A Week at the Under-23 World Championships – Day 1, Part I

Posted: July 22, 2013 02:11 PM

The following is part of our of continuing coverage of the 2013 WFDF U-23 Championships in Toronto, Canada. 

In preparing for covering the U-23 WFDF World Championships in Toronto, I talked to a lot of ultimate players. It’s just part of the homework for an event like this. When I talked to members of the three American delegations, it was to ask them about their training experience and expectations. When I talked to U.S. all stars of yesteryear with loads of past international experience, it was to ask them for lessons learned and words of wisdom. And finally, I spoke to you: the fans, the viewers at home; the men and women, boys and girls who suit up for their club teams, their schools, or their local leagues. Of you, I asked what, for a writer, might be the most important question of all. What do you want?

Specifically, what do you want to read? In this age of live streaming and Twitter-fueled score reporting, anyone anywhere can stay fiercely up to date on results and even catch game play-by-play as it happens. So what’s going to keep you, the readers, interested?

The response was resounding – everyone said the same thing. Give us details. Make us feel like we’re there. Give us the story beyond the story.

There’s something to that. It takes more than just score reports for a reader to feel like he or she is really there. Which is why, before I can say anything about the 9:00am match up between the German and American men’s teams that kicked off the first full day of play, I’ve got to tell you about how I ended up staring at my own reflection in a public restroom at 6:30 in the morning with toothpaste dribbling down my face.

The three U.S.A. teams have spent the last week in Buffalo, N.Y., training, bonding and making the final tweaks needed to give them the best shot at taking home the gold. They rode up in coach buses Sunday morning, and they spent their final night before competition resting up for the challenge ahead.

I spent last night on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Toronto, trying to snatch some sleep while catching elbows every five minutes from the woman in the middle seat.

As players, when we get to an ultimate tournament, something changes in us. We don’t even realize it, but we’re transported to a completely different world, one that is based on the spirit of the sport itself: openness, welcome, camaraderie, joy. We see familiar faces; we play our sport that makes sense to us. Once we step on the field, we leave our real-world troubles – job stress, school, friction in relationships or with familial ties – behind. We don’t tend to think about a tournament as a source of stress.

But then, how often do any of us fly across a continent to show up on tournament morning three hours before games begin?

After my less-than-ideal flight, I get chewed out by a border agent in the moments before dawn for failing to understand a section of the dual-language customs form. Once I do clear security, I hop into a cab – only to find that the driver doesn’t know how to get to the tournament site. When we do at last arrive at the university compound where the games are to be held, I am refused entry. Campus security – none too interested in the plight of a non-student foreign visitor – tells me through a tinny speaker that they don’t know or care who I am; they have no information about my accommodations, and I am ordered to wait in the building’s tiny, glass-walled vestibule for two hours until their offices open at nine.

It’s an uncomfortable situation. And that’s why I don’t feel bad about following a few early-rising summer students into a dorm, sneaking into the common room toilets, and changing into ultimate clothes with my suitcase wedged against the door so no one will walk in on me. It’s not just that I’m cranky and too tired to sit up and wait: first pull is at nine, and I don’t want to miss a point.
The things we do for the love of the game.

When I finally reach the fields, Colgate scrubbed from my chin, I’m glad to see some familiar faces. Hector Valdivia is one of the coaches of the U.S.A. open squad, and I recognize him from my 2012 Poultry Days team. Brian Hart, another Poultry Days teammate and a member of the U.S. open squad – as well as a top vote-getter in this year’s Callahan Award race – is at the fields as well. That’s another of the great things about our sport: the way we are able to build and grow friendships across geographical boundaries and across state lines. It’s part of what makes our sport unique, and it’s also part of what makes this year’s U.S. squad so strong. USA Ultimate selected the best players from coast to coast to fill the National Team rosters, and the open team alone boasts players from Wisconsin, Colorado, Central Florida and Carleton, as well as top club teams like Chain Lightning and Ring of Fire.

With flags from 17 countries rippling in the wind at the stadium court, their tournament will begin with what promises to be a tough matchup: U.S.A. versus against Germany. Clad in their matching warm-ups, the Americans look for all the world like a professional squad. They’ve got their work cut out for them, and when the game begins, they prove they mean business.


