2008 World Ultimate and Guts Championships Junior's Team - Open - August 8th

Posted: August 8, 2008 11:10 AM

USA was coming off an unexpectedly tough semifinal match up against Germany, which the Germans had tied at 5-5 before the USA pulled away to win 17-6.  The Canadians, on the other hand, had looked stronger and stronger following their pool play loss to the USA, having demolished the previously undefeated Colombians, then soundly beating a surging Great Britain team in the other junior open division semifinal.  Despite a lopsided win over the Canadians in pool play, the USA boys were preparing for a dog fight.

Junior Open Finals started at 2:45pm.  Canada wearing red, USA in all white.  Canada pulls, USA handlers work it across the field in a horizontal offense.  Canadian boys bring heavy defensive pressure.  Second throw of the game, Milo Snyder is fouled on an attempted breakmark around backhand.  USA boys respond to the pressure and the physical Canadian marks with composure, work the disc downfield with underneath cuts, transition to vertical offense near the red zone, and score.  This point would set the tone for the day for the USA offense, which relied on team speed to get open on cuts towards the disc.

Second point of the game, USA on defense.  In the first USA-Canada match up, the Canadians had completed several nice forehand hucks; their offense, and their team psyche, seemed to thrive along with their deep game.  The game plan was to make the Canadians miss on at least a couple of their early hucks.  USA came down on a George Stubbs pull in a flat/shade backhand man-to-man defense, with downfield cutters taking away deep cuts, forcing Canadian receivers underneath.  USA defenders used their speed to hassle handlers and close ground on cutters, forcing Canadians to move the disc downfield by threading tough inside-out backhands to the break side.  Eventually, one of those backhands missed, USA took possession at midfield, and worked the disc into the endzone with a handler-dominated vertical offense.

For the rest of the first half, both teams made big plays.  The difference seemed to be that the Canadian offense relied more heavily on playmaking, while the USA offense – both vertical and horizontal – was clicking best when throwing to cutters underneath.  Both teams threw zone defenses for a few of the first half points.  USA handlers broke the Canadian zone with fast and dishy handler work from Alex Thorne, Jeremy Norden, Jonah Herscu, Russell Wallack, and Milo Snyder.  USA handlers would crash from the backfield into the cup, then step past the middle-middle to throw to poppers or wide wings.  The USA's zone defense was a 1-3-3 masterminded by USA Masters player Bill Stewart, refined by Tiina Booth and her Amherst Regional High School boys, and happily stolen by the USA junior team.  The 1-3-3 generated a couple of turnovers, but the USA recognized that its team psyche down the stretch would come from its man-to-man defense; after two early points of full-field 1-3-3, the USA boys would only throw the junk D sparingly, in transition, to break the offensive flow and interrupt any set pull plays.

The halftime score was 9-3, and after the half, the USA boys looked like they would continue to roll, scoring the first point after playing team shut-down defense that forced the Canadian handlers either to try to thread throws into tight spaces or to throw deep against big flat marks.  Canada scored the next point on offense.  When it came time for the USA to receive the pull and play offense, it became clear that Canadian defenders had made an important halftime adjustment.  They began heavily fronting USA cutters, attempting to deny the possession-oriented game the USA was comfortable playing.  The Canada D generated a turnover, and the USA transitioned into a force-flick defense.  Canada's handlers, who clearly favor their forehand deep throws, put a perfect pass flat to the endzone for Canada's first break of the game.  The next point, same thing: heavy Canadian pressure on the cutters underneath, quick forehand deep strike.  All of a sudden the Canadians had scored three in a row.  Timeout USA.

USA came out of the timeout in a horizontal offense.  Cutters began stacking shorter and striking deep more frequently; throwers began taking opportunities to huck deep, and the USA scored to break the Canadian run.  On defense, USA refocused, recommitted to the backhand force, and kept generating Ds.  The USA's defensive lapse early in the second half showed how dangerous Canada's offense was, if it was given any room to breathe; the USA defense learned its lesson, and the Canadians would only score once again before the end of the game.  Final score, 17-7.  USA Boys are world champions.