WJUC 2022: US Day Five Recap

The semifinal matchups are set in Wroclaw.

The US's Erica Brown bids for a block against Canada at WJUC 2022. Photo: Kevin Leclaire -- UltiPhotos.com
The US’s Erica Brown bids for a block against Canada at WJUC 2022. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

WROCLAW, POLAND – As the week winds down in Wroclaw, the 2022 World Junior Ultimate Championships head into the medal rounds. In the women’s division, the USA enjoyed a day off on Thursday as the quarterfinals unfolded; Canada and Italy both battled through the lower crossover pool after stumbles earlier in the week to score “upsets” to advance to the semis. In the open division, the USA cruised past Canada in dominant fashion in the final round of power pool play on Thursday morning, advancing to the bracket as the top seed. Quarterfinals were played in the afternoon and Italy and France prevailed and will play the North American giants with a spot in the gold-medal match on the line.

U20 Women’s Division

USA and France Rest as Canada and Italy Advance to Face Them

After topping the power pool, USA and France enjoyed a day off as their fellow division members met in the quarterfinals to see who’d advance and face them.

Canada, after struggling at the end of pool play with losses to the Czech Republic and France, regained some of its prior form in a 15-9 win over New Zealand. New Zealand started the game excellently, breaking four straight points to begin the affair and threaten to end Canada’s tournament much earlier than expected. Zara Bowen was excellent for New Zealand, carving up the Canadian defense for two assists in that stretch and five in the game overall. However, Canada rebounded well from their disastrous start; Nina Heloir found Alicia Zhang to put Canada on the board and get their imposing D-line on the field. The D-line did its job, breaking four straight times in response to get the game back on serve at 5-4. From there, Canada ran away with it as they closed on a 15-5 run after their initial deficit. Alicia Zhang (2 goals, 1 assist), Helois (1 goal, 2 assists) and Tiffany Zhang (3 goals) led the way for the North Americans as they fought back in dominant fashion for the win. Canada will next face a rested USA squad in the semifinals; it will be the two teams’ first meeting of the tournament after Canada failed to make the power pool.

On the other side of the bracket, the Czech Republic continued a surprising fall; after winning their pool with convincing victories over Canada and France earlier in the week, the Czech Republic have lost three straight games including Thursday’s 12-7 defeat at the hands of Italy. The victory caps an excellent run for Italy. The game was low-scoring, with the early morning wind clearly having an effect. Lucrezia Grossi (4 assists) keyed the Italian victory from the backfield; Grossi played both ways and was fearless marshaling the Italians into and with the wind as she kept them in the game in the first half. Lucia Negroni came alive in the second, scoring three of her four goals as she helped to ice the Czech Republic. Italy advances now to face France in the semifinals and will look to continue their run as the pair battle to become the highest finishing European side at the tournament.

U20 Open Division

USA Triumph Over Canada in Dominant Fashion

In perhaps the division’s most shocking game so far, the US demolished Canada in a 15-5 game that felt even less close than the score line would indicate. With both teams having already clinched byes into the semifinals, there was little more than bragging rights on the line, though no game between these two nations is ever meaningless.

The game started in expected fashion as both teams held to start. The Americans received the pull and set their standard horizontal stack with Tucker Kalmus making the initiating cut. Kalmus came under, caught, then turned and launched a pretty flick huck to Oscar Graff in the end zone. On the next point the USA came down in a zone scheme that pressured the Canadians into a huck that Alex Belfiore intercepted. The USA turned the disc back and this time the Canadian handlers were content to be patient, finding the open swings to move the disc around the American zone slowly. They reached the end zone and Koji Suzuki found Oscar Stonehouse with a backhand to put Canada on the board. The USA held on the next point—a clean possession where they worked the disc through cutters coming under and then flowed into their end zone set; Declan Miller flipped to Felix Moren for the score.

But here’s where the momentum shifted decidedly in the US’s favor. On the next point Canada overthrew a deep look downwind. Erica Brown made a diving circus catch to save possession for the USA, stood up, and launched a backhand to Zeppelin Raunig running deep. Raunig skied just outside the goal line and then found Ben Horrisberger open for the first break of the game; 3-1. After that, the Canadian offense, which had been an efficient machine that tore through the competition until Thursday’s game, struggled to find anything resembling its prior form as they matched up against the disciplined American defense. The Americans ripped off six straight breaks to go up 9-1. Declan Kervick and Eli Fried were both excellent during the run; the two Americans were unguardable in the small spaces around the end zone. The Canadians held to make it 9-2, finally connecting on a huck as Neo Debroux flew for a massive sky before finding Stonehouse in the end zone. The teams mostly traded holds through the game’s final third, before the USA broke to win. Canada will look to rebound tomorrow in a semifinal bout with a talented and gritty French team.

Declan Kervick now leads the USA in total points scored (13 assists and 4 goals) after he threw five assists against Canada. Devilishly quick in the reset space and with the booming throws to match, Kervick has anchored an efficient D-line offense after the turn. Oscar Graff has been the O-line’s preferred target in the end zone; Graff has unmatched speed and the ability to go up over anyone for the grab, and he leads the O-line in total points scored (15 goals and 3 assists). Peter Kotz has been quiet statistically but looked excellent all week as he usually matches up against one of the opposing team’s best players. Oscar Stonehouse scored three goals and Koji Suzuki threw three assists in the game for Canada; both continue to be anchors on the Canadian O-line with exceptional athleticism and the ability to get open all over the field.

Around the Division

The quarterfinalists in the open division all met this afternoon to vie for the last two spots in semis and both games fell to seed, but not without fireworks. Italy narrowly triumphed over Colombia, winning 15-14 on universe after the Colombians had rallied from down 10-6 to tie the game at 14 on a spectacular greatest for a goal. The Colombians came with their zone look that had given the Italians trouble, keying their run, and it seemed to have worked. The Italian offense was stalled out in the backfield as nothing seemed to materialize downfield. However, Edoardo Fabbri found someone open deep, as he’s done all tournament, this time muscling a backhand up wind to Matteo Paradisi who was able to flip it to Tommaso Zanni for the win. Fabbri turned in another brilliant game for the Italian squad, as his seven assists and one goal led the team in scoring; he continues to look like one of the best players in the division. Colombia weren’t without their stars, as Kevin Alexander Cruz Córdoba threw three assists and scored four goals as he played both ways down the stretch.

The other quarterfinal was less exciting as France prevailed 12-8 over New Zealand in a game heavily affected by the swirling wind. Several points lasted longer than five minutes and one, that eventually ended when France broke to make it 4-2, lasted almost fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, the French D-line turned in an excellent performance, cashing in several breaks when they needed them and stifling the New Zealand offense. The French O-line was likewise impressive, only being broken once as they fought through the windy conditions.

On Friday, France will meet Canada in the semifinals and Italy will match up against the USA. Both games are rematches of earlier ones played in the power pool.

  1. Matt Singleton
    Matt Singleton

    Matt Singleton grew up playing ultimate in North Carolina's Triangle area and played for two years at Davidson College. He is currently a law school student at UNC Chapel Hill.

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