2008 World Ultimate and Guts Championships Junior's Team - Daily Log - August 7th

Posted: August 7, 2008 11:06 AM

It’s not only the competition that’s been getting hotter, but also the weather. Over the course of the last week it has gone from what parents are calling “perfect Ultimate weather” to “really hot out there”. The heat is taking its toll on players, especially in the mid afternoon games.

The Jr. women started their morning in the cool shade of the U-Hill fields. Warming up for the game against Canada, the focus and drive were palpable. This was the game that would let them into the semis with Japan, Colombia and Australia or send them down to play for 5th. The last match against Canada the US had won 13-10, and beating a team twice in the same weekend is notoriously hard.

A warm up is an important routine for a team to settle into, and the Americans had been using an abbreviated version of what they learned at try out camp to get into their paces. With the addition of an inspirational story from assistant coach John Sandahl, the Americans seemed ready.

The game started with Canada receiving, and they promptly walked it down and put in the first goal. After a US turn, they also converted to make the score 2-0. Not to be outdone, the Americans then matched the Canadians with two goals to tie the game. These two teams are evenly matched in athleticism and skill. Both have three coaches on the sideline to dictate plays and call defenses. What the Canadians lacked was a loud and supportive Jr. open team and mixed team with flags waving. As the teams continued to trade points, often in runs of two, the Canadian sideline which had originally been the dominate voice was slowly muffled by the American fans. The camaraderie that has been built over the past week stretches across all divisions. It’s common to see the Women’s team on the Jr. women’s sideline or the Jr. women at the Mixed game. Though these teams all represent different parts of the country, they really have bonded over representing USA.

At 7-8, the game had been going for some time and it was already evident that it would get capped. The Americans need to get and maintain a lead if they were going to pull out a win. At times the morning focus had waned, but the skills that these players had developed were always there as a foundation, and a few timeouts at key points brought focus back. The US team’s strength is in its gritty shut down defense. There hasn’t been another team this week that has played more stifling person defense or had trickier zones to upset another team's flow.  All they need to do to win is to keep composure when they have the disc in hand, especially on the end zone line, where rash decisions are frequently made. Bailey Zahnsier has become the go-to person in the end zone, and the handlers are seeking her out. Amber Sinicrope and Sophie Darch put consecutive goals to Bailey to take the US ahead 9-8. There is a collective sigh of relief as the Americans are finally in the lead.

Perhaps it was to make the game interesting, or perhaps the Jr. women took too big of a sigh, but the Canadians then rallied off two points. The coaches call a time out. Then Canada scores another one. Now there is quite the hole to dig ourselves out of, and time is running out, down 11-9.

Knowing who their go to girl is this game, Julia Snyder unleashes a huge flick and hits Bailey in the end zone to stop Canada’s streak. Down 11-10, the Americans not only need a block, they need at least two. The get the first break, as Julia Snyder now goes for the score from Erica Baken. Canada calls a time out to stop the bleeding. It can’t be stopped: older sister Anna Snyder finds Kimber Coles in the end zone once again.

With the soft cap on, it’s now a game to 15. The Americans find their legs and win the game with their defense, outscoring Canada 3-2 in the cap for a final score of 15-13. Players are exhausted, but so are the fans, who had been holding their breath in between cheers for the entire two hour game.

On another field in another part of the UBC campus, the Colombian and Germany Jr. open teams were battling for the right to play the Americans on the Spirit enclosure fields. In a surprising upset, the Germans had taken control of the game and would close out with a 12-10 victory at the cap.

The Jr. open team took advantage of the late afternoon semi round to took a trip out to a lighthouse for a chance to center themselves and collect their focus for the afternoon. In the past, teams that have given easy victories to the US in pool play have come out gunning in the elimination rounds, and the Americans are determined to keep playing their game regardless of how the other team is performing. This mental toughness has given the edge to the Americans so far this week, and clearly the German team they will face today is not the same one that they defeated 17-2 on Monday.

The game started with the two teams trading two point at a time. At 2-2 the US calls a time out to refocus, and then scores the next two points. The level of physicality that the American and Canadian teams have found comfortable in previous games is not okay with the German team, and the game opens with a number of foul calls both on offense and defense. This is part of the game – teams take the temperature on what is acceptable and what is too much and through the process of self officiating we make those distinctions through our calls, or lack of calls.

At 5-5, it looks like the Germans are going to push all the way through the game. The Americans are making some mistakes, which they don’t often do, and another time out is called. Coming out of the time out, the Americans go on a 12-1 run. Despite two German timeouts in the second half, they only muster one more goal. Across the way, Canada is taking down Great Britain 17-5.

While the Jr. open team is playing the Germans, the Jr. women are going head to head with Japan. Japan has the advantage in this heat of having not played an earlier round today, which is a good thing for this 12 person squad that relies on 4 players to run the offense. To their credit, they may trail on cuts, but the Japanese players go to work on the mark and in their own fakes and throws. The Americans would have to win this game with their legs, because the Japanese were not going to let up once the disc was in hand.

The previous rounds mixed games went to the cap, and both teams were trying to find a space to warm up in between and at the back of fields. It wasn’t ideal, but it was available. The US coaches had watched tape from the previous game and they knew which players they had to shut down. #17 Yumi Amada is the star receiver with 46 goals on the week. She wears a red hat, which makes her easy to spot. #1 Reina Yokota has 49 assists. You can guess who she is throwing to. The Americans felt confident going into the game, with Japan’s small rotation and their win earlier in the week which is Japan’s only loss.

As previously stated, beating the same team twice in one tournament is notoriously hard.

The morning game may have been to the advantage of the Americans to start out, they seemed more ready to play and more focused. At 2-2, they got a break to go up 3-2 and then another to go up 5-3. The Japanese called a timeout, and the Americans scored the next one before the Japanese went on a three point run to bring the game back to 6’s. At this point the fatigue of the morning game began to show. Players with steady hands had drops and it became harder to win the individual battles with their legs.

The middle of the game was a battle, points being traded, runs of two going in both directions, and multiple ties and lead changes.  At 10 all, the points were consistently long, with a number of turnovers as both teams were exhausted. Japan was able to pull it together and take advantage of over excited US marks to get off the forehand break to their star receiver going up 12-10. The Americans were not ready to give up just yet and tied the games at 12s.

The soft cap went on with Japan receiving. They worked the disc down and put it in to take the lead once again. The US works the disc down the field and has opportunities on the end zone line but force a throw and end up chasing on D, all the way to the end zone. The Japanese take the game in the cap 14-12.

The tears come, because there is nothing else left to give. The Jr. women gave everything they had and more, leaving it all on the field. Their tournament isn’t over – they still have bronze to play for against a Colombian team that has also shed some tears. But that will come tomorrow.