A logjam amongst the top teams saw no team emerge unscathed, but Berlin end the weekend on top.
April 22, 2022 by Ali Thomas in Recap with 0 comments
BOLOGNA, ITALY — While the mixed and open divisions at EUF’s Elite Invite 2022 had eight teams apiece and were able to play a standard pool and bracket format, the women’s division was a seven-team round-robin affair, with the champion being the team with the highest number of wins. In place of a final, the organizers scheduled YAKA and Shout on the showcase pitch on Monday, taking the calculated guess that the teams in the 2021 xEUCF final would be jockeying for the top spot. In fact, this final game ended up having no bearing on the eventual winner of the tournament whatsoever. Instead, it was Berlin’s jinX that found themselves atop the pile when the weekend came to a close.
The Elite Invite was full of surprises and upsets, though it was only one weekend in a long and jam-packed season. It remains to be seen what will change between now and the next elite tournament in the event calendar, Tom’s Tourney in Bruges (May 6-8).
- jinX (Berlin, Germany)
- SUFC Valkyria (Stockholm, Sweden)
- YAKA (Noisy-le-Sec, France)
- CUSB Shout (Bologna, Italy)
- 3SB (České Budějovice, Czech Republic)
- Bristol Women (Bristol, Great Britain)
- box vienna (Vienna, Austria)
jinX Takes Top Spot in Pool Shakeup
Berlin’s jinX came into the tournament with an experienced team featuring a number of German World Games players, so their eventual first-place finish should not come as a shock. But without a true final, the tournament ended in an odd way: the last game of the weekend between presumed contenders Shout and YAKA occurred after jinX had already secured the division’s crown.
That didn’t look like the most likely outcome after the first round. The women’s division kicked off with the host team, Shout, taking on the Berliners. jinX captain Leonie Jasper explained that this first tournament of the season was for building connections and chemistry in preparation for WUCC in July, a similar sentiment to many of the tournament’s other attendees. However, she also gave a concrete goal for the weekend: finish in the top four. After taking fifth place at xEUCF, jinX were looking to improve with every tournament and reach new heights every time. Boasting six of the 15 woman-matching players on the German World Games extended squad and no rookies on the team, top four seemed like a modest aspiration.
Shout, on the other hand, have several new players this season, several of whom are not able to train with the team during the week. So while beating YAKA topped their list of priorities, building team chemistry was also imperative for the Italians. jinX kept level with Shout after the Italians took an early break to put themselves ahead, but Shout held on offense coming out of halftime to extend their lead to two points, and the teams traded out the rest of the game, seeing the hosts win 12-10.
The rest of Saturday and Sunday was less straightforward. In Shout’s second game, Stockholm’s Valkyria clinched a universe point win, sending shockwaves through the fields, which amplified when they also beat YAKA 15-9 that same day. Suddenly, it looked as though tournament favorites YAKA and Shout could do little but battle for second place, but then on Sunday evening, jinX upended the French squad 15-11.
There was uproar and utter confusion about what this meant for the event’s final standings. Everything depended on the last two games taking place on Monday morning: jinX vs. Valkyria, and YAKA vs. Shout. A win for Valkyria would clinch a title for the Swedish side and open up the possibility of a three-way tie for second. If jinX were to win, Valkryia would take second regardless of what happened in the other match, with first-place still up for grabs.
Under those confusing and challenging conditions, jinX came through. The German O-line was calm and efficient, and their defense forced multiple turns against Valkyria, capitalizing on many of them. jinX held the lead for the whole game, and though Valkyria did have a late-game surge to start to close the gap, the Berliners were unfazed on their way to a final score of 15-12. The win relegated Valkyria to silver medalists and kept alive jinX’s own hopes of a tournament title.
All eyes now turned to Shout and YAKA. With a record sitting at 4-1 on the weekend, Shout had control of their destiny against a YAKA side that were 3-2. If Shout had managed to learn from their mistakes from xEUCF, they could snatch a tournament win out of a three-way tie with jinX and Valkyria. However, despite an early break, Shout’s hopes started to fade as YAKA broke back twice, eventually taking half 6-4. Straight out of the half, YAKA added on another break. For the rest of the game, the team from Noisy-le-Sec maintained their lead, until finally, at 10-8, they held cleanly and then broke Shout twice in quick succession, Paula Baas finding Maria Castillo in the end zone for the third time in the game, proving to any that might even have had a shred of doubt that their win at xEUCF was no fluke.
While the French were pleased to repeat their victory over the Italians just like last fall at xEUCF in Bruges, it wasn’t enough to claim another title in Bologna, as jinX stood above the rest and were able to take the win back to Germany.
The Rest of the Field
Lower down in the round-robin, České Budějovice’s 3SB, with only 13 players rostered for the whole weekend, put up some truly heroic performances against the rest of the teams in Bologna. They even led Valkyria at one point in their matchup, before the Swedes pulled off a late-game comeback and secured the win, 14-12. At tournaments later in the year, with a larger squad, the Czechs will surely be a much more consistent threat.
Bristol Women, who have in the past relied on a few key contributors to run their offense, were missing several of those players this weekend, and as a result, struggled to hold their offense and convert on defense. Their only win of the weekend was a narrow victory over box Vienna. However, the Brits did take home the spirit prize.
Box had a similarly tough time, taking a while to adapt to the unpredictable wind, but remained positive throughout the weekend, framing every loss as a learning experience ahead of WUCC this summer.