WUCC 2022: Efficiency, Experience Key Quarterfinal Victories (Women’s Division)

It's hard to argue that the four strongest performing teams of the week so far advanced to the semifinals.

Sarah Meckstroth and Raleigh Phoenix flew above Boston Brute Squad in the WUCC 2022 quarterfinals. Photo: Paul Rutherford -- UltiPhotos.com
Sarah Meckstroth and Raleigh Phoenix flew above Boston Brute Squad in the WUCC 2022 quarterfinals. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

LEBANON, OH – After catching up on the Round of 16 games that were pushed to Thursday by the previous day’s weather delays, the women’s division began its final, most exciting crescendo: the final eight. The eight favorites after pool play all made it to the quarterfinal round without much resistance in the previous round and battled for a spot in the medal rounds. Here’s how they shook out, game by game.

Efficient Ellipsis End 6ixers Strong Run

The thunder from down under has struck again, this time with Melbourne Ellipsis (AUS) knocking the Toronto 6ixers (CAN) out of the bracket 15-11 and heading to semis where they will play Medellin Revolution (COL).

The 6ixers remained undefeated through the tournament’s first three days but have had some pretty grindy games leading up to their highly anticipated quarterfinal match. Even without six of their key players, the 6ixers have managed to outlast most people’s expectations in this tournament. After their universe point win over Boston Brute Squad (USA) on Tuesday, the 6ixers faced fellow Canadians, Vancouver Traffic (CAN); even after a rough start, the Torontonians triumphed in the second half to advance. That game was defined by aggressive shut down defense and an “every disc is mine” mentality from the whole team.

Against Ellipsis in the quarters, this continued to be 6ixers approach, and Alyssa Mason commented on their reliance on their trademark “gritty defense [and] our O-line worked it up very well, especially upwind.” The Toronto defense was one of the toughest Ellipsis had to work through yet, other than Phoenix’s, the only team Ellipsis lost to prior.

Unlike their counterparts, the Australians came into this game with a loss, but they have looked incredibly strong all week, perhaps even strong enough to defeat the Colombian powerhouse of Revolution. “What’s really gotten us through is our D-line, [who] have been doing an incredible job of getting blocks,” explained Ellipsis’ and Australian World Games rep Olivia Carr. That defense shined like a diamond on Thursday and perfectly complimented their masterful offense.

Ellipsis kicked the game off with an immediate break, but the 6ixers wasted no time answering back with a hold and a break of their own, taking an early lead over the Australians. Ellipsis was not shaken at all and quickly tied it up after Eva Weatherall caught a dime of a deep shot bringing it to 2-2. The audience could see the determination in the 6ixers’ eyes and their bids. Many points saw possession exchanges in the form of layout blocks, decisive swats, and frantic overthrows. However, Ellipsis was slightly more successful at capitalizing on these opportunities and working the disc down the field with grace and aplomb. The D-line let it rip and broke again taking a 3-2 lead, but the 6ixers made snappy work of the hold bringing it back to 3-3.

Unfortunately for the 6ixers, that was the last time they would be even with Ellipsis. With the handy work of Cat Phillips and Weatherall, even the 6ixers grittiest defense could not contain the Ellipsis run. Phillips was on a different planet, throwing six assists and scoring two goals, directly contributing to over half of Ellipsis points. Weatherall was just as much of a key player, scoring five more of Ellipsis’ 15 total points.

Another player who had a note-worthy game was Anouchka Beaudry, who was a 6ixer herself not so long ago and is from Quebec but played this week with Ellipsis. This was an odd homecoming, but she showcased that she settled in nicely with Ellipsis, with three assists and a goal.

The Aussies took half 8-5 looking comfortable and athletic and maintained a lead of at least two points for the rest of the game until it finished at 15-11. Arguably Ellipsis’s most impressive asset is their depth, both in players and strategy. They do not rely on one person, but the unified contributions across the roster in the same way that they don’t rely on a single perfected strategy but utilize a plethora of offensive and defensive movements. And they do it all with cohesion and flow.

The 6ixers fought hard and valiantly, playing with the intra-team trust that they pride themselves on. They deserve to be proud of their performance this week and have a brighter path ahead than perhaps was prognosticated, especially with the promising chunk of rookies that proved their ability to step up this week and compete at an elite level. They may not have won this round, but their performance in Cincinnati was impressive and only a stepping stone. “We will be scary in the future,” added Mason.

Now onto semifinals, Ellipsis will have to be mentally prepared to play Revolution, a team overflowing with house names and worldwide recognition in the ultimate community. Ultiworld’s take? It will be tough, but Ellipsis definitely has it in them. Revolution hasn’t faced anyone nearly as skilled as the Aussies. Regardless of who advances from that semifinal, we are guaranteed one non-American team and one American team in the final. Will the international community finally dethrone the Americans and end the 16 year dynasty? Tune in on Saturday… or find a fortune cookie with all the juicy details.

