2006 World Juniors Ultimate Championships - Daily Log - August 18th

Posted: August 18, 2006 03:59 AM

“All day, boy!”  Sam Kanner, Grant Lindsley, Christian Foster, Casey Ikeda, George Stubbs, Alex Kapinos, and Eli Friedman took the line for the US’ starting D point in the gold medal match at the 2006 World Junior Ultimate Championships.  “All day, boy!” had become the rallying cry for this year’s US Boys a team that could easily be called the best Junior team ever assembled.  The US Boys started with a force forehand defense on the first point and forced a turnover after Canada had worked it down to the redzone.  The US Boys showed their standard efficiency as they worked it down the field before Foster reeled in the goal on a nice lay-out catch on a backhand from Lindsley.

The US Boys had won their previous match-up with Canada on Tuesday, three days earlier – but three days is like mid-season for a team that only has ten days between the first time they play together and the last and a lot can happen over those three days.  Several of the US Boys had picked up or aggravated injuries over that time in the grueling five day tournament including Ollie Honderd who was not playing because of an ankle sprain suffered in the semifinals against Colombia.

The Canadian Boys would not let the second point go the same way and on the second possession of the point Russell Street hit Pat L'Esperance on an up the line cut to tie the game up and it was on.  For their first offensive point the US Boys worked out of a horizontal stack and Jeremy Norden found Andrew Hollingworth with a very nice deep throw.  The US then ran off three consecutive break points two with a force backhand and the third with a 1-3-3 to take the lead 5-1 before Canada called a time out to regroup.  On a short pull against man defense Canada worked it up from their vertical stack and Jasa Grant found Street for their second goal of the game.  The US Boys answer back with efficient horizontal offense to make it 6-2. 

At this point Canada needed to find its throws and just complete passes, but the US Boys defense was tenacious.  The US came back with a tight 1-3-3 with the Robin Stewart-Demartino mark and Canada had two nice possession saving lay-out catches before they turned it over in their own redzone.  Adam Miller hit Kanner right away to break to 7-2 and then after another Canada turnover Miller found Foster deep with a beautiful backhand huck.  Canada added their third point on a huck from L'Esperance to Keilan Way past a bidding Hollingworth but the US would take half on a throw from Stubbs to Ben Feldman.

Cherish.  These boys are the future of Ultimate in this country and this is the first and last time all 19 of them will step on the field together with the same jerseys on.  Perhaps some will play on the same teams together in college or club, but these ten days will be unique and the experience and memories are fleeting.  One half left to savor it.  One half left to aim for perfection.  One half left to attain mastery. 

The US scores on O out of half with a nice lay-out catch by Foster on a throw by Miller and then breaks again to 10-3 on a huck from Lindsley to a wide open Foster.  Canada calls another time-out, but at this point it’s about deck chairs while the US is an indomitable ice berg.  Canada manages to thrash the 1-3-3 that’s been plaguing them to make it 11-4 and a break after two US turns and a Way catch past on a throw just past a laying out Lindsley.  This was Canada’s first break of the game and the US’ first turns on an O point – the US throughout this game was incredibly stingy with the disc.  Taylor Lahey hits Feldman deep on the next point (11-5) and Foster scores the next two the first from Stewart-Demartino and the second from Chris Brenenborg to bring his total to five goals on the game and the US’ lead to 13-5.  After a couple of turnovers the US gets a coverage sack D (one of many in the game like it) and Darden Pitts hits Hollingworth for and Amherst connection. 

The Canadian’s make one last push to as Miles Wilson makes a nice catch and then finds Way in the endzone and then add a break on a throw from Scott Hislop to Way (15-7).  Lindsley makes a huge crowd pleasing lay-out catch on a slightly bendy backhand from Kosednar to bring the US to game point.  The US puts Norden, Hollingworth, Stewart-Demartino, Feldman, Kanner, Kapinos, and Ikeda on the line and after a Canada throw into the ground and disciplined offense from the US Hollingworth throws the game winner to Norden at the opposite cone.

