Inside Break: ZUF Finds Their Groove On Their Way to Power Pool

ZUF in a huddle at WUCC 2018.
ZUF in a huddle at WUCC 2018. Photo: Kevin Leclaire —

Ultiworld’s coverage of the WFDF 2018 World Ultimate Club Championships is presented by VC Ultimate; all opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at VC Ultimate!

Huddled on the field in the heat of the day, ZUF gathered to prepare for the final few points. With the score at 13-13, and Ellipsis, one of the top teams from Australia and a well known international program, opposite them in a circle of their own, ZUF knew there was a lot on the line. Defeating the Aussies would be a huge win for the Swiss women, who had entered the tournament seeded near the bottom of Pool C, but had hopes of finishing third or better. If they could find a way to win this one, it would open the door for them to finish second, thus qualifying for power pools on Tuesday. But there was still work to be done.

The game had been tight the whole way through. ZUF and Ellipsis traded points until 3-3, and it was the Swiss who scored the first defensive point. Laura Kunzelmann connected with Corinne Wiederkehr to conclude the longest point of the entire game and give ZUF a 4-3 lead.

“We came out with nothing to lose, and when we went up a break and it was tight already coming toward half, we had a feeling that we could do it,” said ZUF captain Nellie Ochs.

Ellipsis took a brief lead to start the second half, but ZUF fought back to retake the lead, 13-12. After giving up a hold on another long and challenging point that tied the game 13-13, ZUF took a timeout and huddled on the field in the heat of the day.

“It was just a beautiful game of ultimate,” said Ochs. “And it was also really fun.”

ZUF notched an efficient hold after collecting themselves and closed out the victory with a break on a throw to Isabelle Güttinger. It was an unexpected but hard earned and welcome upset. The team rode a surge of energy and focus, executing on their system with discipline and fervor. It was the best they had played during the tournament. And it set them up to advance into the power pools. Perhaps most vital, it proved what the team already believed: that they could play at that level against the best.

In their second game, the team had a slow and difficult game against KFUM Örebro from Sweden. The energy from the first game did not accompany ZUF into the second, and their focus and communication suffered. Points were long and legs were taxed. Perhaps the highlight of the game came during halftime, when the teams collaborated to help say “I do!” on behalf of a Swede to a producer in the broadcast booth. In the second half, they pulled out the win in less than satisfying fashion. Fortunately, there was fun to be had after play concluded.

Both teams interlocked into a circle to thank each other for the game and exchange spirit gifts. The Swiss gave a Swedish opponent a shot glass, only to find the chosen recipient was far too young to legally consume alcohol from it.1  “She can get a lemonade!” declared one of the older ZUF players with a laugh. Örebro offered djungelvrål, a licorice candy that blasted the mouth with an intense burst of salty flavor.

After a team breakdown, ZUF finished with “the cool down before the cool down.” Tess Young, an American who had spent time in Zurich, lead the team with a dance routine designed to loosen them up. The Swiss have a reputation for being a bit stoic and resistant to the lightheartedness that permeates so much of ultimate culture. Young’s dance was simply about encouraging the team to be more open and simply have fun together.

“I’d say we started at approximately 40% who were in,” said Ochs. She explained with pride that participation was probably up to 80%. “Maybe if we’re lucky tomorrow, we can do the the warm up dance with Revolution and they can do the cool down dance with us.”

The team earned the right to continue to play against highly regarded teams like the Colombians. But it was clear they did so with a bit more extroversion and energy than they might have even expected of themselves. And it worked. Now they get to keep dancing with the best.

  1. The Swedes were a very yooung team, with players as young as 14. 

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