Raleigh Batter Brute Squad to Break Boston Streak

Want to talk about a grindy game? Please direct your attention to the Phoenix vs Brute Squad brawl that commenced at noon on Thursday. Here are our players:

Raleigh Phoenix (USA), the club from North Carolina that entered undefeated and boasts some of the most recognizable recent stars in the game names including Sarah Meckstroth, Kami Groom, Jesse Shofner, Dawn Culton, and Bridget Mizener. This team has looked cool as a cucumber for most of the weekend, playing the game like it’s their second language. In other news, just in case the excitement of Worlds had helped you forget about the pandemic going on, Phoenix had an unfortunate outbreak that forced some of their players to watch the quarters from the hotel.

Boston’s Brute Squad, reigning bronze medalists led by coach Rob Brazile, had an unpreferable loss to their regional rivals, the 6ixers, on Tuesday night, but have otherwise been racking up wins all week. The destination doesn’t always reflect the journey, however. Brute has seemed a tad off most of the week, playing well no doubt, but always seeming as though there was something missing, at least compared to the rampaging best they’ve exhibited for much of the last decade. Whether this ‘something’ was in communication, connection, trust, or elsewhere is hard to say, but it felt as though Brute was not leveling up to what they know they are capable of.

Both teams came out firing. Nerves and energy were high, the physicality was intense, and everyone was dialed in. There were more interceptions in this game than most other women’s games combined. The person defense was tighter and more aggressive than it has been all week from either team, mostly out of necessity considering any looser defense would lead to a thwomping. Brute played this game like they wanted it more than they have all week. They were playing like lean, mean, frisbee-snatching machines. This game wasted no time sending the break train off from the station. Phoenix was conducting the break train while Boston nailed down the holds to prevent themselves from falling too far behind. The biggest contributors to Brute Squad’s points, each delaying their bracket demise, were Yuge Xiao and Claire Trop: Xiao with two assists and four goals, Trop with countless (or at least uncounted) blocks and three goals. At the same time, there were plenty of critical defensive contributions that forced turnovers from a variety of others, including a heroic layout block from Lane Siedor.

Trailing the entire game, Brute had plenty of chances to break, but just couldn’t get over the conversion hurdle as smoothly as Phoenix. The North Carolinians made jumping these hurdles look too easy, especially with Sarah Meckstroth on the field. The recent convert from the mixed division secured three assists and five goals, all of which were done with her classic level-headedness. Meckstroth: composed and unstoppable.

Phoenix took half 8-6 and broke right out of half to extend their lead to three points. The teams then traded scores back and forth until Phoenix does what? Oh yeah, breaks yet again putting the scoreboard at a discouraging 12-8 for Brute — a position they have rarely found themselves in amidst their long run at the top of the division.

Former Brute Squadder Groom and Audrey Lyman were no small contributors for Phoenix either, stacking up their own impressive stat lines and commanding the field when on. Phoenix’s D-lines, all three of them, were untouchable on Thursday and have no room for easing up on the gas now as semis loom. Phoenix’s goals from here on out are resilience, diligence, and unity, but overall want to “continue playing our game and utilize each person as well as prioritizing clean holds,” according to Rebecca Fagan, a Raleigh player.

Brute — who despite remaining competitive in a world quarterfinal might consider themselves in something of a rebuild, such has been their standard in the last decade — had a slightly different focus, as they were prioritizing “playing to build and to feel each other out and to assimilate new people and not to necessarily have perfect holds and crush every game,” shared Claire Trop, who herself will be moving on from the team after this week to take up a new post with Washington DC Scandal. “This was a game we learned a lot from and will get a lot better from,” Trop added. “The whole team should be really proud of what we accomplished.” Trop, like several other athletes in Cincinnati, especially on the semifinal teams, came directly off of World Games and is enjoying “seeing so many friends here, and getting to see teammates, past, present, college teammates.”

Brute’s elimination ends a truly remarkable and unique streak: for the first time in the more than 30 year history of WUCCs, no team from Boston will be competing in the semifinals in any division.

Revolution Race Past Mavericks, One Step Closer to Elusive Championship

Medellin Revolution cemented their return to the medal rounds of the World Ultimate Club Championships with a confident and comprehensive performance against new kids on the block, Tokyo Mavericks (JPN). Revolution were steady in opening an 8-6 lead in the first half and then dominant in the second to win 15-8 against a Mavericks team that just didn’t quite have enough to hang with the more experienced and more top-heavy Colombian club.

A pair of early breaks set the tone of the game from the beginning. And while Mavericks did get a break themselves in the first half and were evenly matched with Revo for stretches, it was also clear fairly early on that they weren’t quite capable of matching Revolution’s highest gear.

That was emphasized in the second half as Revo became more and more punishing of Maverick’s turnovers and gave Mavericks fewer and fewer break chances themselves.

