A brilliant game between the two best teams in Europe!
August 25, 2023 by Sean Colfer in Recap with 0 comments
The two big warm up tournaments this season were, as usual, Tom’s Tourney in Belgium and Windmill in the Netherlands. Germany won Windmill with an impressive, unbeaten performance. Great Britain won Tom’s in something of a surprise, beating reigning European club champions BFD Shout (Bologna) in the final. GB played another warm up at London Invite and lost to Australia’s under-24 team and YAKA (Noisy-le-Sec), giving rise to some doubts about them coming into EUC. Germany, on the other hand, were seen as strong favorites. Both teams came into the game unbeaten, with GB beating Italy in a classic, universe point semi-final whereas Germany beat the Czech Republic with reasonable ease. German star Anna Gerner was injured and would not be playing in the game, with the Germans looking for their first title since 2011 and GB for their first ever. Everything was set up beautifully, and the teams delivered in style.
An even start
Germany, having lost Gerner earlier in the tournament to a knee injury, had reworked their offense to feature young star Charlotte Schall in a prominent role, supported by plenty of other experience including longtime star handler Kyoko Binnewies. The two connected and Schall opened up the break side as Germany made progress down the field. The progress was halted when star GB defender Leila Denniston got a perfectly timed layout block on the sideline. A dump miscommunication led to an early GB turn, though, and Germany scored thanks to a layout from Lena von Stebut after she ran straight past the poaching Molly Wedge.
GB scored cleanly, using the break side well until captain Hannah Brew shot deep for Abi Cohman in the endzone. They got another chance on the next point after another German turnover, Schall shooting to the endzone but von Stebut’s layout not quite enough to reel in the score. The D line offense was starting slow, though, and another first pass turn gave Germany the disc back. They scored quickly thanks to an inside flick from Schall and despite heavy contact on the catch. 2-1 Germany.
The game continued in the same pattern. GB scored another clean hold, young lefty handler Hannah Yorweth popping a high release backhand over the mark for Rachel Naden, and Germany held despite turning the disc over. GB managed more passes this time, but Schall shot for the endzone and Vera Forsch secured the goal.
GB’s O line couldn’t stay perfect forever, though. A point with four turns gave Germany’s defense a couple of chances but throws drifted just too far for them to execute the break. A layout catch from Laura Van Krieken secured the point for GB, and the game continued on serve.
The rest of the first half, in fact, continued on serve. Both teams had chances and most points in the early part of the game featured turns as both teams got to grips with both the conditions and the pressure that the opposition was putting on them. Up to 5-5, GB’s first two offense points were the only clean holds at all.
From there, though, things tightened up despite the continuing pressure. Germany’s first clean hold was a slick, fast-paced point with discs moving through tightly marked players due to the quality of the movement and the pinpoint throws. Binnewies, in particular, was influential and eventually caught the goal. GB had been finding success with the deep game and responded with a Hannah Brew strike to Avril Hunter, one of Brew’s three assists in the game. GB tried a zone, but Germany’s ability to cycle the disc quickly and attack space near the disc to allow that movement to continue swiftly meant the D was largely ineffective. Germany did likewise but GB dealt with it in their own way; a great blade over the top of the zone from Brew caused a scramble to match and GB scored soon afterwards.
GB called a timeout to set a line for the galaxy point. Yorweth, Hunter and Naden all came over from offense but Germany scored efficiently with Schall dropping a shoulder to find plenty of space on the front cone for the score.
An early break
The entertaining first half was very much the appetiser, with the teams trading throughout but no serious blows landed. That changed quickly in the second, when GB held thanks to a great catch from Yorweth and sent out a D line at 8-8.
An miscommunication on the centering pass gave GB a short field inside the German brick mark. Ruth Cawdron broke the mark to Amy van Zyl, who flighted a high release backhand over her mark to Emma Klima for the first break of the game. GB knew the significance of the moment and stormed the field. They kept largely the same line out, and had another chance to break after a huck drifted too far. It seemed GB were getting on top, but Schall sped through and swatted the disc away from Molly Wedge with perfect timing to get it back. Germany were patient and forced into a lot of passes to score, but eventually a beautifully placed inside backhand from Fenja Gewitsch put it on a plate for Lena von Stebut to score.
