National Championships 2023: BFG Best Red Flag, Advance to Semifinal (Mixed Quarterfinal Recap)

Seattle reaches their third TCT semifinal of the year

Seattle BFG’s Cheryl Hsu dives to save possession against Vancouver Red Flag during the quarterfinals of the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Jeff Bell –

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In an all-Northwest quarterfinal, Seattle BFG rode their zone defense and ruthless D-line offensive consistency to a 15-8 victory over Vancouver Red Flag.

Like they had earlier this morning against Seattle Mixtape, Red Flag came into the game bursting with energy and excited to still be playing ultimate together. “Something that we were really focused on today was just keeping our vibes good and our energy high,” Red Flag captain Mika Kurahashi said after the game. “And I think that was something that we felt like we accomplished.”

BFG quickly quieted their boisterous sideline with the game’s opening break. A four-person cup took Red Flag out of their pull play and stifled the deep looks that had been so effective in knocking off Mixtape.

“We tend to be a team that beats the zone with our throws, our over-the-tops, things like that,” Kurahashi said. “And when we have the wind coming in and making those throws more challenging, I think it’s something that we weren’t super prepared for.”

From the BFG side, their defensive game plan was the result of hours of work from their strategy committee. They came prepared for this matchup and executed their strategy well. “We don’t try to test things out,” BFG captain Kaitlynne Roling said. “We try to scout and see what’s working against the teams we’re gonna play against. And then we do it.”

With Conor Belfield patrolling the deep space, Red Flag were forced to work in small spaces. Linh Hoang, AnnaMaria Pape, and Alissa Soo took turns stepping up to contest small ball movement, and Red Flag were forced to move backwards or throw some funky over the top looks. Gagan Chatha and William Vu hit their fair share of high releases and scoobers, but Conor Belfield and Reid Koss shut down a lot of those options. Belfield finished with six blocks.

He also had two goals and an assist, highlighting the effectiveness of BFG’s counterattack offense. Belfield, Roling, and Sam Pickel kept the disc moving for the “doffense” as BFG call it and Red Flag had trouble slowing down their quick disc movement. BFG built a 3-1 lead before they threw a turnover. 

“We know that in these games, people aren’t gonna give it to us,” Roling said. “So once we get a D, or there’s a turn, we have to punch it in. It’s not like we get to take a couple different throws, or there’s a couple turns. Like no, that’s not the caliber of the teams here. So we get a turn, we get a D, that is our chance to score and that those are the points that matter.”

BFG also displayed their mental toughness. When Red Flag earned a break to bring the game level at 3-3, Seattle answered right back with a three goal run of their own to put the game away for good, punctuated by Roling’s layout catch on an overthrown pass in the end zone. BFG took half up 8-5. 

Roling Layout

The second half featured more of the same from both teams. Red Flag looked for opportunities to stretch the field and let their athletes make plays, but BFG were able to slow down those looks and played a style of offense that kept possession more effectively than Vancouver’s. For every Justin Podnar sky, there was a Belfield block in the deep space. For every well timed Mika Kurahashi under, there was another erased Alissa Soo shut down the open side lane. 

While their defense was locking down Red Flag’s preferred movement, BFG’s offense barely stumbled. The handler trio of Cheryl Hsu, Jeff Pape, and Derek Mourad moved the disc wherever they wanted. Tommy Li and Kimberly Schlesinger had their way downfield, even with tough matchups shadowing their every move. BFG’s O-line had just two turnovers in the entire second half; they were both on the first point after halftime and BFG ended up scoring on the point. With the offensive effectiveness to close out a game, and the defensive intensity and versatility to keep the margin from getting close at all, BFG ran away in the second half, winning by seven goals.

Though they were not able to keep this quarterfinal competitive, Red Flag can be proud to have made it this far. Their upset over Seattle Mixtape represents a major milestone in program history, and the quarterfinal is the farthest they’ve reached in USA Ultimate competition. 

Aside from the historic result, Red Flag are also taking some lessons back to Vancouver from their time at Nationals. “Something for us that I think we can take away and learn is just some of these teams really do the little things right,” Kurahashi said. “Things like making resets really challenging, wrapping on the mark early, those little details made a big difference, especially in those first couple pool play games. We weren’t super prepared for how difficult it was going to be to reset the disc. So I think just going forward, making sure that we’re putting in the work to just get those little things right.” 

BFG have more time to sweat the small stuff because they will face Fort Collins shame. in Saturday’s semifinal. Their last meeting was a 12-7 victory at 2022 Pro-Elite Challenge, but the stakes will be significantly different this time. shame. are the top seeded team at this tournament and have played like it, easing through pool play before dispatching Philadelphia AMP in their own quarterfinal. With both BFG and shame. playing their best in the most important moments, it is sure to showcase compelling action.

  1. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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