2023 WFDF Pan-American Ultimate Championships: Notes from Day 1

What we learned on PAUC's opening day.

Blue Devils vs. El Combo at the 2023 WFDF Pan-American Ultimate Championships (PAUC). Photo: Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 WFDF Pan-American Ultimate Championships is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

The first day of action at the 2023 WFDF Pan-American Ultimate Championships, or PAUC, set the tone for what to expect going forward.

Full Results

Women’s Division

Predictably, Revolution (COL) headline the women’s division after Day 1. Even without the Cárdenas sisters (who formed the new club team Macana in Colombia earlier this year) they have perhaps the deepest team in the field. Beyond the stars you know (Yina Cartagena, Mangie Forero, Aleja Torres, Ximena Montaña) there is plenty of talent on the rise. Ana Maria Rojas and Maria Botero are both showing off impressive away throws, Alix Robbins (a US pickup) is finding the right spaces as a receiver, and 15-year-old Mariana Hernandez is showing the potential to count herself among the country’s list of great players in a few years’ time. They are among the favorites to take the tournament title.

But Revolution aren’t the only team looking sharp the the early going. Wakanda (ARG) have put together a truly solid roster for the week. On top of Yaira Urdaneta1, a star any way you slice it with her incisive throwing, they have added a boatload of American talent, none more crucial than Taylor Simpson, a steady handling presence who notched six assists across two games today. They also have a tremendous pair of receivers in Kody Lippincott and Mariana Lopes, though Wakanda’s pool B could prove the deepest in the tournament. It took them a while to run away from a deep Qub (CAN) side, and their matchup against Bamboo was one of the division’s best games on Day 1.

Bamboo (COL) have plenty of weapons of their own: all of Cindy Monroy, Sofia Cardenas, Rossy Quecan, and Luna Andrade have played brilliantly. However, despite their high level of team skill, they barely squeaked by Fieras (PAN), who threw an impressive zone look that confounded Bamboo into far more turns than they would have liked. Fieras could count on Alejandra Escobar and Reggie Riquelme to attack on offense and give themselves a chance. Stella (CAN) look like they might have enough firepower to give Revo a game when they play tomorrow: Agnes Chu, Stephanie Hall, and Kez Gesell highlight a smart, tall offense. With two games each against common opponents, Stella even have the edge in goal differential.

Aerosoul (COL) were brilliant in their only game of the day, wrecking a very capable Bohemias (DOM) side 15-5. Angelica Espinosa’s throwing leads the team’s offense; Natalia Gomez, Juanita McAllister, Camila Camacho, and Gisell Velasquez are excellent flourishes atop that foundation. They overwhelmed Bohemias despite the fiery play of Andreina Domínguez. Venus (CAN) outscored Malafama (MEX) by eight goals, but they were not as convincing as the score would indicate. It should be a pitched battle between them and Bohemias on Day Two.

No clear favorite has yet emerged from Pool D, where Soul Lyons (COL), remix (CAN), and Warriors (COL) have each only played a single game and will all be in contention for the pool on Wednesday.

Open Division

Will anybody be able to match up against Blue Devils (DOM)? The open division’s host team might have the chops to win the tournament considering the mixture of solid local players (brothers Fidel and Georgie Echavarría, Jordi Rodríguez, Miguel Pujols) and high-level pickups (Trent Dillon, AJ Merriman, Tyler Monroe — among others). They didn’t just absorb American players either: Team Colombia World Games star Andrés Ramírez might be their most important player, and they look practiced, athletic, and calm. On top of it all, Andrew Roy spent several minutes after their opening win over El Combo (ARG) giving a tutorial on an offense that looked suspiciously like the Truck Stop front-of-stack motion.

Blue Devils could be the favorites in a matchup against any team, but they are far from the favorites in the field. For starters, the Colombian teams have come to play and all of them are in peak condition six weeks after their national tournament. Comunidad el Oso (COL), Flota Chancle (COL), Makawua (COL), and Uro Monster (COL) are all gunning to win the tournament. Comunidad el Oso, who just won Colombian Nationals, got the better of PoNY (USA) in a Day 1 matchup. An unreal defensive effort from Ivan Alba, a veteran of the international stage at this point in his career, and brilliant offensive performances from Dante Carvajalino and Kevin Nariño propelled them to the top of the pool after one game of play. Or, they would be at the top of the pool if Juan Carrillo and Flota Chancle hadn’t dismantled Ushh Mafia (PAN) in the pool’s other contest.

