Wednesday brought the first big upset of the tournament.
June 22, 2016 by Lorcan Murray and Charlie Eisenhood in News, Recap with 0 comments
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ST. ALBANS — Out came the sunshine to dry up all the rain so our intrepid teams can start to climb again.
With large swathes of the competition washed away yesterday, Tuesday opened with the much anticipated power pool games in the Mixed and Open Divisions. Meanwhile, in the Women’s competition, most of the final rounds of the group stages took place to determine the pool winners and some of the placements for the pre-quarterfinals. Tuesday marked the first real test for some of the more established powers and offered a few upstart nations the chance to challenge the work of their idols.
For most teams, the great draw of WUGC is the opportunity to play against nations that exist far outside of their regions. It is a chance for countries to examine how they stack up in the world and the progress they have made in their pursuit of the global standard bearers. For the most part these questions are answered in the opening exchanges of the game, and generally with predictable results. Although every now and again, though, the tournament likes to throw up an early upset.
The opening showcase game of Tuesday between the Czech Republic and Canada started as expected. Strong Canadian marks seemed to be overwhelming their Czech counterparts and Alexa Kovacs was having her way with the resulting attempts at defense. The Canadians took a 5-2 lead in an appropriate fashion. The scores were, for the most part, quick affairs.
However, this may have infected the Canadians with some misconceptions about the caliber of their opponent. When they started giving the Czechs opportunities for break points with some careless turnovers, the Czechs took them hungrily. 5-4 was reached thanks to some calm offense and a clinical defensive possession following a Czech timeout. All of a sudden there was fire in the Czech eyes. They rattled off three more breaks in a flash and suddenly it was halftime with the Canadians down 8-6.
The impressive runs of the first half would not be repeated as now the Czechs were comfortable and the Canadians conscious of the threat in front of them. The teams traded five points with the Czechs led by veteran Tomas Vesely and the Canadians by the Norden brothers. Lucie Schonova and Mark Leduc provided the open targets downfield for their respective teams.
Canada were finally able to convert one of the few second half turns when John Snow made an intelligent read and popped it in to Cam Burden for the score. A lengthy point followed before Ondrej Novak sent a huck screaming towards the endzone to be pulled in by David Novak. The Czech defense was clearly reluctant to give up a deep shot as they pushed their opponents under, a restriction the Canadians were happy to oblige.
Consistent movement kept the disk heading towards the endzone until Marc Leduc collected the score. Vesely responded on the next point with an amazing grab and a cool throw to the Ondrej Novac for 12-11. Canada held their offensive point before capitalizing on a Czech miscommunication with an immediate huck to the streaking Kovacs who escaped the attention of František Fencl to take back the lead 13-12.
A drawn out point ensued with three timeouts and several turns. It ends with František Fencl putting a cold-blooded inside out flick to Lucie Schonova. On the next possession, Jennifer Kwok floated a huck and Ondrej Bouska made a huge defensive play. The Czech looked rejuvenated, their handler clearing tireless. They play amazingly patient offense and Jiri Vosecek keeps his cool, despite the roaring crowd and intense pressure, to collect an up the line dump and punch it in to the prolific Lucie Shonova for the score, 14-13 Czech Republic.
On Canada’s offensive point, Snow couldn’t quite pull in a bladey huck despite reading it well. The Canadians, looking defeat in the face, played shut down defense resulting in a desperation put to David Novak. Julie Moens read the play perfectly, blocking Novak from being able to get a clean look at the disc, but having to come off injured for her efforts. Canada respond with a skyball of their own. Ondrej Rydlo got a piece of the disc but Brenden Wong adjusted frantically and pulled in the score.
The stadium can’t quite believe what their seeing as groggy spectators have been jolted awake by the battle they are witnessing. The Canadians pull and a miscommunication leads to Czech giving up short field; hearts drop in anticipation of the expected. Canada work it around but a shocking drop gives hope to the Czechs. Tight defense ends in another huck to the Canadian endzone, searching for Novak one more time. Simultaneously he and his marker bid too early, but rising up after them, perfectly timed, is Schonova, skying the pile before popping the disk to Vesely. Some inventive cutting and a smooth break later and Schonova is left standing with the disk in the endzone. 15-14, the Czech Republic take it.
