picked off a throw in the zone, giving Germany a short field.

Short field opportunities were never there for a Finnish team that needed one. Although the team got a lot of turnovers, they all came on questionable hucks from the German side. Finland’s defenders were up to the task, but couldn’t turn those turns into breaks. A few Finland D-line possessions were nearly instant turnovers.

At 13-12, Finland’s Erkka Niini, one of the team’s standouts, got a good deep block and started a fast break. Finland was off to the races and was nearly into the red zone when a backhand to the sideline popped up in the air and floated harmlessly out of bounds. Tobias Kusyk eventually put a perfect flick on a platter for the back-breaking score. Germany held that slim advantage to a 15-13 win.

The Germany offensive line has to be given some credit for playing good defense, holding the Fins to just a single break. Surely they would prefer to play less defense in future games, but it’s always comforting to know that the O-line can get it back. “We worked on that the last weekend we were together,” said German coach Stefan Rekitt. “We gave the D-line more reps on offense.”

Germany is considered a possible semifinalist at the tournament, but will need to sharpen up a great deal to challenge for one of those four spots.

Women’s Division

Canada v. Great Britain. Photo: Jolie Lang -- UltiPhotos.com
Canada v. Great Britain. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

The Women’s Division kicked off the day’s festivities with a pair of games on the showcase fields.

Field 1 featured hometown hero Great Britain facing off against Canada. The game started off as expected with a confident Canada coming out and going up 1-0, promptly followed with a break. Unwilling to allow themselves to be shown up in their own back garden, the GB women responded with a score and break of their own. The teams then traded scores before Britain got a break to take the lead for the first time, 4-3.

In the early stages of the game there were a lot of turns as both teams struggled to find their feet, an understandable occurrence given the situation and crowd. “You can see it’s their opening game,” said one spectator. Despite the shaky start there were some standout players rising to the challenge. GB’s Becca Haigh was doing great work for the British offense while team captain Jenna Thomson was leading from the front with several possession-saving layouts.

The Canadians, after a timeout, cleaned things up. Strong defense coupled with a far calmer and more assured handling of the disc allowed them to start building a lead. At 5-4 up the Canadians got a smart block near their own endzone before some beautiful tandem cutting from Alex Benedict and Elizabeth Hand got the Canadians the type of point we are expecting from them all week. A Terri Whitehead bookends added on. Suddenly, a Canadian victory felt a lot more certain. The Canadians roared through halftime to a 12-5 lead, and eventually a 15-8 finish.

***

A strong, gusty wind had developed by the evening, making its presence felt across the Women’s division.

Ireland face off against Sweden as both teams struggled initially to deal with the elements. As is tradition, once the sun went away, the zones came out. Sweden opted for a cup that put little pressure on the Irish handlers but completely shut down the backfield. It got some positive results early as the Irish seem to either break it down quickly with a shot to the prolific Sinéad O’Shiel Flemming or else languish and suffer a break. The Swedes were slightly more clinical when the wind died down, enough to see them march out to a lead in the first half that they built on through the second to win 15-10.

***

In the early stages of the Russia-Colombia game it was apparent either someone never told the Russians their opponents strength or, perhaps more likely, they simply don’t care for reputations. The game was dominated by ambition. The Russians were eager to set up and send hucks to their long receivers, and the Colombians — the more athletic group — were happy to return them right back. Russia’s Natalia Shebunyaeva was ready, willing, and able to pull the trigger regardless of the wind, as was Colombia’s impressive Elizabeth Mosquera Aguilar.

Over the course of the match the talent and sheer athleticism of Colombia came to the fore. The second half opened with some long scrappy points before Colombia’s stand out star Yina Paola Cartagena managed to take the game away from the Russians. It ended 14-6, but the Russians made a statement with their first half performance nonetheless.1

***

Germany faced off against Denmark in a match they were expected to win. An important point to note is that the Germans seemed to be the least fazed by the weather out of all the European teams. They broke the Danes’ force at will going both directions on the pitch. As timekeeper George Stubbs noted, “These Germans are on form.”

***

Singapore and the Netherlands played out arguably the most engaging game of the time slot. After a rocky start for both sides, which saw the Dutch go up 2-0, only to concede a brace right back, both squads settled into the evening. After trading to 4-4 both teams seemed much more confident and the quick-paced play reflected that. Xin Ying Tan was critical for Singapore while the Netherlands spread the responsibilities and the stats around their squad in the first half. Ultimately Singapore captain Racheal Booey put the game away early in the second half with a prescient layout block in the Dutch endzone going upwind. She followed this up with a fluent backhand break, effectively securing the win for her side, 14-11.

Mixed Division

The Mixed Division featured a lot of chalk and few exciting games. Only two of the day’s 12 contests were decided by fewer than six points.

Denmark took down Switzerland 15-13 and Ireland beat Poland 14-12 in the only close matches on the tournament’s first day.

The story of the Mixed Division was mostly about the level of dominance displayed by the United States team, especially when considering the relative struggles of other powerhouse countries like Japan and Canada. Japan struggled early with Singapore before eventually finding a rhythm and pulling away to a 15-8 win. Canada, similarly, had trouble with a less-talented opponent in Austria, playing a tight game early before breaking it open towards the end of the first half.

Neither Japan nor Canada looked well-tuned and will need to find their form during the rest of this week to be able to compete with a very talented USA team.

Quick Hits

  • “Indescribable.” – Robert Cronk, USA #2 Guts captain on carrying out the American flag during the opening ceremonies
  • A common theme today was a lack of quality offense coming from teams’ defensive lines. The lack of depth of many teams means that most of the best players are grouped onto the O-lines, leaving the D-lines with little offensive weaponry.
  • It was warm and sunny in the early afternoon, but cloud cover and an increasing breeze cooled things off quite a bit later in the day. Tomorrow’s forecast? Rain.

 

 


  1. I would also like to add there seems to be few squads in London with less respect for gravity than the Colombian women. 

  1. Lorcan Murray
    Lorcan Murray

    Lorcán Murray is an Ultiworld contributor and freelance journalist. He lives in Limerick, Ireland. He plays ultimate for PELT and with his mustache regularly. You can reach him by email: rev.lmurray@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RevLorcan.

  2. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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