Eurostars 2018: Big First Half Powers Brute Squad Past Eurostars

A tale of two halves for the Eurostars.

Brute Squad's Angela Zhu lets go of a backhand huck against the 2018 Eurostars.
Brute Squad’s Angela Zhu lets go of a backhand huck against the 2018 Eurostars. Photo: Burt Granofsky — UltiPhotos.com

This recap was contributed by Charlie Blair.

BOSTON — The Eurostars stopped in Boston on Friday for one of the final games of the Americus Pro Cup. Facing off against another of the top U.S. squads proved a difficult task for the Europeans, and Boston Brute Squad came flying out of the gates with a big run. Brute Squad eventually claimed the victory 15-8.

Brute Squad was the second team to put a halt to the Eurostars’ healthy lead over Team America as they entered the second week of the Americus Pro Cup series. The all star team drawn from 13 nations held a 7-3 lead in Pro Cup points coming into the game, having already beaten Madison Heist, Atlanta Ozone and current World Club Champions, Seattle Riot. However, they had not been able to unhinge the reigning USA Ultimate National Champion, San Francisco Fury. That’s a task that Brute Squad had made easy work of in the final of the U.S. Open, and who looked fiercely strong coming into this match.

From the outset, Brute were a polished and disciplined outfit. Their offense was patient, precise, and for all of the first half, absolutely flawless. While the Eurostars’ flat marks managed to plug Brute’s long game, throwers such as Amber Sinicrope, Vicky Negus, and Lien Hoffmann were happy time and time again to gain yards swinging the disc, until the time was right to charge up the line or break into the middle of the field.

The Eurostars, in turn, were unable to respond, disrupted by a multitude of unforced errors early on that prevented them from getting any hands on disc, let alone a hold on the game. Much can be credited to Boston’s characteristically intense team defense, but no Boston hands were involved in the turns that gifted them their first breaks of the game and a 3-0 lead. On the other side, the Eurostars’ defense was struggling to respond to Brute’s aggressive cutting up the line whether from the handlers or the front of stack.

The Eurostars’ first point on the board at 3-1 might have signaled the beginning of their comeback, but they just didn’t have enough of the possession to even attempt to flex their muscles. The Europeans were often only seeing the targets in tight spaces. On another day, those are tight spaces they hit with ease. But Friday evening, the throws were rushed or dying; forcing the likes of Fran Scarampi and Bex Forth to slow down and rendering them unable to attack the disc.

In every instance, Brute Squad punished mercilessly and converted quickly. Just as the Eurostars started to clean up their own mistakes, Angela Zhu got a layout block on the first look upfield to the undercut. As a result, Brute closed out the half 8-1 and claimed their sixth break of the game in just over twenty minutes of gameplay.

Initially, it looked as though the second half was to be no different, with Brute furthering the margin to 10-2. However, the Eurostars finally showed up and put forth a resistance to the Boston onslaught. Fighting fire with fire, they countered with their own handler weaves on offence and sagging handler marks on defense.

The Dutch-Danish connection between Paula Baas and Maya Milick was a potent combination. Both were confidently resetting the disc between them until they found a way to break through. Baas led the way, exploiting the overload defense was putting on the handlers and sending pinpoint cross field pass. In fact, as soon as either one of them took the initiative, the Eurostars converted in a few simple passes.

Suddenly the Eurostars were playing the aggressive offense they had been demonstrating all campaign and won back six breaks. Now that the all stars were both cycling well and managing to hit the shapes of their upfield cutters, they were able to launch their long game. A sweet lay off from Nici Prien to Mileck set her up with the momentum to rip a perfect disc up the center of the field to Isa Prada in the end zone to make it 14-6.

Meanwhile the Eurostars’ handler marks were fierce, with Swede Sarah Eklund pinning Brute onto the sideline. Two hand blocks later, she had helped the Eurostars bring the score back to 14-7. However, Europe had left themselves with too much to do at this late stage in the game. Although the Americans had been broken, the locals were showing no signs of reneging. Kami Groom’s intelligent poaching got her three blocks in the game. With fantastic position all night, it was also no surprise that it was Groom who brought home the last point. As such, Boston claimed all three Pro Cup points on offer by taking home the victory at 15-8.

With the Europeans strong run coming into the match, a blowout was an unexpected result. However, with the second half finishing tied at 7-7, the game could have been very different if they hadn’t turned up so late to the races.

Perhaps the grueling schedule of the tour was a contributing factor. The game against Brute Squad was the fifth of the series. After having covered over 6000 air miles in just under 14 days, the fatigue of travel is just another extra challenge for a team that had no chance to play together before the series began. While the loss it was disappoint, it was also proof to themselves and their remaining opponents in the tour that they will not give up any game.

Such motivation is a force to be reckoned with. They know their performance is much more than just about the win; it’s about the stage that this tour provides and the impact they can make with it. To be recognized as legitimate, professional athletes is exactly what is needed to make these women’s voices even more powerful in their local communities. This tour provides a platform upon which they can call for meaningful and significant change in European ultimate.

This is the fuel that stocks their fire. So as the Eurostars get set to play their penultimate game of the series with just a one point margin, the Toronto 6ixers have the chance to take Team America ahead for the first time. The two square off on Saturday at 7PM CT in a crucial match.

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