One division is finished with the first stage, while the we had our first big upset in another!
July 17, 2023 by Sean Colfer in Recap with 0 comments
Today was the first full day of the European Ultimate Championships after three games yesterday. The weather conditions were far less difficult than they were for the teams that started yesterday, when gale force winds and torrential rain made for very unpleasant playing conditions. Today it was still breezy (spoiler alert: that’s going to be the case all week) but the rain was very minor and it was mostly quite sunny.
Despite the fact we are only at the end of the first full day, the first pool stage is now complete. Teams will proceed to a second pool stage, from which they will proceed to power pools. Germany, France and Great Britain, three of the teams that most saw as among the favorites, are all unbeaten after the first stage. The Czech team, though, has a defeat after losing 15-11 to the Netherlands. The Dutch then followed that up with a 15-14 loss to Switzerland after leading 14-12. That meant a three-way tie in the pool, which the Dutch won. They go to a pool also featuring Switzerland, so while they are the top seed in the first pool they carry through a loss and start off on the back foot in the second stage.
Germany was the hot favorite coming in and has won both games, but were pushed hard by Sweden in the first game. Germany’s stars were brilliant – Anna Gerner and Charlotte Schall both had four assists and three goals – but it was Sarah Eklund who made the biggest impact with five assists and four goals. The Swedes have a short roster but it is also a very talented one with plenty of experience of playing at a high level. They might struggle to continue this level as the tournament goes on, but they’re good enough to match up with anyone if their legs hold out.
Great Britain have been dominant so far. A 15-11 win over Ireland in the second show game yesterday was followed up with a 15-8 win over Austria and a statement 15-5 win over Belgium, the second seed in the pool and previously undefeated. GB had one break when Belgium scored to pull within a point at 4-3. GB went 11-2 from there, with a run of six points broken up by half. They played well at Tom’s but faltered slightly at London Invite. It looks as though lessons learned there have benefitted the team significantly.
Rachel Naden, one of the captains for the GB team, said following the Belgium win: “We’re ecstatic with the result. It was always going to be a bit tough coming in with these conditions but I think we’ve really settled into it. We have a bin and we get players to write what they want to put in the bin on a disc, then we throw it in there. Throwing away the uncontrollables has really helped us.”
“We haven’t really broken the week down into stages, we’re just going game by game, point by point,” added the other captain, Hannah Brew. “That’s our mantra and our focus. Nothing changes for us, we just go into each game with the plan for that game. We are very internally focused quite purposefully, we’re not responding too much to external factors. We’re just thinking about us and what we need to do.”
In the second pool they will face Sweden, a match that promises fireworks.
As discussed in the preview, there are four contenders in mixed. Unsurprisingly, three of the undefeated teams are among that elite group and the only one of the group that isn’t undefeated, Ireland, lost to another contender. The game against Germany opened the tournament and was a thriller despite, and this cannot be overstated, absolute disgusting conditions at some points in the game. Strong winds, torrential rain and some patches of standing water were the obstacles the players battled with while producing great entertainment. Ireland were up 11-7 when Áine Gilheany found Conor Hogan on the front cone but Hogan tweaked a hamstring in extending for the catch and was out for the rest of the game. His status for the rest of the tournament is questionable. Irish captain Gráinne McCarthy said that losing Hogan and some other players knocked the team’s mentality more than they had expected, and the effect was immediate as Hogan had been one of the team’s most reliable throwers in the wind. Germany went on a five-point run to wrestle control of the tie, and the teams traded out from there for a 14-13 Germany win. Both had comfortable wins in their games today.
Great Britain looked impressive in defeating a good Italy team. They took half 8-3 and played about as well as you could wish to on such a stage, playing clean offense and coming up with blocks and exerting huge pressure to cause some Italian miscues. Italy came back into it in the second half as GB had a couple of slips, but the 15-9 win it bodes well for the British team as they look to retain the title. GB play Latvia tomorrow, who lost to Italy 15-12 earlier today. The French are also undefeated and look to be in intimidating form. They beat Finland 15-0 in their first game, finishing the Finns off in less than an hour. They followed it up with a 15-3 win over Denmark. Neither Scandinavian team is expected to compete for quarters, but the French also made quite a statement today. They play Slovakia, who lost to Finland, tomorrow.
The other pool, pool C, looked to be the most even. Switzerland have come out of the day with two losses but the other three teams look well-matched. Austria, though, seems to be the class of the group with two wins so far including a come-from-behind win against Poland. Lithuania are 1-1 after losing a remarkable game to Poland where there were no breaks at all, with the teams trading every single point1. Michał Rudy’s eight assists or Krzysztof Zając’s six goals and one assist look like gaudy stat lines until you see that of Ernestas Vysockis: six goals and five assists, accounting for 11 of their 14 overall scores. Austria meet Lithuania in the morning.
We’ll start with the only real upset of the day. Pool C appeared to have Italy as favorite to win, but Spain showed just how good and how resilient this group is today. In their first game, they beat Israel on universe point coming out on D. They repeated the trick against the Italians as well, after leading by two late in the game and giving a three-point run up to seemingly cede control of the contest. They forced a bad huck on universe point, though, and found Walter Lopez in the back corner of the endzone with a pinpoint throw to send their sideline into raptures. They play quickly with the disc and seem to have the ability to challenge teams with both zone and match defensive looks. They could be a tough matchup in quarters if they can keep this up. They play Ireland tomorrow, who are 1-1, and an Ireland win will cause a three-way tie and could make things quite messy. The home team will be hoping to do just that.
Spain player Nil Dalmau explained how happy his team were after the win over Italy: “It was an intense game, a hell of an intense game. We were expecting this to be the main game of the pool, I think we struggled a little bit in the first game against Israel and we wanted to put the pressure on. We started strong with a lot of breaks but then we also didn’t quite capitalize on some turns and we gave Italy the chance to come up, come up.
“We were up, we had the chance to get to 10-5 so we had quite a lead but we didn’t capitalize and then in the second half we had some mistakes, just on the first pass, and Italy took the lead. They were hyped.”
Spain has traditionally been seen as a beach powerhouse but, outside of good results here and there with club teams, has not made a significant impact on grass up to this point. The open team, alongside the women’s team that is also here, is looking to change that perception.
“Spain is kind of an underdog, nobody knows us and nobody knows any of our players but we know ourselves,” said Dalmau. “We wanted to get first in the pool and we are aiming for quarterfinals, we are aiming to try for semifinals but if we play against one of the best teams and we put on a match like this, one that can go either way, we will be happy with that. We really want to say hello to Europe, we are here, we have been playing a lot and we are not only beach. We can play on grass too.”
Great Britain, Germany and Belgium are all undefeated after day one. The Czechs gave the Germans a scare by going ahead 8-9 just after half, but Germany had a great run near the end of the game and ran out 15-11 winners. GB had 15-10 wins over both Austria and France, while Belgium played only one game and win 15-5 over the Swiss. We haven’t seen the contenders have to take too many punches so far. With only one round of the pools left, we’ll be moving to power pools next. Things promise to get much tighter from there.
Although that doesn’t necessarily mean it was clean, there was a point that took nearly 15 minutes. ↩