A brand-new European champion and two familiar winners!
October 8, 2023 by Sean Colfer in Recap with 0 comments
BFD Shout reign supreme
The women from Bologna are making quite a habit of this. Shout took home another EUCF crown to add to their collection, making it four in five championships1 after making semis for three years in a row before breaking through with their first title.
This tournament didn’t start ideally for the Italians. They lost a first-game stunner to box (Vienna), with the Austrians breaking on universe point to secure a famous win. Shout recovered from there, though, dominating Spice (Nottingham) 15-2 and beating Iceni (London) 15-12 to top the pool.
A tight quarter against the newcomers of the year Mooncup (Brussels) ended 13-10. The wind severely affected both teams, leading to a turnover-heavy game, but Shout’s mental resilience came to the fore again as they climbed out of an early 2-4 hole and maintained composure despite a late Moon fightback. That put them into yet another semi-final, where they faced the only team to have beaten them in bracket play since 2018: YAKA (Noisy-le-Sec).
Shout took the advantage in the first half, taking two breaks to YAKA’s one. A third break for 10-7 put Shout firmly on top and they rounded out a 14-10 win to reach a sixth final in a row, this time against jinX (Berlin). The Italians set their stall out early with a first-point break and never let up the pressure. Four more first half breaks put the half-time score at 8-3, and despite jinX breaking out of half, Shout’s response of three consecutive breaks after a hold iced the game. A 15-7 win, punctuated by a fabulous layout catch for Susanna Casarini for the final score, sent Shout back to Bologna in a familiar position; at the top of Europe.
Casarini is one of the next generation of Italian stars coming through Shout’s system as players like Laura Farolfi retire, alongside offensive centrepiece Elena Benghi and young players like Margherita Giovannini, Erica Marchesini, Nicole Baiocchi, Costanza Venturi and Elisa Cappucci. Their present is still strong, with stalwarts like Anna Ceschi and Francesca Sorrenti as good as ever, but the future looks assured as well. Having the kind of draw to bring in additions like Latvian star Lasma Kublicka, Slovakian D machine Martina Kmecova and German wunderkind Charlotte Schall doesn’t hurt either.
Sorrenti said after the game: “It feels very, very good. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster because it was a rough start but we really improved a lot together. This year has been a bit of turnover, we had new players that are very talented and I think we needed to mingle a bit more. I think that each of us is really talented and wanted to do well so it has been amazing.”
Deep Space ruin GRUT’s going-away party
Deep Space (London) won their first-ever national title this summer, defeating Leamington Lemmings (Leamington) 12-7 in the final after beating Reading 12-8 in the semi-final. It had been several years coming for the group from London after they had reached several semis and the final once before without getting over the hump. Changes to the leadership and the squad this season gave them extra impetus, with GB women’s breakout star Hannah Yorweth now central to the defensive line and former Clapham player Axel Ahmala playing alongside existing stars like Leila Denniston on the O line.
The team finished fourth at the Elite Invite without Ahmala and looked likely to challenge in Wroclaw, with a semis spot widely expected. They went one further thanks to a 15-10 win over French upstarts Manchots (Le Mans) in the semi, sealed with a 4-1 run at the end of the game after the Londoners had broken early to get their noses in front. Ahmala was key to the win with three goals and three assists, his size, athleticism and throwing ability a deadly combination for every other team that Deep Space came up against.
The team had won 15-13 twice at EUCF, so had come through tight games2. Their opponents in the final, reigning two-time champions GRUT (Amsterdam), beat Manchots 15-12 in their closest game but had come through their semi 15-10 against Reading. Despite not having Ben Oort, the team looked in imposing form with Tom Blasman in particular filling the stat sheet, throwing 16 assists and catching 14 goals, while Floor Keulartz matched the goals tally. This is GRUT’s last season (for now) in the mixed division, with the players branching out into open and women’s next year.
Deep Space started with a break to go 2-0 up, something of a surprise as GRUT were clearly favorites for most observers going into the contest. GRUT took the break back in fairly short order and the teams traded for the rest of the half until 6-6. The 13th point of the game was a slog, with three turns apiece. Eventually Ahmala found Alvaro Iturmendi for the Deep Space score, pushing them ahead. There were even more turns on the next point, seven, and this one ended with the third break of the game as Duncan Rowe caught the goal to send Deep Space into half with an advantage.
Those points set the tone for the first out of half. Another drag-out battle saw Space break again, Max Squires throwing his second assist in two points to take a 9-6 lead. Three points in a row for Space spread over more than 20 minutes of game time put GRUT all the way on the back foot.
GRUT started loading up D lines. After holding for 8-10 they scored two breaks in a row, bringing the game back on serve and ratcheting up the pressure. Both teams duly held all the way through the time cap to bring up a universe point to decide the European champion.
Both teams had a phenomenal block in their own endzone. First Walt Janssen showed wonderful body control to snatch the disc away from Denniston on a huck, and then Iturmendi went up over Jakob Dunshirn to snatch another huck away. Deep Space worked down the break sideline with Yorweth going horizontal to save possession, before Elliot Cook spotted Ahmala with space in the far back corner. His crossfield flick was uncoverable, Ahmala clap caught it and Deep Space added another trophy to the cabinet. They later added the mixed spirit prize as well.
After the game Ahmala spoke to the broadcast and said: “It’s an amazing feeling, this team has been grinding so hard. When I came to Space I don’t think we had aspirations to win this year but the grind has been serious every single week. The whole team has come in and put in the effort and that journey has led to this. It’s not just today.”
