The Pools of Death delivered excitement on Day 1, but they weren't the only ones.
July 25, 2022 by Jonah Lee-Ash and Jesse Strod in Recap with 0 comments
LEBANON, OH — While it’s often trite to comment on weather, the heat on Day 1 in Cincinnati was certainly a factor.
“Well, I’m just standing here and I’m sweating and it’s 10:40 in the morning,” said spectator Emma Madden-Krasnick. “So I have a lot of empathy for the players. I do appreciate that there are tents and water everywhere because it’s freaking hot.”
For at hot as it was on the sidelines, it was even hotter on the field. The teams that were able to handle those conditions got out to a fast start to their week while those that wilted have their work cut out for them in the coming days.
Pool A is stratified cleanly, though not aligned with the initial seeding.
Overall tournament top seed Raleigh Ring of Fire (USA) had an expectedly easy day, with a 15-7 win over Ibagué URO Monster (COL) being the tougher of their two games. The other was a 15-2 shellacking of Delft Force Elektro (NED). Both of those opponents went winless on the day, which is a major disappointment for URO Monster, who entered the week as the no.2 seed in the pool with high expectations as the Colombian national champs. Having already lost games to the two teams following closest behind them in the pool, they face a seriously uphill battle to find a path into the championship bracket.
The most entertaining game of the pool was between Tokyo Nomadic Tribe (JPN) and Wellington Wildcats (NZL) in the final time slot to decide who went undefeated on the day. Wildcats took half 8-5, on the back of a zone which was giving the Japanese team a surprising amount of trouble. However, the wind picked up after halftime – a change which Nomadic Tribe handled better. They were able to bring it back to on serve at 10-10, then the game got a bit chippy. There were lots of small calls and very physical marks, particularly from the New Zealand outfit. Now a fairly upwind-downwind game, Nomadic Tribe was able to get an all-important upwind break to make it 13-10. Lauchlan Robertson played an excellent second-half for Wildcats, connecting with Michael Downey for an upwind break to close within one at 14-13, but it was not enough and Nomadic Tribe finished with a downwind hold against the zone that had given them so much trouble in the first half. Final score 15-13.
Sydney Sunder (AUS) managed to prove to everyone that they are the team to beat, certainly in pool B, and maybe in the whole tournament. Their contingent of four World Games players looked unhurried as they systematically dismantled Imola Canieporci (ITA) and Montreal Mephisto (CAN). Alex Gan was especially impressive, assisting on five goals during Sunder’s contest with the Canadians. “I think it’s awesome that in our pool, we have a European team, a Japanese team, and a North American team … That’s really exciting for all the new young players for whom this is their first Worlds,” commented Sunder’s Alex “Lado” Ladomatos. “I think the cool thing about it is that the play styles are different. They throw different stuff, they cut differently, and it’s new for everyone. I think everyone’s really stoked for the challenge … I think everyone loves having that challenge.” It’s a challenge the Australians look equipped to handle. If Sunder look this composed moving forward, it will be unsurprising to see them in the final for the second straight WUCC.
In the last game of the day, Rascals (JPN) barely managed to stave off a potential upset from Tenerife Guayota (SPA) in a game that finished 15-14. The game lasted a whopping 109 minutes, finishing on universe point 15-14 in favor of the Japanese. Sho Okajima ends the first day with one of the most absurd stat lines in WUCC history: 21 assists and zero goals in the first two games of the tournament. Get this man a tournament branded backpack, because carried his team through day one.
Title contenders New York PoNY (USA) were able to get through their first day without incurring any significant damage, but their success was not as smooth as they might have wanted. A cap-shortened first game against Stuttgart 7 Schwaben (GER) ended 13-7 and their second game was a 15-10 win over Birmingham Chevron (GBR). Though they were clearly the better team in both of those games, the New Yorkers were broken three times by Chevron, evidence of some early-season wrinkles that still need to be ironed out.
Bogotá Euforia (COL) also had a strong day, going 2-0 with a 15-11 win over Singapore Koels (SGP) and a seed-breaking 15-10 win over Chevron. Felipe Diaz (11 Goals, 2 Assists) and Andrés Cardona (1 Goal, 9 Assists) were standouts for Euforia on the day.