Afterwards, Jeremy Norden looks on the loss as a positive. “It’s good to have a tough game early,” he said. “It would have been nice to win but the loss is not a big deal.” On the other side of the pitch Czech captain Petr Kotesovec is smoking a cigarette next to the bleachers. “It is the first time we beat a team like this at Worlds,” he said. “We were stressed at the start but the defense really stepped up and this calmed the offense down as they realized it was not just on them to score.”
What a way to start the day. Several teams looked upon this match and saw hope for their own surprises rising with the midday sun.
The Philippines made things interesting by beating the Czech Republic later in the day, 15-11. By handing a loss to the Czechs, the Filipinos can now clinch the pool with a win over Canada. But if Canada bounces back to defeat the Philippines on Wednesday morning, there will likely be a three way tie at 2-1 and will send it to point differential.
Most other results in the Mixed Division went as expected yesterday. The Colombians had to pull out a 14-13 win over France, but otherwise most games were not close with favorites winning comfortably.
In the opening game of power pools, Colombia matched up with Great Britain while Switzerland faced off against Sweden in pool M beside them.
The British started off slow and lackadaisical against the Colombians. Starting on offense but seeming disinterested in the challenge ahead of them, the Colombians worked hard and punished their insolence with an opening break collected by Sait Agudelo. The following point lasted over seven minutes as the British slowly warmed up. In response the Colombians threw themselves around on defense and the disc away on offense. The British would slowly remember what makes them great as the half wore on and push past the fighting South Americans. The second half was an altogether more clinical affair as the British ran away with it as 15-4 victors.
Next to them Sweden and Switzerland played out a much more exciting match. The Swiss looked strong after dominating their group the previous two days and opened the game with a brace of breaks. The teams traded for most of the half. In contrast to the game parallel to theirs, the points were quick and clean. Both sides’ offenses looked steady and competent, moving across the pitch with ease.
Aaron Reidle and Jonathan Sjögren looked particularly strong for Switzerland and Sweden, respectively. The Swedes would get a single break back before half making it 7-7 after a rare lengthy point. Despite rising Swedish pressure, Reidle would remain calm and set up Basil Furrer for the score to take half 8-7 and receive the disc after the halftime intermission. The second half continued at a furious pace with the teams trading to 14-13. There were some instances of drawn out calls but as Swiss coach Pedro Schmid said, “[They were] normal calls for that level.”
Jacob Greenburg started to make his presence felt for the Swedish in the second half, picking up several scores. Once again the Swedes tied it up with a point left in the half; once again the Swiss would hold when it mattered most. It marked another double game point victory for the Swiss (now two in two days). The last point went on for over ten minutes with several touchy calls, but neither side felt cheated at the point’s conclusion.
Colombia played a much more compelling game later in the day against Belgium.
Belgium was coming off of a strong 15-12 victory over a Singapore team that, stylistically, is a lot like the Colombians. Belgium used their superior height to physically overpower the Singaporeans; Jasper Loontiens and Pieterjan De Meulenaere both made tremendous skying grabs for scores. Credit to the Singapore team for their sharp, quick offense that looks a bit like the Japanese attack; they held tough against Belgium but couldn’t find a way to generate breaks.
Colombia, although also a shorter team than Belgium, brought more raw athleticism to the fields. It was a dogfight.
The Colombian side was tremendously patient all game and ultimately never gave up a break to the Belgians. The teams traded holds for most of the first half before Colombia got a break just before halftime to go up 7-6. Notably, that point came after the teams came together for a spirit timeout and requested game advisers be added to the game (their wish was granted as game advisers Liam Kelly and Greg Connolly came to the sidelines). The chippiness didn’t disappear, but it did lessen. It was the second day in a row that the Colombians were involved in a spirit timeout.
Colombia held out of half to take a two point lead that would prove to be enough, but the Belgians will look back on this game with a lot of ‘what ifs.’
At 11-10 Colombia, the game came to a head. The Belgian defense was finally generating some consistent pressure and Wouter Jerpoest stuffed a high stall throw to get a rare turnover from the Colombian O-line. But Jerpoest gave it right back as he stone-cold dropped the first in cut.
