The opening session of Day 1 saw big performances from two European sides, though only one came away with a win.
July 12, 2022 by Edward Stephens in Recap with 0 comments
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The Flying Disc competition officially got underway at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama this morning, and it kicked off with a bang — a lopsided Pool A result that no one saw coming.
Germany Humble Canada to Kick-off Tournament
There are no longer any questions about the potential of a German side that out-hucked, out-defended, and in every way outplayed a heavily favored Canada for a 13-5 victory.
“The start was very, very good for us,” said German captain Nico Müller. From the first pull, Germany looked like the more composed team. A lot of the credit goes to Müller, whose smooth and patient distribution from the backfield ensured that the team always had an available look. As as result, they never seemed like they had to rush.
It was an opposite story for the Canadians, who faced hard pressure in the form of a force middle look that prioritized defending resets and unders over the deep game. Canada took the available looks, but they had trouble connecting. Kevin Underhill, Catherine Menzies, and Lauren Kimura all missed on deep throws. It was an across-the-board problem for a typically reliable hucking corps. Without a functioning deep game, Canada began to look discombobulated and Germany tightened the screws closer to the disc. “There was a little bit of panic… and so [we] fell out of our offensive flow,” said Team Canada coach Carla DiFilippo.
The upshot was a quick 4-0 lead for the underdog Germans, a lead they would not only not relinquish, but eventually widen. They played the rest of the first half with that kind of assurance that comes with a big lead. “Our D-line got a lot of blocks at the beginning of the game,” said Müller. “That helped us a lot playing offense on our side because the Canadians really had to hustle… but I felt like we were clicking.”
The contributions were widespread for Germany. Known stars Muller and Levke Walczak had big offensive games in their most familiar roles: Müller finished with five assists, and Walczak caught four goals. Anna Gerner, Steffen Döscher, and Sebastian Spiegel had fine games, as well, particularly behind the disc. It was Conrad Schlör, Nici Prien, and Lilli Trautmann, though, leading the team from the defensive side perhaps made the bigger overall impact on the game.
In addition to their offensive struggles, Canada could not find much traction on defense. “Playing [defense] on a stack that was so deep is not what we’re used to, and then their handler sets were also something that we’re not really used to, so it was hard to adjust in game,” said DiFilippo. When Canada’s straightforward scheme didn’t work, they tried a kitchen sink approach. “It was just trying different things to see if we could get a turn,” said DiFilippo. Germany remained patient and vigilant no matter the scheme; they continued to pile on clean holds.
And then, as if to turn a firm period into an exclamation point, they rattled off four straight breaks to end the game. It could not have been a better start to the tournament for Germany, who now have the inside track toward a berth in the semifinal.
Canada likely need to win both of their remaining pool play games to re-enter medal contention. It wasn’t all bad news, though. Britt Dos Santos was a menace downfield, and Molly Lewis played fine defense throughout. But they will need much more consistency and poise out of their throwers later in the week.
Australia Outlast France on Universe Point
In another of the morning session’s surprises, France pushed the heavily favored Australia to the brink. Shouts of “Allez les blancs!” from the French and “Set the tone!” from the Australians were the soundtrack to a hotly contested, fiercely defended Pool B opener that would burn all the way through a nail-biting universe point. In the end, Australia withstood the French effort to come away with a slim 13-12 victory.
Quentin Roger was an early stand out from the French side, playing with a pace no one else on the field could match. He exerted a gravitational energy in the backfield to keep control of the French offense. Though he often worked alongside Aline Mondiot, Mathieu Bosser, and Coralie Fouquet, most of the resets went to him, and most of the hucks came from him. The ambidextrous star showed off deep looks from both hands: lollipop topspin forehands with the right, and booming flat left handers. On the receiving and defensive sides, Eva Bornot, Pauline Berte, and Sullivan Roblet were major playmakers for the French.
But it was the balanced attack from the Australians that won the day. With a suite of well-timed pull plays, an essentially omnipresent Tom Tulett for resets, and a variety of cutters like Cat Phillips, Rob Andrews, and Sam McGuckin churning through yard after yard to clear for each other and get free for big gainers, the Crocs kept France guessing where they would make their next strike. The French did well to match their intensity, but they didn’t always have a great handle on Australia’s shifting offensive priorities.
Tight games always come down to a few plays, and this was no exception. Caro Ma’s first deep backhand was a thing of beauty, and a layout block from rookie Sally Yu set up the most important break of Australia’s first half. None of the small moments were bigger than a fine play by Georgia Egan-Griffiths on universe point. The Crocs worked the disc to the red zone and centered to Cat Phillips. She saw Egan-Griffiths begin to sweep from the open side across the middle for a soft break – but France’s Roger saw the cut develop, and went horizontal to bat away Phillips’ throw. He got enough of the disc to knock it off course, but Egan-Griffiths kept motoring through her cut and picked it up where it wobbled just above the grass. After saving the possession she calmly deposited the disc to Alex Shepherd on a simple continue pass for the win.
Australia will be thankful in the coming days to have been so thoroughly tested in their first match. France, like the Germans in the day’s first round, have put the rest of the tournament on notice that they are not a side to be trifled with. They may have what it takes to put scares in Colombia and Japan, as well.