The Americans were too much for the French, who were impressive in their own right en route to two silvers.
August 15, 2022 by Matt Singleton in Recap with 0 comments
WROCLAW, POLAND – For all of the United State’s prowess at the international level over the years, the World Junior Ultimate Championships titles haven’t been quite as consistent as at some other age levels — at only three of nine biennial editions this millennium has the US taken home gold in both the U20 Women’s and U20 Open divisions. Six years ago in Wroclaw, the United States split the titles at this tournament with rivals to the North, Canada. Entering Saturday, the nation of the sport’s founding looked well positioned to once again win gold in both, though were matched up with a somewhat surprising foe in each final: France.
U20 Women’s Division
USA Win Gold as they Survive Thrilling Late-Game Run
In what proved to be their narrowest win of the tournament, the US National Team survived a late run from France to take home gold in a 14-12 win to complete their spotless 9-0 performance at WJUC.
Though the final score was that of a closely fought game, the majority of the championship was anything but. The first point of the game was an extended affair as the US O-line committed five turnovers and the French D-line committed four. On their fifth chance at the break the French took a timeout and then executed a clinical end zone set; Salomé Raulet ultimately tossed to Camille Blanc sprinting across the front of the end zone and France broke to go up 1-0. The US looked to steady themselves on the next point, but were shocked again as Blanc absolutely flew to intercept the US’s centering pass with a layout block. On the ensuing French possession, another layout from Blanc landed out of bounds and the US had the disc back; Bella Russell hucked to a skying Harper Baer and then Chagall Gelfand found Lauren Goddu for the USA hold.
At 3-3 the teams traded turns, each just slightly missing throws in the rainy conditions, until Mia Beeman-Weber threw a pretty high-release backhand to Baer up the line — the US broke to pull the game back on serve at 4-3.
From there the USA D-line did what they’d done so well all tournament and ramped up the pressure, breaking twice more to bring the game to 6-3; Gelfand found Sydney Mannion in the back corner of the end zone with an awesome high-release backhand around stall 8 for the break. The teams traded holds and then the USA broke to take half 8-4—giving the French the unenviable task of coming back against an extremely talented American team.
The French held cleanly out of half in an important moment in their efforts to steady the ship. They worked the disc downfield in clinical fashion through their vertical stack offense and Perrine Bertaudeau laid out to save a disc and score in the back corner of the end zone; 8-5. Having found their offensive footing a little bit more, the French traded holds with the USA to 11-7, but the needed breaks still remained elusive to their D-line. Abbie Davis got a huge layout block on the next point, and then again laid out — this time to score on an overthrown up line — and the USA broke to go up 12-7. The teams traded holds to 13-8, and the French seemed on the ropes.
It’s worth noting however, that the French had reason to be optimistic; their D-line had succeeded in bringing incredible pressure against the vaunted US O-line, and they’d had 11 chances at breaks but only been able to convert one of them. The French got a crucial hold at 13-8 after another point mired by turnovers when Blanche Bardin got open to the front cone. Then, the French D-line started to convert. Lyla Petitbon intercepted a USA huck and then Camille Blanc threw deep to Perrine Bertaudeau for a French break. On the next point, Bertaudeau hand blocked a huck attempt to set up a short field. Out of a timeout, the French ran a small-ball set into the end zone and Salomé Raulet lofted a high-release backhand all the way across the end zone to find Margot Nissen open. The teams then traded hand blocks but the USA dropped a wet disc in the rain. Nissen threw a beautiful backhand to Swann Lacoste-Lefevre and, miraculously, the French had closed the gap to one at 13-12. It would be too little, too late for the French. On the next point, the teams exchanged turnovers before Rachel Chang muscled a picturesque flick blade to Chloe Hakimi to take home the gold.
Camille Blanc and Margot Nissen each threw three assists and scored one goal for the French, turning in impressive efforts. Nissen, especially, was crucial down the stretch—playing both ways and scoring or assisting on France’s final two breaks to bring them within one. Chloe Hakimi had perhaps her best game of the tournament for the USA,1 throwing three assists and scoring two goals, including the game winner, as she served as the stabilizing presence for the USA O-line. Chagall Gelfand, as well, threw four assists for the USA; the US’s big thrower for the D-line off the turn, Gelfand also crossed to the O-line whenever her team needed a hold the most, and more often than not delivered.
In their post game interview, the US captains Acacia Hahn, Elise Freedman, and Harper Baer spoke about their feelings on the win. Hahn smiled as she said the win was one of her “greatest honors,” not only to take home a gold medal but also “to represent (her) country.” Freedman’s eyes shone as she spoke of the pride she felt in her team for finding “trust,” in each other and becoming a “family,” at the tournament. Baer also emphasized the trust she’d found in her teammates, knowing that even as the game got close down the stretch, she felt “no doubt in her teammates,” and knew they’d be able to “get the job done.”
With “love, trust, and grit,” the USA took home the gold, and if their tournament performance shows anything, it’s that the future of ultimate in the US is in excellent hands.