Uro Monster embarrassed Omen (USA) and Condor Ultimate (MEX) to take control of Pool A; if they can take care of business against Jared Canfield, Oscar Stonehouse, and the rest of Houndd (CAN) tomorrow, they’ll have excellent position heading into the bracket. Makawua appeared to be in similar form after besting Warao (VEN) in a scrappy, sometimes physical game — led by the stellar play of Jonathan Cantor — but they cooled off in the last round of the day, falling to Landon Lavoie’s AFC2 Rumble (CAN). The pool is very much up for grabs.

Even without most of the talent that usually suit up under the name, PoNY have a pretty good shot for a deep run at this tournament, the loss to Communidad el Oso notwithstanding. John Randolph has a good argument for being the division’s best player on Day One, and Cam Wariner isn’t too far behind him. Michael Brenner and Oscar Kohut were also stellar at times — still, PoNY don’t have the systems and discipline demonstrated by the actual cohesive teams at the tournament and it will put them at a disadvantage.

General Strike (CAN) are a dark horse semifinalist candidate. They got all that they could handle in an opening round bout against Quake (CAN) who played up to the moment. Still, General Strike seem to have the pieces on hand (Matthew Pagé, Stephen Crew, Ari Nitikman) to compete with Blue Devils for top of the pool on Day Two. It ought to be great viewing when those two come together.

Mixed

A few games in the mixed division were the most competitive of the tournament so far in any division. Clovers (CHL) trailed Meclao’ (DOM) by a pair of breaks for most of their pool play game. Meclao’’s lead stood on the excellent work of Genny De Jesus and Max Hamilton, among others. Some notable defensive plays from Clovers — Andrés Espinoza was a defensive standout for them — and some attrition-style fatigue from long points were the only things keeping them in the match. But staying close can lead to big things down the line, and Clovers closed in, trailing 12-10. But the hosts wrapped it up 14-11, though, as Johan Justo Brito made the game-winning catch to take a crucial advantage in the scrap for Pool D.

Another team from the host nation, SaltaCima (DOM) also found themselves in a dead heat at 12-12, having come back from down a break against TT (CAN) with a pass from Roosevelt Castillo to Melissa Infante. It wasn’t quite enough to bring home a Dominican victory, however. Having established the lead with the aid of some solid on-disc end zone work from Graeme Halliday-Gunn and two-way speedy play from Carol Wu on the D-line, TT finished the victory with a tight forehand sideline sequence: Patrick Church to Ricky Tran before an away shot to Yi Hsuan (Claire) Weng. Mischief (USA) and Hammers (ARG) were similarly knotted headed into the halftime cap when Matthew Crawford mercifully ended a marathon point with a huck for Andrea Brown. Luis Machado, handling, and Stephanie Gregory, winning battles for the disc, were two of the better players in the first half for Hammers. They couldn’t keep the balls in the air any longer, though, and the second half was a Mischief landslide.

Still, elsewhere, the top US side was dominant. Drag’n Thrust (USA) cruised through both of their pool play contests, 15-9 over TT and 15-6 over Charrúa (URY). Their rivals NOISE (USA) also took care of business — barely, 12-11 over Avalon (MEX) — in their lone Tuesday affair. Anyone familiar with the team’s play in American club will not be surprised to see a stat sheet loaded by Tom Annen, Robyn Fennig, Austin Prucha, and Kevin Cannaday. That’s partly because those players always stuff the stat sheet, and partly because NOISE did not have anything like a full roster for the tournament’s first day. Apparently, some of the team thought the tournament was set to begin on Wednesday and couldn’t change their flights, so they won’t be near full-strength until Day Two.

The most head-turning of the lopsided results, though, might have been the victories cinched by Zen (COL): 15-9 over Charrúa and 15-2 over SaltaCima. Zen were brilliant across the board, but Juan Pacheco and Sarah Munera were in a class by themselves. Yes, the two other top teams in the pool await them on Wednesday (TT and Drag’n Thrust), but they passed the eye test with flying colors. Would it be foolish to crown them tournament favorites after only a single day of play?

Perhaps — particularly because I haven’t yet seen a point of either Academia (COL) or Union (CAN), both of whom also enter the second day of the competition undefeated and sporting hefty point differentials.

10 Notable Performers from PAUC Day 1.

This is not nearly an exhaustive list — just a list of players who caught my eye.

  • Jared Canfield (Houndd)
  • Jonathan Cantor (Makawua)
  • Angelica Espinosa (Aerosoul)
  • Kez Gesell (Stella)
  • Cindy Monroy (Bamboo)
  • Juan Pacheco (Zen)
  • Andrés Ramírez (Blue Devils)
  • John Randolph (PoNY)
  • Genny De Jesus (Meclao’)
  • Yaira Urdaneta (Wakanda)

  1. “Yazz” on the back of her jersey 

  2. Alberta Flatball Club, duh 

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

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