The game between Chevron and Koels was the closest in the pool and filled with passion from both sides. Leading into it, Koels’ general manager Shaun Tan said, “we were really excited to come up against Chevron. [Before the tournament] we had two warm up games against Ranalegh and Alba. We believe those warm up games prepared us very well for a style of play that we don’t really get in Singapore a lot.” With this intel in the days leading up to WUCC, Koels took full advantage and capitalized early in the game, earning a two-break lead and going up 7-5. Chevron didn’t have the lead until 11-10. Rollo Sax Dixon1 had an assist to Declan Cartwright in the end zone to make it 12-10 for Chevron. They held onto that lead, and Chevron won 15-13. There were standouts for both teams with Robbie Haines (4 Goals, 1 Assist) having a big game for Chevron and Darien Tan (5 Goals, 1 Assist) carrying a heavy load for Koels. After the win, Chevron spirit captain Eddie Mason said “I think in the end our legs just kept that defensive pressure going for a little bit longer. I think that was kind of the difference, that we were able to keep grinding, and keep their offense out there to make more mistakes.”
Singapore certainly have some significant talent and quickness, though Koels were perhaps still working up their chemistry as they didn’t have the easiest time getting reps ahead of the tournament. “We actually had a lot of problems with playing sevens in Singapore, because the COVID restrictions were really strict. We only managed to play sevens earlier this year, in January or February,” admitted Tan. “Instead, we’ve worked a lot on our throws and movements. I think we pride ourselves on being a very technical team. Athletically, we’re always going to be at a disadvantage with Europeans with American teams. So we want to be very technical, we want to study our set plays as much as possible, and also work on our throws and make them perfect.”
Unsurprisingly, Seattle Sockeye (USA) handily defeated Glasgow Alba (GBR) in their first game of the day. “It started really well. We got out with a break, put one up, and then I think we thought that was game over and conceded six times,” said Alba’s Andrew Warnock. Excellent analysis, and a common pitfall for younger teams who come out hot but can’t keep the fire burning. When all was said and done, the game ended 15-5 in favor of Sockeye. The Seattle side then followed up the success by defeating Berlin Wall City (GER) 15-10 in the next round.
For these first two matches, it seemed like every member of Seattle’s faceless army contributed to their success. If they keep playing like the fish-oiled machine they were today — and we certainly expect them to — they’ll finish top of the pool with little trouble. “There’s been some good D, but nothing extraordinary,” said Mike Rehder, a spectator and father of Sockeye star Matt Rehder. “It’s been a lot of conservative, careful play, as people try to get their legs underneath themselves.” Finding their feet was one of the most common challenges teams faced on the first day of competition.
The rest of Pool D is shaping up to be a bit less conservative, however. Örebro KFK (DEN) beat Alba 15-12, but lost to Flying Angels Bern (SUI) 15-13, who in turn lost to Wall City 15-7. What this means, essentially, is that the order of second, third, and fourth will come down to the wire, and Pool D will be an exciting one to watch.
Despite the pressure, Wall City’s Frank Wang said his team is still focused on enjoying the unique experience of playing the World Ultimate Club Championships: “You never know when you can take a week to be with people you’ve spent so much time with and put so much effort in together with and we really just want to soak in every minute. We know it’s gonna go by very quickly.”
Remember when we called Pool E the Pool of Death™? On day one, it lived up to its namesake. The top seed in the pool, Vancouver Furious George (CAN), had a tight match with Pornichet Tchac (FRA) in their first game of the day. Pulling away at the last minute, the Canadians won 15-13. “At the end, during the money time, we need to step up a bit more. During this game, it was more for Furious,” said Tchac coach Maxime Garros. However, Furious’ next game did not go quite as smoothly. In one of the most entertaining matchups of the day, Brussels Mooncatchers (BEL) went up early against Furious, taking a 7-3 lead and looking poised to take half. However, Furious did not go down easy, and went on a run of breaks to tie it up 7-7. Neither team was relying on the other team to make mistakes for their breaks, and it was high pressure, layout blocks, and huge sky battles throughout the whole contest. In the end, Mooncatchers came out on top 13-11, putting Furious’ hopes of finishing top of the pool in serious question.
