2016 Beach Championships: Day 1 Recap

Posted: May 15, 2016 01:16 AM

We’re back in Virginia Beach for USA Ultimate’s second Beach Championships. This year brings a few more teams, a few more fields, and a whole lot of the same impressive teams.

For an event with no qualifiers and presumably more variability in rosters, uncertainty pre-tournament picks should be pretty standard. But a lot of the teams we saw make names for themselves last year are already back at the top of the pack in year two.

All five champions from the inaugural event returned to defend their titles this year, and after day one, they’re all definitely still in the hunt to make the finals. But there are a couple new teams that look like they have a change to shake things up.

The day dawned beautifully, with calm skies and warm weather, but by the time this evening’s showcase game was over, the clouds had rolled in and scared away most of the crowd. The gusty wind was a challenge for even the most experienced athletes on the beach today – it frequently kicked sand up into the air, making it difficult to see, and made what would typically be routine throws increasingly difficult.


Based on day one play, Ocean City, Maryland’s Humiliswag looks like a solid bet to take home this year’s title. They just missed out last year and used the loss as motivation during the offseason. In the months since, Humiliswag has added several notable players to their already impressive roster, players whose offensive skills complement the defensive presence they showed last year, players like Jonathan "Goose" Helton, Bob Liu, Will Neff and Peter Prial, along with Renante Onlayao who competed with the Philippines at last year’s World Championships of Beach Ultimate. The team says they’re taking it one game at a time, just trying to get better with each one, but their sights are set on the championship.

Teams like Boston’s And the Warhawks are waiting to challenge Humiliswag. Last year’s champs put together a solid performance on day one, compiling a 3-1 record, with their sole loss coming on double-game point to Washington, D.C. Paranoia. The team was shorthanded today, playing with only 10 men. Tomorrow they’ll add a few more to their roster, including Tom Doi and Brett Matzuka.

If everything plays to seed, we’ll have a 2015 finals rematch in the semifinals tomorrow morning. But first, Humiliswag has to make their way through Raleigh’s Right Coast who went 2-1 today and could play spoiler in the quarterfinals tomorrow morning. Humiliswag beat Right Coast 12-10 in the semifinal round last year.

On the other half of the bracket, Paranoia, essentially a Georgetown alumni team, is hoping to make the finals, particularly after their upset win over And the Warhawks in the crossover round.


The now-usual suspects are back in the mixed division as well. The division played almost entirely to seed on day one, with last year’s champs, L.A.’s Point Break, looking the strongest of the four still-undefeated one-seeds. They won each of their four games easily, with no team putting up more than five points on them.

Houston’s No Tsu Oh, along with Point Break, was one of the few teams that looked like a comfortable beach ultimate team today. There are tons of great athletes competing in Virginia Beach this weekend, but with grass still holding steady as the most common playing surface for our sport, the teams with access to beach leagues, or even beaches on which to practice together, definitely have an advantage. Many of people on Point Break’s roster play in local Los Angeles beach leagues. And a majority of No Tsu Oh has been practicing together about once a week for several months on the beaches of Galveston, Texas.

No Tsu Oh also has the advantage of a leadership crew that has competed for the U.S.A. at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate in the past. They have a solid understanding of beach ultimate – what works and what doesn’t – and have gotten the rest of their team on the same page. While many other teams need a game or two to recalibrate their throws from grass speed to beach speed, teams like Point Break and No Tsu Oh are already there.

The stacked roster of Opig – with the likes of Jenny Fey, Jeff Wodatch, Crystal Davis, Adam Simon, and many more – finished the day undefeated but looked slightly more vulnerable at times than the mixed division’s one and two seeds. But their collective experience is noted for a reason. They know how to win games. They battled with Comic Sands (Forth Worth, Texas) in the evening’s showcase game, essentially trading points throughout the first half, but Opig still managed to win 12-9 after Comic Sands scored the final point after hard cap.

Each pool’s top seed earned a bye into the quarterfinals tomorrow, but no matter how the division’s pre-quarters go, they’ll each have a tough match up to being their days. The Illegal Seafood (Boston) v. Beachboat (Cincinnati) pre-quarter could be the most fun to watch.