What made this team great is that they were a team; 19 all star players that bought into a system and bought into their coaches. 

The Girls final against Canada was a completely different story.  After two wins against Canada earlier in the tournament the team was feeling confident, perhaps cocky as the heavy favorites.  They had proven that they could beat Canada in the wind with their 14-5 victory on Monday and they had proven that they could beat Canada without wind in their 17-8 victory on Wednesday.

The wind had picked up for the 1pm start time of the finals and the US started going upwind on D with a starting line of Georgia Bosscher, Claire Suver, Amber Sinicrope, Chelsea Murphy, Dory Ziperstein, Shannon O’Malley, and Patty King.  The US ran a straight-up mark to respond to Canada’s horizontal offense.  In a play that would work all day long Anne Mercier hucked it deep to Alexa Kovaks and after a couple of passes Audrey St. Arnaud found Madeline Hall for a turnover free first point and the 1-0 Canada lead.  The US responded with a huck from Claire Suver to Bosscher (1-1).  The US again came down straight up and Canada turned it but Tiffany Lin got it back with a point block on King and after another turnover from each team Andrea Cheng laid out for the goal from Lin (1-2).  Canada then added two breaks to open the lead to 4-1 on goals by Kovaks and Hall – Canada had come to play.

Canada for its part was a very different team than the US had seen in their two pool play matches.  In those games Canada had avoided tipping their hand and in the finals they tightened up their subbing rotation, played stronger dump and downfield defense, and stepped up the intensity of their marks.  The marks were particularly noticeable as they were very physical and the counts were noticeably fast – we’ll chalk it up to the adrenaline.  The US responded by looking downfield too long and not sticking to their dump swing offense.

Bosscher, O’Malley, Leila Tunnell, and Maise Richards must have been having flashbacks to 2004 and their complete collapse against Canada in the gold medal match.  These four returning players must have remembered how after the US went down the whole team played tentative as Canada got run through d block after run through d block.  But this US team was not the US team from 2004.  While at 4-1 tightness began to creep in it was not accompanied by the fear that held the team back in 2004.  This team was still confident in their abilities.

At 4-1, after a turnover each the Claire Suver found O’Malley for a goal.  Canada responded again to keep the lead at three with a throw from Carrie Lugg to Lin (2-5).  The US O ran a split stack on the next point and after three turnovers and then an Alison Douglas D, Ziperstein hits Claire Suver in some nice endzone offense.  Canada calls a timeout but the US wins it by getting two breaks the second after a sweet Sam Valesano point block in the 4-2-1.  Canada calls another timeout but it doesn’t stop the surging Americans who get a D in the 4-2-1 and work it downfield despite a nice bid by Mercier and eventually Bosscher hits Richards for the US’ first lead of the game at 6-5. 

Anne Mercier is a force to be reckoned with.  She has been mentioned earlier in the week for her abilities, but she has continued to prove to be the dominant force on the field this week at the World Junior Ultimate Championships.  The US was unable to stop her from getting the disc and she was almost always able to hit her receivers deep particularly very fast Alexa Kovaks.   Mercier is also a strong defender making good, smart bids. Both of these players will continue to be gamers at whatever level that they play at for the next several years.

At 6-5 the US came out in their 4-2-1 and transitioned at about midfield before Mercier hucked it to Kovaks.  Canada’s Lin turned it over on the goal line, but Claire Suver gave it right back.  O’Malley came up big with a point block, but Claire Suver gave it back again before Canada tied it up with a throw from Kovaks to St. Arnaud (6-6).  Hall comes up with a huge D on the next point and Mercier hits Kathryn Pohran and the game was back on serve (6-7).  Drew Johnson saves a US possession with a big layout catch while Hall attempted to get a second straight lay-out block and Valesano finds Murphy to tie the game back up (7-7).  The two teams traded to 8-8 and then Valesano pulls one down over Kovaks after a Canadian turnover and two passes later Ziperstein and Valesano connect for the halftime lead (9-8).