Point 1: Starting the game on offense, U.S.A. relies heavily on Brian Hart and fellow Callahan finalist Jimmy Mickle to run the show from the handler position. Hart throws plenty of backhand breaks, Mickle and Byron Liu eat up downfield yardage, and a crossfield hammer seals the first point of the tournament for both teams. 1-0.

Point 2: With tight defense, U.S.A. earns the turn on an ill-advised German hammer thrown as a swing pass. Ian Toner picks up the disc and immediately hucks it to Matthew Thomas Bode for the break. 2-0.

Point 3: Working off a bricked pull with the disc in the center of the field, Germany has trouble gaining vertical yards or establishing flow. Consistently, they find themselves following each upfield gainer with a dump, and not because they appear to want to. Twenty passes later, though, they’ve managed to eat up 60 yards. 2-1.

Point 4: Germany shows they’re worried about Mickle going deep, his man playing well behind him. But when Mickle cuts under, the end zone is left wide open, and Ben McGinn hits Colin Camp with a beautiful 75-yard flick into the flat that no one else has a chance at. 3-1.

Point 5: The U.S. comes down in a force middle/transition defense. Unfortunately, they fail to fully communicate the call out of their initial look into a one-way force. Oops. Germany takes advantage. 3-2.

Point 6: Ian Toner catches the pull and centers it to Josh Klane, who swings it out to Jimmy Mickle at the sideline. Mickle overthrows a huck to Colin Camp, and Germany hucks right back: a full-fielder that gets past Mischa Freystaetter and leaves Germany with the disc right on the goal line. One more pass and it’s in for the break. Up ‘til now, the USA has looked dominant...but the scoreboard says it’s a tie. 3-3.

Point 7: Germany comes down in a zone look. On his own goal line, Brian Hart gets too cute with a backhand over the top, and it finds the ground. But the U.S.A. gets it back thanks to stingy defense and a German drop, then promptly throws it back away on a laser to no one.

It’s the first ugly point. The U.S.A. find themselves backed up against the wall, but Brian Hart gets the disc back again on a full-extension layout D that stops a pinpoint German huck. Germany tries to come zone again, but the U.S.A. breaks through. It’s all give and goes, with no one holding the disc for longer than a three count, and like the first point, it’s Mickle, Hart and Liu doing most of the work. 4-3.

Point 8: Ben Lohre just misses a layout block, but Justin Allen skies his man for an end zone D. Ian Toner quarterbacks the disc up the field, but interestingly enough, Justin Allen turns it over to a laying out Ben Lohre in the end zone. It could be a missed opportunity, but Germany coughs it up a second time, and Timmy Morrissy comes up with a ridiculous trailing sky off a janky Ian Toner huck to cash in the break. 5-3.

Point 9: A switchy D featuring Doublewide stud Dalton Smith at the deep baits a turn, but two-way player Byron Liu throws away an ill-timed I/O flick. He gets it right back, though, knocking down a floater in traffic. Unfortunately, a throwaway on an up-line pass leads to a German timeout and goal, and the U.S. is definitely looking less crisp than they once did. 5-4.

Point 10: Mischa Freystaetter shows his worth by laying out to save a turn, injuring his shoulder in the process. He plays through obvious pain to keep the point moving, and a Christian Johnson break finds Jimmy Mickle in the end zone. Freystaetter comes off rubbing his shoulder, showing the grit that helped him carry his college team, the Central Florida Dogs of War, to this year’s College Championship final. 6-4.

Point 11: An early huck finds its way past a laying out Kelsen Alexander and Matt Bode. The quick strike through two defenders keeps Germany in it. 6-5.

Point 12: Germany comes down zone, and after starting with confidence, Brian Hart turns it on a 30-yard comebacker to Jimmy Mickle. Kevin Brown gets it back with strong end zone D, and a full-field huck to Mischa Freystaetter keeps the U.S.A. up a break. 7-5.

Point 13: Ben Lohre just misses still another great layout D opportunity, and Germany scores easily. He’s doing great work setting up chances for blocks; sooner or later, he’s going to come up big. 7-6.