The game shifted again. A drop by GB on the next point gave Germany’s D line its first opportunity to get the break back. More patient work got them to the endzone and an inside flick from Inga Narjes was aimed towards Anna Schepper. Schepper laid out but couldn’t reach it, and the disc hit Yorwrth in both hands as she reacted sharply to try and block it. It bounced up, though, and landed right in Marlene Müller’s lap for the break. Germany’s turn to storm the field, back on serve at 10-9.
Germany kept the roll going with another clean break next time out. Schall came across to play D and after a reset drifted too far towards the stack and was knocked away, Germany moved it quickly to the endzone and patiently waited for an opening until Müller again caught a break, this time putting her team up 11-9.
Set up for the big moment
GB called a timeout and both teams took a break. Germany, and their sideline, were hyped. They were unbeaten all tournament and momentum was firmly with them as GB struggled to stop their fluid disc movement. Under intense Germany match pressure, GB held with several D line players coming over to help out. Denniston found Nat Oldfield to get GB back on track.
The game went back to the pattern at the end of the first half. Clean hold followed clean hold until 13-12 Germany. Both teams were playing great O but were also indebted to some amazing plays: in the stretch of only a few points Binnewies made a brilliant trailing edge grab above her head, Schall threw a sensational leading break for a goal and laid out to save possession, Yorweth reached all the way forward to snatch a catch away from her defender and start a fast break that led to a score and Naden boomed a same third flick down the sideline to set up a GB score.
With 25 points gone, there was still more than 17 minutes left of the game. The pace had been torrid, with both teams executing at an extremely high level and relatively few protracted calls considering the magnitude of the game. Yorweth stayed out for a D point and showed exactly why with a run through block on Binnewies on the third pass. GB broke quickly, reached the endzone and played their own patient offense until Denniston found Wedge with an inside break to put the game back on serve, 13-13.
The game was now guaranteed to go to 15 with the time left, so there were three points left to find the winner. Both teams kept similar lines out with matchups repeated. Germany ground out some tough offense under smothering pressure from GB’s match D until Schall spotted Verena Woloson deep with some room. The backhand to find her was a thing of beauty, taking the poaching Yorweth out of the play entirely and allowing Woloson to catch despite the close attention of Kate Gibson. 14-13 Germany.
GB needed a hold to send the game to universe. Germany came out with their own tight match D, both teams long since having abandoned zone looks. A miscommunication on a D led to an early turn, though, and Germany had a shot to win the game. It was a straight D line on the field for the Germans, the O line stars all saved for a potential universe point, and they did what they’d been doing all tournament: executed perfectly to lead their team to huge wins. A great layout catch from Narjes kept possession, a delicate offhand break from Müller set up the winning pass and Mona Schäck continued down the break side to find Anna Schepper for the win, 15-13.
It had been an excellent game where both teams played at their very peak. Germany completed an unbeaten tournament to follow up their unbeaten Windmill win, a perfect season for a deep, talented and mentally tough team. Schall and Binnewies were both excellent, of course, but no one on the team played poorly. Müller popping up with two crucial breaks was vital, and Narjes did a great job marshalling the D line.
GB came out with the loss but also played brilliantly. Yorweth had the kind of game that makes a player a superstar, while Kate Gibson, Denniston and Cawdron were reliably crucial to the D line.
“We won as a team, I really enjoyed this week with all these really good players,” said Schall after the game. “I believed the whole time that we would win this match because [we won] the last game we played against GB. The whole tournament we had a really good attitude and power and I was sure that we would have this power again in this game. We had also calm in the O line, it wasn’t a different game for us. It was good to play Windmill for us because there was also a big crowd and we had with this team before that kind of pressure.”
So the favorites won, but they had a bumpy road to get there. There can be no greater example of the depth of German women’s ultimate than their performance as a squad in Limerick, and they return to Germany with gold medals to show for it. For Kyoko Binnewies, the only player to win gold at this tournament having done so before1, this might represent a glorious swansong. For many of the other players on this team, this might only be the beginning.
She was part of the winning squad in 2011. ↩