“I did feel a difference and maybe that’s Worlds experience of the teams. Revo has a lot of confidence in itself and in its players and we felt comfortable about where the game was going,” said Revo’s Australian import Mish Phillips. “We never expected it to be easy, but being up two breaks we were, like, ‘yep, we’re rolling well’ and and I think they were still playing really well, they just overshot on a few of their long throws but those players were free and they had the connection there and if some some more of them had come off, I think a score of the second half, would have been a bit tighter.”

Beyond the gulf in WUCC experience, it was clear that Mavericks didn’t quite have the ability to matchup player for player when Revolution continued to roll out their star-studded lines. Manuela Cardenas, in particular, was a problem that the Mavericks had no answer for down the stretch.
Cardenas scored two goals and registered four assists after the halftime break, meaning she was directly involved in six of the team’s seven goals in the second half. Mavericks did all they could to try to slow down Cardenas, even matching up their own World Games star Kaede Yoshida on her, but Cardenas proved that Revo’s star power is just a little bit brighter than the young Mavericks.

“We’re not really athletically superior to other players. And we are a team that are just normal players, normal people. We came not depending on individuals’ strength, but as a team. So this is our strength,” said Mavericks coach Yoshitaka “Rikishi” Mizuno via a translator. “We split the team in two. We’re not making the set that’s really strong on one side, and not an offense set and defense set and we’re splitting it equally. We’re using those sets one at a time. Against us, Revolution, they were able to put together the strong players on one set and keep on going with that one set and that’s why the second half we became a little weaker, because we didn’t put the whole strength in one set, because we designed the team with not that strategy.”

And so it was that Revolution moved onto the WUCC semifinals for the second time in a row on the back of their experience and star power, this time the inevitable force, while passing beyond Mavericks, the up-and-coming program who were only getting their first taste of this level.

Favorites Fury Overwhelm Swampybarg

In a similar storyline as above, San Francisco Fury (USA) were too much for Tokyo Swampybarg (JPN) to hang with for the full game and returned to the semifinal round at Worlds after missing out in 2018. Apart from one run of four goals in five points during the first half when Fury’s offense had a handful of odd miscues, Swampybarg could not match Fury’s efficiency for the duration of the game, as the Americans left the fields as 15-9 victors.

Even after getting broken on the first point of the game, Fury immediately asserted themselves as the dominant force they’ve proven to be all week. They responded to the the early deficit with four straight goals and even with the run they gave up to Swampybarg immediately after, they still went into the halftime break up two breaks at 8-5.

They didn’t blow Swampybarg out of the water in the second half, necessarily, but did tack on a couple of extra breaks and avoided any doubt to their impending win.

As for what caused the first half blip, Claire Desmond said that they team got caught up in the trademark Swampybarg style of play. “I think their style of defense is very different than most North American defense and we needed to adjust to that and kind of play our game,” she said. “[Head coach] Matty [Tsang] was saying we were trying to play their game, like little small ball, tight space, kind of holding and throwing, thinking a little bit too much and [instead] just opening it up with our legs and our throws. And I think that was a huge thing for our offense.”

Once Fury opened up the deep game, it became too much for Swampybarg to match their efficiency offensively. When a team’s style of play is so predicated on intricately working the disc up the whole field, it’s obviously difficult to match another team who can score in just a few throws point for point for the entirety of the game.

“Fury were better. They had great hucks and we couldn’t stop them, so that was the point when we couldn’t win this game,” said Swampybarg’s Minori Yahata. “I don’t know when we can play against each other again, but we will never forget them. It was super fun, but we realized that we still have more to develop. Fury pushed us so hard, and the things that they were playing, we did our best and they pulled up their power.”

A couple of first year Fury players were key, particularly in the part of the game when Fury started finding success in the long game. Han Chen tied for a game-high three assists and Lo Guerin contributed two goals while three other first years found themselves on the stat sheet as well.

In a lot of ways, their quarterfinal victory was a vintage Fury win: getting impactful contributions from every player on the roster, and outclassing a solid opponent without really breaking much of a sweat even while not playing their best game. And this time, like so many times before, it was more than enough for win. This one sends them into the medal rounds and has them favorites to win their second world championship.

  1. Steve Sullivan
    Steve Sullivan

    Steve Sullivan is the Executive Editor of Ultiworld. He began playing in 2001 at Boston University, helped found and then played 14 seasons with Slow White, and most recently competed with San Francisco Blackbird. He has volunteered as a college Sectional Coordinator, a club Regional Coordinator, served three terms as a player-elected representative for the Mixed division on USAU's Club Working Group, and is currently an At-Large rep on the USAU Board of Directors. He has previously written for the USAU magazine and The Huddle, and was editor of the book "Ultimate: The First Five Decades, Vol II." You can reach him by email (steve@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@sjsully21).

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