Point 14: Germany stuffs the U.S.A. on their own goal line off an early turn. An around break evens the score. 7-7.

Point 15: A bricked pull gives the U.S.A. a short field, and they make quick work of it, with Christian Johnson tossing a nifty break to Ben Lohre for the score. 8-7.

Point 16: A tight D point ends with a beautifully thrown 30-yard crossfield hammer that the U.S.A. defense can’t stop. Germany looks to be hitting their stride. 8-8.

Point 17: In the point for half, the U.S.A. responds to sideline calls of "Deutschland! Deutschland!" with their own cheers: "N-A-S-C-A-R!" and "B-I-G M-A-C!" A shot to U.S.A.’s own super-sized Southerner, Mischa Freystaetter, gets stopped on a layout D, and a crossfield blade for the break gives Germany their first lead of the game and the half. 8-9, halftime.


Point 18: After a call for focus from the U.S.A. coaching line, the Americans start out on defense and earn the turn when Justin Allen eats up a huck in the end zone. With the wind picking up, Jimmy Mickle just overthrows Byron Liu on a full-field flick. Byron gets it back on a layout D block that sidelines him with an injury; Ian Toner steps in and promptly throws it away. But the U.S.A. gets it right back again, and they don’t miss their third chance – Brian Hart slips an I/O flick into the end zone for an easy score. 9-9.

Point 19: Timmy Morrissy Ds up a German deep shot, then runs the other way and reels in an upwind huck from John Stubbs, which he follows with a quick dish to Ben Lohre for the score. U.S.A. retakes the lead, 10-9.

Point 20: Another quick strike proves the German deep game is potent, even upwind. Mickle can’t stop the early huck, and Germany ties it up 10-10.

Point 21: Germany comes down in a junk zone that the U.S.A. shreds easily – until Josh Klane turfs a swing pass. He gets it right back with a D on the next throw, then after working it halfway up the field, scores on a big upwind blade that Colin Camp reels in over the pack. 11-10.

Point 22: Matt Bode lays out and comes up with a huge D that’s called back on a foul, which he doesn’t contest. On the very next throw, his teammate Kevin Brown comes up with a layout D of his own, and on the turn, Jimmy Mickle rewards Bode’s effort with a slick shot for the goal. 12-10.

Point 23: It’s a 4-1 run for team U.S.A. out of the half, and Germany tries to regroup with a time out. Their efforts fail, though, as they throw away a huck and neglect to clamp down in their transition D. A block they earn gets sent back on a dicey contested foul, and the U.S.A. keeps pouring on the sauce when Ben McGinn loops it to Christian Olsen in the back of the end zone. 13-10.

Point 24: Germany is starting to play scared. They’re neglecting to catch the pulls, and their offense is unraveling at the seams. A second-throw turn leaves the U.S.A. with a short field again – an error that is quickly punished when the U.S.A. is able to toe the line on an uncontested I/O break into the end zone. 14-10.

Point 25: Miscommunications behind the disc lead to a German turnover on a swing pass, and with a four-point lead, McGinn feels willing to throw a floaty upwind hammer to Justin Allen in the end zone. It works. That’s just the way this game is going now, and the U.S.A. is on a 7-1 second-half run. 15-10.

Point 26: Nothing is working for Germany. A pinpoint huck to a wide-open, streaking receiver goes uncaught in the end zone, and a blown assignment allows Brian Hart to hit a wide open Christian Johnson for an easy score. 16-10.

Point 27: Germany ends a six-point drought, but it may be too little, too late – the cap goes on. 16-11.

Point 28: Hucks both ways get eaten up by deep defenders for both teams. After four turns, the U.S. at last manages to close the door on a game they had pretty much already won, and it ends 17-11.

With the men’s team taking a morning victory, the U.S.A. women follow suit, winning their first game 17-0 over Austria. The women from Colombia beat Mexico 17-1 at the same time, and the two winners – seeded one and two overall in the tournament – sit slated to face each other at 3:00pm in the afternoon!

Thus ends the morning of the first full day of competition in Canada – more to come, including the mixed division.

Day 1 Highlights - Images by CBMT Creative


WFDF World Under-23 Ultimate Championships (official website)

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