Salaspils bring gold to Latvia for the first time!
October 2, 2019 by Sadhbh Long in Coverage with 0 comments
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Salaspils make history and the future looks bright for Grut.
The final game of the EUCF 2019 was the highly anticipated mixed final featuring Salaspils (Salaspils, Latvia) and Grut (Amsterdam, the Netherlands). As the crowd gathered round and the hot sun beat down on the pitch a gusty cross-field wind began to blow. The Dutch youth from Grut were feeling a little nervous. Though they are no strangers to the stage, having performed outstandingly in three consecutive Windmill finals, they were a little apprehensive to face the Latvian team for a second time this weekend. After a 15-7 loss to Salaspils in their third game of the tournament they knew they would have to fight hard to challenge them this time. Grut managed to make it tighter this time, but Salaspils were able to take gold in the end, 15-12.
Before the game, Benjamin Oort, who was coaching the team due to an ACL injury, felt sure they could give them a tighter game this time round as he believed they had underperformed in their last meeting. Across the field, Salaspils were excited for their first appearance on the European stage. They too were hesitant facing into the rematch. The team was well aware that Grut would have learned from their previous mistakes and were thirsty for a win. Unused to playing with such a large roster, after qualifying out of the EUCR-North with only 10 players, they were prepared to use the full depth of their team. As this was the first time a Latvian team had the opportunity to claim a European gold medal they were eager to do their country proud.
The game began and Salaspils announced their debut loudly, scoring two points in a row. Didzis Malderis was the driving force behind this break, blocking Grut in their endzone and assisting Janis Bernans to a score at the other end. Not to be outdone, Basten De Jongh of Grut, reclaimed a turned over disc with a footblock and dashed to the endzone to catch a forehand huck from Walt Jansen in the following point to make it 2-1. The two teams started to trade points as they settled into the game. Eventually a dropped disc by Salaspils gave Grut the break they needed as Joris Steneker sent a smooth flick from the front of the endzone to a speedy Bram Steenhuisen 4-4.
As the game wore on the points seemed to grow longer and longer with each team battling hard to steal the disc from the other. The wind picked up and Grut struggled to adjust to this as it carried their throws just out of reach. The defensive efforts of Maartje Keulen and Lola Dam stopped Salaspils from scoring off these turnovers and the trading continued. Grut had only five women fit to play and the female members of their team were tiring. Salaspils took advantage of this to get a much needed break and win the first half at 8-6 with Dace Cirule throwing a long shot to Santa Mozeika who took it down under pressure from two Dutch defenders.
The Latvians came back out to the second half looking strong and ready to fight. Grut, beginning on offense, lost the disc to Helena Dreimane after several execution errors from both sides. Salaspils called a tactical timeout after an impressive layout save from Martins Kasparans who saw an opportunity to steal another point from Grut. This was promptly followed by another timeout, called by Janis Bernans who couldn’t see any options after collecting the pass from Kasparans. Despite their strategic moves Walt Jansen was able to win the disc back and sent a big throw to Tom Blasman, who chased it down with Ned Garvey hot on his trail and brought the score to 8-7.
Grut continued to grind it out, fighting tooth and nail on defense to earn back the discs that kept slipping out of their fingers. Their persistence finally paid off as Nick Coumans threw a lofty disc to Maartje Keulen who took it down with ease, surrounded by defenders to bring it to 10-10. Even with their hard defense and fearless layouts, Grut were unable to keep the momentum building as Salaspils soon came upon a break of their own. After the Dutch team lost the disc on an ambitious hammer throw Helena Dreimane gave Janis Bernans the nod and sent a forehand huck downfield into his waiting arms giving Salaspils a 12-10 lead.
Salaspils immediately took advantage of another Dutch turnover caused by a miscommunication between handlers and Roberts Apinis threw over the defenders to an open Didzis Malderis. It was clear Grut had been rattled by Salaspils’ tight person defense which seemed to be shutting down almost all of their offensive options.
With five minutes left in the game Grut got themselves back on the scoreboard with Basten De Jongh laying out for the goal at 13-11. Lola Dam flew around the airport fields as she fought hard for Grut putting her body on the line to keep the disc in play. Her efforts and the efforts of her teammates were unfortunately not enough to bring them to glory and Salaspils took the win. Using almost all their players they scored the final point as Toms Abeltins threw a quick pass to Roberts Apinis 15-12.
Girts Betmanis (Salaspils), who came to Caorle believing they had what it takes to take home the trophy, believes their win was achieved thanks to their “relentless defense”. This is undeniably true as the Latvians managed to intercept at least one of Grut’s snazzy throws in nearly every point played. Benjamin Oort (Grut) chalked it up to the exhaustion of the five Grut women. Oort thought if they had some fresher legs they could have done better after the 10-10 break. When asked about spirit both teams agreed it was “amazing” with Oort stating it was potentially the best game Grut had ever played.
Salaspils came away from the fight victorious with the trophy in hand. As they bring home Latvia’s first ever gold medal they look forward to seeing what the future holds for them and for Latvian Ultimate. Future seasons also look good for Grut who have proved their depth and ability to perform without some of their star players.
PuTi get revenge on Deep Space.
After a hotly contested pool game which saw Deep Space (London, England) take a win over PuTi (Finland) the Finns came to the third place play off hungry for bronze. Unfortunately, Deep Space were unable to pull themselves together and PuTi, who took a lead from the start were unstoppable as they slotted in goal after goal. The Londoners seemed stuck in the mud as they struggled to complete their passes. The fiery defense of Tomi Sandberg didn’t help as he flew around the pitch intercepting the Londoner’s passes and deep shots. PuTi took a very comfortable lead over Deep Space who were unable to overcome their frustrations.
With the Latvians fulfilling expectations, the pasta filled weekend in Caorle came to a close. The mixed division was the only one not dominated by the Italians in their home territory as CUSB la Fotta and CUSB Shout claimed wins in both men’s and women’s respectively. Hassliche Erdferkel (Marburg, Germany) came home spirit champions with a seventh place finish.