Clapham take back the throne
To misquote Mark Twain, reports of Clapham’s demise were, it seems, greatly exaggerated. The Londoners’ reign as UK champions came to an end this season, but the run of European finals was extended to 11. Those finals have yielded eight wins and three silvers and have exposed several generations of Clapham players to the game on this side of the Atlantic at the highest possible level. While this season has at times been difficult, every person at the event would have agreed beforehand that this team still had the ability to win.
In truth, no one tested the Bullfrogs. Bad Skid (Heilbronn) and Gentle (Ghent) both hung around pretty well and pushed them at points in falling to 15-12 losses3 but Clapham never looked truly in trouble. Against Bad Skid they were down 5-3 before going on a run, and that was the latest in a game they trailed all weekend.
The final against Mooncatchers (Brussels) was a much-anticipated match, with the Belgians winning at Elite Invite in dominant fashion4 and Clapham returning the favor at Windmill with a much closer 15-14 victory.
Moon had played BFD La Fotta (Bologna) in an astonishing semi-final on Saturday, the game featuring dozens of highlight-reel plays and providing probably the best entertainment of the whole event. They have been the team to beat all year and had won every tournament they had entered in 2023 – Tom’s Tourney, Windmill and Elite Invite all in the bag. Alongside their club exploits, many of the best players on the team won gold at EUC for Belgium and in some cases silver at World Under-24s. Daan De Marrée has been the best player in Europe all year but Ben Jonkers, Sofiene Bontemps and the rest of this crew have been close to perfect all year.
Clapham put the hammer down early. A hold for each team was followed with three Clapham breaks, and they notched two more to close out the half. Clapham’s D line scored five breaks while Moon scored only three points at all.
Moon looked like they could stage a comeback like they had in the semi with a break out of half, but things didn’t improve from there. The teams traded to 11-6 and Clapham went on a 4-1 run to close out a dominant win. Clapham turned seven times in the whole game, only three times on O, while Moon turned 14 times. De Marrée, Bontemps and Arvids Orlovskis all did well on the stat sheet, but the team as a whole struggled to contain Clapham. Connor McHale had four goals, four assists and a block on his return from playing with Chicago Machine in the USA, while Will Rowledge caught three scores and Andy Hillman threw three assists.
Hillman said after the game: “I think we’ve had a challenging season so we knew that finishing it the right way was going to be a really big thing for us. It’s a fantastic feeling and one of my most enjoyable tournaments with the team, particularly because we had the disappointment at nationals and you have that process of trying to bounce back and trying to use those disappointments to make you stronger.”
McHale agreed that the journey had been difficult: “We’re really fortunate playing for Clapham… that we always come into tournaments and games as favorites. It’s pressure but it’s a different kind of pressure of knowing that if we perform our best we will come out on top. This year it’s felt like that’s lacked a little bit at times. Moon beat us 15-3 earlier in the year at [Elite] Invite, albeit we had a short team, but still that’s an incredible performance from a top class team, and then they went and won Windmill. Coming into this game it just felt very different and we knew after that nationals loss that we had a lot of work to do to regain this title from Ranelagh. I’ve been fortunate enough to go [and play] elsewhere but I know the boys have been at home for the last four weeks just grinding and working so hard, knowing that if we come out and use that and play our best we’ll get it back. I really think that’s shown at this tournament.”
A good tournament for the top dogs
In every event the semis very closely match those at the Elite Invite, with every medalist also reaching the top four in Bern earlier this season. There was a new addition in each, with Troubles (Warsaw) the biggest surprise package as they took down the much more fancied East Block (East Bohemia) and Gravity (Dublin) in the women’s division with a brilliant performance5. Gentle reached the top four again having finished third in Bruges in 2021, while Manchots came from 8-11 down to win against DISConnection (Freiburg) to win 14-13 in their quarter.
The open division showed the strength of the top two nations in Europe at the moment. Three teams from Great Britain – Clapham, UK national champions Chevron (Nuneaton) and Scottish team Alba (Edinburgh) – and three teams from Belgium – Mooncatchers, Gentle and JetSet (Leuven) – made quarters, with La Fotta and spirit winners Wall City (Berlin) making up the numbers. The women’s division, on the other hand, was very different showing the parity we saw reflected at EUC; each of the top nine teams were from a different country. Mixed had four teams from GB in the top nine, showing the depth in the division in the west, with Germany at two the only other country with more than one team in the top ten.
While the best teams featured strong units and more than a handful of stars per line, there were some standouts further down the draw. Jakob Tamm had a scarcely believable 20 assists and 29 goals in seven games for Estonians Tartu Turbulence in the mixed division while his teammate and longtime leader for Estonian ultimate Kristjan Loorits had 23 assists and 9 goals. Mateusz Gibki had 30 assists for 15th-placed Savage Ultimate from Poland in mixed, a total matched by Declan Miller for KFK (Copenhagen) in open. Nico Muller and Stefan Döscher filled the sheet for Bad Skid again, as did Tobe Decraene for Gentle.
Breakout star Nicole Lafiata topped the women’s board with 18 assists and 14 goals for Tequila Boom Boom (Rimini), but Mooncup featured strongly with Eva Bornot scoring 15 assists and 10 goals and 16-year-old Maïwenn Le Duc scoring 21 goals. Monika Zaczkowska and Johanna Roy were outstanding for Troubles and box, respectively.
Winners in 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023. There was no EUCF in 2020 for obvious reasons. ↩
Both times in pool play, one against Tartu Turbulence (Tartu) where they broke to win, and one against Monkey (Grenoble) where they held to win. ↩
Bad Skid in the pool, Gentle in the semi-final. ↩
15-3 with many of Clapham’s players not available. ↩
And also won spirit! ↩