While the US retook the halftime lead, their offense was still having considerable trouble with the Canadian defense and it did not look as easy as it had earlier in the week.  Mercier and Kovaks were playing virtually every point and Hall, Lin, Cheng, Lugg, and St. Arnaud were seeing a lot of the field as well.  These players were peaking at the right time and the Canadian coaches were subbing smartly all week for this moment. 

The US started the second half going downwind on offense but Bosscher is point blocked by Mercier and Canada gets the upwinder and tie it up at 9s.  The US turns it again on their next possession but Tunnell gets a big D in the air to prevent a score.  Mercier then gets a big D on the other end in the air, but Sinicrope responds with a lay-out block on the US goal line and she then hits Fiona McKibben for the goal (10-9).  The US gets another D with their 4-2-1 and puts it in for the break and 11-9 lead.  The US goes to the 4-2-1 well again, but Canada goes to their Mercier to Kovaks well and Canada’s well is deeper (11-10).  At 11-10 the US is caught looking downfield too long on several possessions and despite big Ds by O’Malley and McKibben, the six US turnovers result in a Canada break and another tie game (11-11).  At 11’s a huck goal from Bosscher to Tunnell is called back on a travel and then Bosscher is stalled.  Two turnovers by each team later, O’Malley got a point block and Suver and Sinicrope work the disc into the endzone as the cap went on, 12-11 game to 14.

With the end in site and a World Championship on the line the tension went up drastically.  The US tried a new D, a box in one, with Bosscher manned up on Mercier.  The US transitioned out of the zone and Claire Suver comes up with a block but a foul is called, contested by Suver and sent back.  Valesano got a D on the next pass, Ziperstein turned it over, and then Valesano gets another D as she gets her hand on a high pass to Lugg coming in, but that D is also called back on a contested foul.  After play resumed, Lugg dropped the disc, Bosscher hucked a turnover, and then Autumn Tocchi got a point block but Lugg came up with a big lay-out to save the possession.  Cheng hucked deep to Kovaks and a few passes later Cheng connected with St. Arnaud to tie the game up at 12s. 

Canada pulled out of bounds at 12-12 and the US started out of a split stack from the brick with Canada forcing backhand.  After a two passes Sinicrope hucked deep but it hangs and a crowd gathered under it.  Johnson got a hand on it after it was knocked around but didn’t hold on and calls a strip on Mercier which was quickly contested.  After each team added a turnover Ziperstein hit Murphy in the endzone for gamepoint US, 13-12.

Canada called a timeout between points.  The US came down zone and transitioned out at about midfield.  Despite two bids by O’Malley who is matched up on Kovaks, Kovaks was able to score on a pass from Hall to make it double game point, 13-13.

The last point could be a whole post in and of itself.  At 18 minutes long, at least six turnovers by each team, two US timeouts, two injury time-outs, and numerous stalls and receiving and marking fouls (most of them contested), the outcome of this game was secondary to the heart of the players on both of these teams.  The US began the point with the same line that they started the game except that Valesano was in for Murphy.  On the US’ first possession Mercier had a huge lay-out bid and came up with the disc at the same time as Bosscher and did not argue the tied catch call.  Later on that possession Ziperstein called a timeout on the goal line but two passes later Claire Suver tried to force an inside-out break that opened the floodgate of turnovers.  The Mercier and Bosscher match-up was intense with both players battling hard.  King came up big with a run through block mid-way through the point and a fist pump to go with it.  After a couple turns early in the point, Claire Suver looked a bit gun shy but had the guts to do what needed to be done when she saw King busting open deep towards the endzone.  King clap caught the final pass of an incredible point of an unbelievable game for the world title.  While the US will take home the gold, it is difficult to say if they were in fact better than Canada today; in the finals both teams were even on breaks and turnovers, the US just got their breaks at the right time.

As the game went well beyond the expected time, and with threats of long lines at airport security, many US players spent fewer than five minutes saying their goodbyes at the field before skpping the awards ceremony and busting off to the airport.   But for all 39 players and 7 coaches, this will be a week that they cherish forever.