Belgium got another chance and took a timeout near the endzone. Lode Jans, coming out of the timeout, never got a chance to make a pass as he was stalled out after great coverage from Colombia. Then Colombia took a timeout. Boom, another turnover! Belgium poached the lane and forced a tight throw that was snapped up. Jans took a risky shot into the endzone and gave it right back. If you can believe it, Colombia turned it over again and Belgium had another drop. Colombia finally converted the hold, retook the two point lead, and crushed the Belgians’ hope. They closed out the win, 13-11, as Belgium could never find answers for Ivan Alba (2A, 4G) or Julio Duque (3A, 3G).
Hoping to raise their stock internationally, Ireland were looking to their matchup with Japan with eager eyes. Early miscues from the Japanese allowed the Irish to gain a break on the opening point. While the boys in green would get a few more early turns, they would fail to capitalize again and the teams traded to 7-7. The Japanese, utilizing their love of bounce dump cuts and skinny backhand breaks, would go on a five point run spanning halftime to take the lead for the first time and push it out to 11-7.
A mixture of clever zone looks and Irish nerves allowed the Japanese to run up their tally. At 10-7, a spirit timeout was called by Ireland to address excessive bumping from the Japanese players. An amicable conversation ensued with Irish coach Leo Yoshida helping to translate, and the game began again with both sides satisfied.
Masashi Kurono chased down a rare floaty huck from Yohei Kichikawa and got unnaturally vertical to pull the disc down over his man making it 12-8. The Irish responded with a brace but ultimately could not sustain their momentum against Japan’s various defensive looks and rigorous disc skills. It ended 15-11 to the Japanese.
Germany looked extremely impressive in their afternoon game against Sweden. Their O-line only gave up one turn in the whole game and quickly got the disc back before scoring the point. The German offensive didn’t give up a break in either of their games on Tuesday. The Swedish fought hard on offense, managing to rack up three upwind scores in the first half in a game with gusty wind. Unfortunately for the Scandinavians, the German D-line offense looked the best it has so far and swung the disc seamlessly, looking for openings to get crucial breaks.
Due to the efficiency of the German players with the disc, the game lasted only 62 minutes, one third of which the Germans spent in possession. Germany’s implacable man defense meant the Swedish scored rarely, and when they did, it required their best work. German head coach Stefan Rekitt punctuated the comprehensive display saying, “I think we have arrived. Always the pragmatist, though, he added, “but we haven’t played the big names yet.”
For Sweden, a team that narrowly made it in to the power pools, a tough match up against Austria awaits them in the morning to decide their fate.
Opposite the Germany Sweden game Austria were facing off against Switzerland, with the opportunity for an easier route to the quarterfinals on the line.
The Austrians put on an impressive display of defensive versatility in this game, prodding and poking the Swiss offense, never letting them get too comfortable on the field. The Austrians utilised a zone going downwind early in the first half. This combined with their poachy defensive sets helped them get a few early breaks and take 6-3 lead.
The competency of handling displayed by both teams was impressive as the Austrians challenged the Swiss to a game of chess that the Swiss took some time to wise up to. When going upwind the Austrians opted to sag off the dump handlers into the cutting lanes, forming a psuedo cup. Downfield the D-line cutters would take away the unders primarily, confident in their ability to catch up to floaty hucks should they be sent. When heading the other direction defenders marking the stack would keep their heads up looking to provide help defense in the event of a huck, something the Swiss were initially eager to provide.
After a few points, the Swiss started to take the open unders available to them going downwind causing a slight reshuffle on the Austrians’ part.
When the Austrians were going upwind they were adept at clearing space in front of the handlers and hitting strong flick breaks to isolated cutters. The likes of Matthias Neubauer and Valentin Vogl looked comfortable throwing into the wind head-on.
Against Austria’s poachy defence upwind, the Swiss started to swing the disk more with Tobias van Baarsen proving key to keeping it moving. Towards the end of the half they had solved the defensive set to an extent, swinging to the sideline quickly before using smart deep cuts from shallow positions to get leading passes into the final third of the pitch.
Austrian Head Coach Peter Scheruga drew upon his playbook from Copenhagen last year for the varying defensive sets. “It is more about breaking the rhythm of the offense so they can’t get comfortable,” he said.