U20 Open Division
Defensive Excellence Carries US to Win in Electrifying Final
Despite their early stumbles, the USA took home gold in a 15-11 win over France with awesome performances from both teams.
On the first point of the game, the US dropped the disc on an under, got it back, and then dropped the disc again on a swing. France weren’t going to let a second break chance go by, as Malvin Schmidt got open up the line to receive from Hugo Herbin and France broke to open 1-0. 1-0 isn’t a big deficit by any stretch, but that point was the first time all tournament that the US had given up the disc on simple execution errors. Maybe it was the increasingly windy conditions or maybe it was nerves, but France had the momentum early. The French came zone again and this time the US made no mistakes; they worked the disc downfield in clinical zone offense; Tobias Brooks flipped it to Felix Moren for the US hold 1-1. Both O-lines traded holds to 5-5 from there.
The French embodied their offensive system with excellence; never looking hurried, they broke the US marks at will as they moved down the field again and again. The US were patient and composed against the French zone defense, avoiding the simple errors that had plagued them on the first point. At 5-5, Declan Kervick delivered the play of the game. Everett Saunders pulled deep into French territory to pin them at the back of their end zone. The French handlers broke the mark to hit an under and Kervick laid out past the intended receiver, catching the disc and landing in the end zone for the Callahan. Just like that, the game was back on serve and the US had retaken the momentum.
The US broke again on the next point, as Kervick dropped a dime of a flick huck to Brooks streaking deep into the end zone, then on the next to take half — Erica Brown flew for a lay out block and Louis Douville Beaudoin found Will O’Brien with a crossfield flick — and then once more out of half, with Kervick throwing another beautiful flick huck and O’Brien ran it down for 9-5. The French finally responded with a hold as Melvyn Brichet caught a tipped high-release backhand to stop the bleeding.
On the next point, a USA look up the line landed between two downfield cutters as neither made a move for the disc, and France had the chance to get a break back. France took a timeout and then broke the mark up the line into the end zone before a controversial discussion happened; Malvin Schmidt skied for a grab out of bounds, then claimed he was fouled on his greatest attempt. The disc was sent back and Schmidt played give-and-go, eventually breaking the mark on a nice around to Quentin Peschard to make it 9-7.
The French came down on the next point, once again in their zone, as the rain began to pour from the sky. The US O-line responded excellently, finding a blade over the top to force a transition and then Declan Miller beat his defender up the line for the hold. The hold kept the US O-line’s tournament-long trend of not being broken twice in a row alive, reinforcing just how excellent they were, even in response to pressure.
With the intensity of the weather and the game mounting, the teams exchanged holds to 14-11. Schmidt remained impressive, often going every other as he marched the French O-line down the field against a disciplined and hungry American defensive scheme. The US O-line continued to impress with a wealth of talented throwers as they moved through the French zone defense. Declan Miller came alive, beating his defender all over the field as he scored four straight goals for the USA and then threw a fifth. His assist, a quick flip to Nanda Min-Fink in the end zone, put the US up 14-11 — only needing one more to win.
The US pulled deep and eventually the rain-slicked disc slipped out of a French player’s hand as he went to throw a forehand, giving the USA the disc around the brick mark with the chance to break for the win. They floated a look up the line and Ismael Voirnesson skied to earn France the disc back. France worked it to the end zone but on a throw down the sideline, Declan Kervick poached to intercept it back. The US turned it again, as Melvyn Brichet dove for a layout block to tip a disc past the US cutter, but France threw the disc too far and a bidding receiver couldn’t haul it in. The US dropped an under but, again, the wet disc slipped on a French throw and the US had it back. This time the US made it stick, Tobias Brooks got open up the line, flipped it to Kervick, and USA won the game for gold.
Malvin Schmidt played excellently in the loss, slicing through the US defense for three assists and two goals. Especially early in the game, the US had no defensive answer for Schmidt as he broke marks and got open up the line to throw two and score two of France’s first five goals. Melvyn Brichet (1 assist, 2 goals), Mathéo Coutinho (3 goals), Arthur Herbreteau (3 assists), and Kaïs Mathe (3 assists) all also turned in big games for France as they played their stars heavy minutes.
For the Americans, Tobias Brooks had his best game of the tournament, scoring three goals and throwing three assists; he was effective all over the field, and made several massive athletic plays. Declan Miller had his aforementioned four goals and one assist in one of the most impressive stretches of the tournament as he iced France’s hopes of a comeback. Declan Kervick also continued his run as the D-line’s big thrower off the turn, turning in two assists on picturesque flick hucks and two goals, one a layout Callahan for the US’s first break and one the game winner.
In their post-game interviews, the US team spoke of how impressed they were with France and how much they appreciated the bonds their team had built. Declan Miller emphasized the US focus on “playing for each other,” especially in intense games like the final, while Josh Singleton, riding a bit of an adrenaline high, said the French were a “hell of a team,” that he would absolutely love “to play again right now.” Both captains then spoke of the “community,” their team had built, describing the love they felt their team had for each other as an aspect of the tournament they were most proud of, before pretty much sprinting away from the interview to rejoin their team in celebration.
Though she was also spectacular in the semi against Canada. ↩