Even though many of the teams’ rosters have changed, some of them substantially, the team names in the women’s division championship bracket look incredibly similar to last year’s.

After day one, Philadelphia’s Filly LAMP, Boston’s Skeeahreet and Madison’s Rockford Beaches set themselves apart from the rest of the field. They also happen to be three of last year’s four semifinalists. The lone missing semifinalist isn’t in the competition field this year.

Despite Robyn Wiseman being sidelined after sustaining an injury at Heist tryouts last week, Rockford Beaches won their pool convincingly today. The biggest surprise came in Pool A where Filly LAMP defeated Skeeahreet in the pool’s final round, sending the Bostonians to the semifinals play-in game tomorrow morning.

The wind played an ever-increasing role as the day progressed, and it was evident in the Filly LAMP v. Skeeahreet game. Points were long, turnovers were frequent, and the final score was low. Filly LAMP was able to put together a solid lead before Skeeahreet adjusted to the wind and their not-always-successful deep game. They shortened their throws and used the skill of their handlers to move the disc quickly and across the entire width of the field. But despite players like Becky Malinowski, Claudia Tajima and Hannah Yee putting their team on their backs and converting a couple of break opportunities in the second half of the game, LAMP was able to hang on and take the pool (and the bye into the semifinals) with an 8-6 win.

Given how the bracket played out, it is possible that that final round of pool play will turn into a preview of tomorrow’s finals. But Skeeahreet will have to win two tough games before they get the chance to try and defend their title.

Mixed Masters

North Carolina’s Swamp Rats, the defending champions, looked all but unbeatable today. They put away their first two games 13-6 and 13-1 before Shostakovich (and the Angry Buddha) was able to make them play to the time cap. The Swamp Rats won that game 11-6, locking up the top spot in Pool A and a trip to the semifinals tomorrow morning.

D.C.’s Over the Hill, the Swamp Rats’ fellow finalists from 2015, sit atop Pool B. They also put up convincing scores on day one, with the exception of their third-round game against Gruntled – a game Over the Hill won just 10-9. One of a few new mixed masters teams this year, Gruntled, from Iowa City, Iowa, also looked impressive through their first four games of pool play. They put together a 3-1 record, and with one round of pool play left to go tomorrow morning, have already secured the second overall spot in Pool B, and therefore, a trip to the semifinals. That means we’ll have at least one new semis team in the mixed masters division this year

With the Swamp Rats and Over the Hill having also locked up their semifinals appearances, Shostakovich and Overrated are left to battle it out for the final semis spot. They will face each other in the last round of pool play at 8:30 a.m. ET tomorrow.

Grand Masters

The grand masters bracket is shaping up to give us an exciting Sunday of championship play. Newcomers from Philadelphia, Scrapple, upset the defending champions on double-game point to earn the number one seed in Pool A with a 4-0 record and a bye to the semifinals. Their win relegated Alchemy (Carrboro, N.C.) to the semis play-in game.

Perennial grand masters contender No Country, from Brattleboro, Vt., put together an impressive day with a 4-0 record of their own and not a single close game. They mixed up their defenses, using man, zone and some junkier looks, to take advantage of the wind and force their opponents into extra throws. Although they occasionally had trouble converting their break opportunities, their defense kept earning them more chances. Assuming seeds hold, which seems likely, No Country will face Alchemy – a rematch of last year’s final – in the semifinal round.  

Helping (along with a couple teams in other divisions) keep semis dreams alive for the country’s landlocked states is Denver, Colorado’s Johnny Walker. The current grand masters national champions decided to make the trip east this year to test their mettle in the beach division, and so far, the trip has paid off. Their lone loss on the day came in the last round to No Country. Johnny Walker will take on Chicago Sandblast in the play-in game tomorrow morning for a chance to face Scrapple in the semifinals.

2016 Beach Nationals: At a Glance

Teams: 66

Divisions: 5

Athletes: 974

Learn to Play Clinic participants: 70

States/Provinces Represented: 22

Port-a-fields Used: 23

Games Scheduled: 213

2015-16 U.S. National Team Coaches Competing: 3

2016 U.S. National Team Athletes Rostered: 12