At one point Aaron Riedle threw a huck seemingly through the outstretched hand of his defender as he dove to cover the break. The Swiss started to play their way back into the game before a huge hammer from Jakob Taubald to Valentin Vogl brought the half to a close at 8-6 to the Austrians. The Swiss opened up the second half with a confident upwind score, taking their time and the options Austria left for them.
The Austrians came back at them, going on a 4-1 run ending in an astonishing upwind hammer from Felix Nemec to Tobias Jessenk to make it 12-8. The Austrians tried to slow down the game by bringing their zone back out. The Swiss were more assured with the disk at this point in the game and over the next seven minutes Basil Furrer, Elliot Murray, and Luca Miglioretto work the disk up the pitch without turning it. The possession ended when Tobias van Baarsen put an assured scoober into the hands of Olivier Gaugler. Impressive as the display was, it came too late in the game to affect the outcome and the Austrians traded out the last three points to win (all upwind). The game ended 14-10.
Looking back on the game, Swiss coach Pedro Schmid said, “We were not mentally ready for the second game. We came out too risky in the beginning. I think they played better and deserved to win.”
Both teams have games on Wednesday morning; Austria will have to best Sweden to guarantee the more comfortable pre-quarter. Should Switzerland manage to beat Germany they will blow this pool wide open, the more obtainable aim is to keep it close and hope for a big Swedish win, which would give them a chance at the coveted second spot in the group.
In a game to decide who would book a definite spot in the quarterfinals (and get a slightly inconsequential look at one of the big three), Colombia faced off against Australia. As an interesting aside, Australian teams had won both of their meetings with Colombian outfits in the Open and Mixed divisions so a cultural sweep was on the cards for the Firetails.
This was a game of slow burning momentum. It opened with lightning quick offense as Yina Paola Cartagena, one of the most impressive players at the tournament, immediately continued the declaration of excellence that has been her time in London with a beautiful assist to Eliana Rico. This was followed up with a quick break for Colombia. This lit a fire under the Aussies as they answered with a five point run.
During this time, the Colombian offense looked rattled while Bree Edgar epitomized the Aussies’ impressive form with an enlightened huck to the horizontally cutting Michelle Phillips to make it 4-2. It was starting to seem like another drubbing from down under was in the cards for a Colombian outfit. However, the South Americans responded with a 6-1 run. Cartagena got a hat-trick of assists to close out the half. The Colombians’ dump defense tightened up considerably in this space of time and all of a sudden it was the Australian handlers who looked lost on the field. Turns started to flow freely towards the end of the first half.
“The Colombians played really good defense around the disc in the second part of the game,” said John Horan.
The Australians respond admirably out of halftime, looking far more collected after their huddle. Hucks seemed noticeably holstered following the shootout in the latter stages of the first half as the Australians worked it down the pitch and comfortably into the outstretched arms of Mikhaila Dignam. An impressive run through block from Rosie Dawson got the Firetails a break chance.
Captain Michelle Phillips took full advantage of the opportunity, swinging the disk perfectly for Ellie Murray-Yong to collect and tie up the game. The Colombians responded with a hold before capitalizing on one of the many turns contained in these points as Maria Manuela threw the huck of the game expertly into the path of Elizabeth Mosquera. The Firetails responded as Cat Phillips found Dignam with a big huck for their second combination of the half.
Two Colombian scores and an Aussie hold later, it’s 12-10. As the wind picked up again the game returned to the shooting gallery. After a twelve minute long point, Hannah Monty found Ellie Murray-Yong to make it 12-11, game to 13. With hope starting to grow threateningly in the Australians ranks, Cartagena led her team down the pitch before Eliana Rico hit Laura Ospina to win the game.
In a game riddled with periods of liberal generosity of possession between the teams the Colombians came out on top. “The big thing was they seemed frustrated on a few points, and hucked it to no one,” said Colombia coach Mauricio Moore. “We were able to work it up those times and get the breaks.”
“I think in the second half they probably hit a few more shots than they were hitting in the first half, but the best way to put pressure on D is to score on offense,” said Horan.
Colombia clinched the pool with the win and will face the United States in a seeding crossover game on Wednesday.
The other pools are also clinched at the top; Canada will face Japan in the other crossover. Prequarters matchups will be decided after pool play finishes up on Wednesday morning.
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