Elsewhere in Pool D, Portland Rhino Slam! (USA) managed to defeat Bogotá Makawua (COL) 15-8 in their first game. However, the win wasn’t as easy as the score line might make it look, and Makawua’s hex offense was something the Americans weren’t quite sure how to deal with. “It was super different than anything we’re used to. Throws in super tight spaces and a lot of give-and-go. And it’s like, spread out, but then they run through four guys [unexpectedly],” said Rhino’s Spencer Latarski. “Overall, they brought really good energy and were working really, really hard.” After throwing on a zone, Rhino hit their stride to close it out.
Against Tchac, Rhino was down going into half, but rallied and won their second game 15-12. Mooncatchers vs. Rhino will be the big game to watch on Monday, as the teams fight for survival in the Pool of Death™.
Pool F is another pool that went mostly to seed. However, there was one pretty big upset that we’ll have to qualify with an asterisk. Heilbronn Bad Skid (GER) was defeated 15-14 by Cape Town Mutiny (RSA). The reason for this asterisk is that many of the members of the South African team were unable to make the trip to Cincinnati due to VISA issues, and so several American players joined the team to fill out their roster. So before you get excited about South Africa upsetting the team with World Games star Nico Müller, take into account that nearly half of their goals were scored or assisted by American pickups.
Other than that, the Tokyo Buzz Bullets (JPN) took care of business on day one, knocking off Warao (VEN) 15-6 and Basel Freespeed (SUI) 15-9. One spectator, Tim, who is hosting the Swiss team at his house during this event, said “the Japanese are fast, man, and they don’t make mistakes ever.” A simple observation, but one that has been giving the rest of the world trouble for more than 30 years. Needless to say, the Buzz Bullets are going to be contenders for the podium.
The Second Pool of Death™ started off the day with an eye-popping 15-6 win for London Clapham (GBR) over Melbourne Ellipsis (AUS) and Clapham proved it wasn’t a fluke by following it up with a 15-10 win over Toronto GOAT (CAN). Ellipsis, Dublin Ranelagh (IRL), and GOAT all went 1-1 today, setting up Pool G for an exciting finish to decide who goes into the Power Pools.
The game of the day in Pool G, and arguably the entire division, was Ranelagh vs Ellipsis. Ellipsis was coming off of their loss to Clapham while Ranelagh had started off with a win over the no.5 seed in the pool, CUS PADOVA Barbastreji (ITA). The Irish came out hot, scoring on their first break opportunity to start out the game with a 2-0 lead. Ranelagh took half 8-6 and then broke immediately to make it 9-6 but that’s when the Oliver Loughnan show started. Loughnan had five goals in this game and scored three in a row for Ellipsis, keeping them in it at 10-9. The teams battled to 12-12, and with the game in the balance, Jonathan Keyes threw a cross-field hammer to Rob Andrews in the endzone for another Australian break. Ellipsis rode that wave of momentum to a 15-12 win. Rob Andrews got the final score, capping off his team-leading seven goal involvements (3 Assists, 4 Goals). It was a massive win for Ellipsis, keeping a path to the Power Pools in their hands and giving them confidence for the rest of the week.
Pool H started out WUCC with the marquee matchup of the pool, Bologna CUSB Open (ITA) vs Noisy-le-Sec Iznogood (FRA). What was billed to be a tight game between top European rivals began with three breaks from CUSB and Iznogood never recovered, ending in a final score of 15-8. When offered a penny for his thoughts, Iznogood coach Stef Rappazzo replied, “my thoughts and our performance are worth just about that… we couldn’t get our D-line on the field… and our reset spaces were very clogged.” Stef commended CUSB for their tactics and how they were able to put pressure on Izno’s key players.
CUSB continued their Monday dominance against Melbourne Juggernaut (AUS) with another 15-8 win, while Iznogood came out on top 15-10 against Gent Gentle (BEL).
The last big story in Pool H is that Baja Ultimate (MEX) got an epic, universe-point win to upset Juggernaut in the last round of the day. Speaking to the Baja coach after the game, “We are so happy, this is the first time a Mexican open team has won a pool play game so we are thrilled.”
CUSB ends the day top of the pool at 2-0, Iznogood, Gentle, and Baja are all 1-1, and Juggernaut sits at the bottom at 0-2.
Frontrunner for best name in the tournament. ↩