WUGC 2016: Team USA Wednesday Recap, Presented By VC Ultimate

Still undefeated.

USA's Claire Chastain. Photo: Neil Gardner -- UltiPhotos.com
USA’s Claire Chastain. Photo: Neil Gardner — UltiPhotos.com

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ST. ALBANS — Sunday: 6-0. Monday: 7-0. Tuesday: 10-0. Wednesday: 9-0.

The United States National teams are now a combined 32-0 as the tournament shifts fully into bracket play on Thursday. And it’s not just wins: it’s dominance. The closest games of the day were the Men v. Japan (15-12) and the Masters Men v. Great Britain (15-12). And that discounts the fact that the Japanese scoreline is deceptively close, as the USA was up 14-8 and let off the gas late with some sloppy mistakes.

Discussion of a possible USA gold sweep — and an undefeated record as a delegation — has begun to drift across the fields at the Watford FC training grounds like the morning’s mist. It’s not outlandish: the USA teams have the highest goal differential per game in every division1 and have simply passed the eye test in every division.

The Men’s team had their first real challenges today, first vs. Australia in power pools and then vs. Japan in the seeding crossover game to see which team would get the one overall seed in the bracket. The USA gave up a break early on after a huck from Trent Dillon to Dylan Freechild went just inches too long. It was their first time trailing in a game all week.

For much of the first half, it looked like the US might have their hands full. The Aussies looked fast (something captain Mike Neild said was a basis for their team selection) and explosive and the Americans were chasing on defense. But they started to settle in and generate some pressure. Matt Rehder baited a deep shot and then gobbled it up before streaking deep to set up a break. Two points later, Henry Konker got a loud hand block on Australia center handler Mark Evans and the US took a two point lead at 7-5.

Although Australia would get back within one with a hold coming out of halftime, the pressure had started to become suffocating. The US scored six straight after that and put the game away. “It’s a case of being able to send strong defender after strong defender,” said USA head coach Alex Ghesquiere. “That’s going to wear teams down over the course of the game.”

Ashlin Joye led the way on offense, with assists on four of the eight O-line points. He and fellow Revolver player Joel Schlachet have been superb for the US.

Although the final score was not close, the Aussies did give the United States the first true competition they have seen at the tournament. “It was a good dry run,” said Ghesquiere. “We wanted to feel the pressure. We wanted to respond to being down a break and be in a position that we are uncomfortable with.”

They would find themselves right back in that position against Japan two rounds later, after a Jimmy Mickle drop set up a first point break for the Japanese. In many ways, the game looked a lot like the Australia one: Japan had an early lead, the teams played even for most of the first half, then the US went on a run (five straight).

At 4-4, Peter Prial attacked the disc to get a block and BJ Sefton found Alan Kolick at the cone for the go-ahead break. A Japan turnover set up a textbook layout score for Russell Wynne. Then two bad Japanese turnovers just yards from the endzone on the next two points gave the US a bang-bang trip into halftime up 8-4, completing a 5-0 run.

The US extended the lead out to six with two more second half breaks before giving back some of the lead with a few mistakes: Jimmy Mickle just missed Schlachet, Peter Prial threw into a poach, and Schlachet overthrew Helton on a dangerous goal line piece.

“We let up on the intensity for sure,” said Ghesquiere. “As it was clear that it was done and we were just going to cruise out — I think that was the mentality we adopted. I think it was a nice reality check. That’s the measure of these games. If your intensity drops just a little bit at this level, it can be a big difference.”

The offense wasn’t rattled: they went out after giving up three straight scores and played simple, clean offense to hold for the win, 15-12.

It should be noted that Japan played without some of their top players, including Masahiro Matsuno. The USA was without Beau Kittredge and Tyler Degirolamo (who both played earlier in the day and are active for bracket play). That signals the relative unimportance of the seeding game — there was some speculation that Japan may have even been OK with losing in order to get to the other side of the bracket in order to avoid Canada in the semifinals.

***

The Women’s team had just a single game today after finishing pool play yesterday. Like for the Men, they would face their first real test, for them in the form of Colombia.

The Colombian women’s team had dispatched Australia in pool play and looked strong in doing so. Their defense was impressive, especially on the reset, and it seemed plausible that they could give the US women’s team some trouble. It was not to be. The USA women jumped out to a well-earned 3-0 lead, extended the lead to four by halftime after a Lien Hoffmann bookends score, and closed the game with a 5-0 run to win 15-6. They never yielded a break.

Yes, the Colombians made the USA work hard. They had some impressive individual plays. But they could not sustain pressure on the USA offense and couldn’t get away with the frequent turnovers, ones they also had against Australia.

As strong as they have played, the US women’s team still looks a bit uncoordinated on offense at times, and finding more cohesion has been a key for the team.

“That’s all we’ve worked on in the last few practices,” said head coach Matty Tsang.

But the fact that they are so dominant thus far without really looking like they are peaking is impressive. Could this be the greatest team of all time?

“This is not going to be the best team,” said USA Women’s assistant caoch Andy Lovseth. “There are teams that played together for five years: Godiva, Fury. Those are the best teams ever. Because they practiced for five years. We practiced for seven days. Our ceiling is probably higher than those teams, but we’re hoping to glimpse it. That’s what we’re trying to do. If we get there, that’s kind of scary.”

***

The Mixed team crushed their way past two more teams today: Ireland (15-3) in pool play and Australia (15-7) in the seeding crossover game.

While the Mixed team has a bit of a penchance for slower starts (they gave up a break to Australia to go down 2-0), they have also find a higher gear quicker and quicker. They immediately broke back against the Aussies before rattling off a 5-0 run to put the game away before halftime. Sarah Meckstroth had three goals to pace the Americans and they cruised into quarterfinals.

There has been no team in the Mixed Division that has looked remotely close to the level of the United States. While some challenging games lie ahead — perhaps Great Britain in the semifinals — it is hard to see any other team taking home gold hardware.

***

The Masters Men’s team played a close 15-12 game against Great Britain, but only gave up a single break and never trailed. Jared Inselmann remains masterful for the US: he finished against GB with three goals and three assists. The team then easily defeated Australia 15-8 in the final game of pool play to lock up a bye into the quarterfinals tomorrow.

The Masters Women’s team had two easy wins today as power pool play continues, 15-8 over Great Britain and 15-7 over Australia. Alicia White, who showed up to the tournament yesterday, had two assists and two goals against Australia. The team has looked fantastic so far through the tournament, using their depth to great effect,

Tomorrow

  • The Men’s team plays against Colombia in the quarterfinals at 1:30 PM (8:30 AM Eastern).
  • The Women’s team plays against Switzerland in the quarterfinals at 11:30 AM (6:30 AM Eastern).
  • The Mixed team plays against the Philippines in the quarterfinals at 5:30 PM (12:30 PM Eastern).
  • The Masters Men’s team plays a quarterfinal in the afternoon.
  • The Masters Women’s team plays their final power pool game against Canada at 11:30 AM (6:30 AM Eastern).

  1. The Masters Men are tied with Canada for first place 

  1. 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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