A Week at the Under-23 World Championships – Day 5

Posted: July 27, 2013 10:35 PM

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

A Conversation with Carolyn Matthews, Coach of the U.S.A. Women's National Team

The U.S.A. women opened the tournament with a few scares, but they were consistently able to rebound, winning 17-16 over Japan in pool play after having been down 14-16, and beating a tough Canada team under the lights as well. Now undefeated and with a finals rematch against Japan scheduled for tomorrow, the U.S.A. women have the gold medal in their sights.

I sat down with coach Carolyn Matthews to discuss the women’s team’s showing at the tournament.

Eric Brach: You had some tight games to start. Is that good or bad? 

Carolyn Matthews: We were glad to have a few tight games in a row. It gave us a chance to really dial in, which was helpful. 

EB: How’s the team holding up? 

CM: The team is holding up great. We had a conversation about perseverance and how we’re glad we had those games, because now we have the mentality that no matter where we are in a game, like if we’re up and an opponent comes back, we still know we can beat them. Or if it’s tight all along, we can still play our game with confidence, knowing that we can put the goals in. So we’re really glad about that. The only concern now is to make sure everyone stays healthy through to the end of the weekend.

EB: Is the schedule a consideration? It’s certainly unusual for most tournaments – games to 17 are quite long, but then having just two games or even one game a day for a whole week...that’s odd.

CM: Yes. Especially when it was split like it was [against Japan and Canada in pool play].

EB: Games at 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

CM: Exactly. It was like two different days. And yes, playing to 17 points certainly makes a difference, particularly on a windy day, when points can run longer. Although, we’ve been getting more efficient as the games go on.

EB: I noticed that. Your zone in particular looks excellent.

CM: We’ve been working on that. It’s been good to get that time in, especially since we have a team that hasn’t played together, that hasn’t practiced together for months and months. We’ve only practiced for a week! So we can go zone, and we can practice movement and positioning and angles, but we couldn’t really practice it until we got to these games. So that’s been helpful.

EB: Even in these conditions, I noticed that your team has been mixing things up a lot. You’ve been mixing up O lines and D lines, keeping things flexible.

CM: Right.

EB: Early on, you had Claire [Chastain] doing a lot of cutting, but then against Canada, you moved her back to handle.

CM: Sure.

EB: Is that by design?

CM: It is. We coaches came in saying, "You’re all ultimate players. You’re not O line, you’re not D line; you’re not a cutter, you’re not a handler. You’re all all-stars. We can certainly play to your strengths, but we view each of you as a complete player, and we’re going to use you as such."

EB: That’s kind of nice. Especially here, where so much of the experience is meeting other players, getting to play with and against players you may never get to see again.

CM: Yes. Absolutely.

EB: What about the personalities on the team?

CM: Oh, it’s a great mix. We’ve had different leaders every game. Sarah Davis is our captain, and she’s doing a great job, both in organizing and in being a liaison between the coaches and the players. And we have a very supportive group. One of the coolest reflections of that is these drawn-on arm tattoos we have. 

(Coach Matthews reveals a pen drawing on her arm in script that reads, "Esse quam videri.")

CM: The story is, we were having one of our first meetings, and one thing we did is have everyone share with each other something about where they’re from. Because we are the United States, and we wanted to become united, everyone taught each other something about their state. 

Claire Chastain taught us that the state motto of North Carolina is, "To Be, Rather than to Seem." And we’ve embraced that, kind of as the team motto. We put it on our jerseys, and we seem like we’re a good team, and we seem like we represent our country, and we seem like we’re the best players here – but that’s not enough. We have to be that. We actually have to go out there and do it, and prove it. 

Shellie [Cohen] looked up the motto in the original Latin...Abby [VanMujien], who’s our artist, made a design, and she keeps re-inking us on our forearms and calves, so we can remind ourselves not just to seem, but to be.

EB: That’s great.

CM: Julia Snyder brought up a good point: it’s not really about winning. It’s about this whole experience. Being present. It’s a nice life philosophy.

EB: That’s a fun thing to have bonded over. Speaking of fun stuff, I wanted to ask you about Shira Stern.

CM: Sure, okay.

EB: Did you...does she know? Have you heard; has she heard? 

CM: Heard that what?

EB: It appears that, basically, the entire Australian team has a crush on her.

CM: (laughs) Well, her and Amanda. Amanda Good. That’s the gossip going around, anyway.

EB: Oh yeah?

CM: Mm-hmm. They’re playing it cool. But Amanda was walking to the field the other day with a bunch of stuff in her hands, and these three Aussies came up and helped her along. One of them said, "My friend wants to know if you’re single." And she said, "Yeah." And he said, "Well, that friend is me."

EB: That’s too funny.

CM: Yeah. But in all seriousness, we are feeling a lot of love. From everybody, really, including our own delegation. It was great to hear the men’s and mixed teams cheering for us from the sideline during our tough game, and we’re really happy to be able to give that right back. Having them there during our game against Japan was huge. 

The U.S.A. teams will have plenty of opportunity to share the love, as both the U.S.A. men’s and mixed teams will square off against Canada in the finals. As noted above, the U.S.A. women will play Japan in their own gold-medal game tomorrow.

 Day 5 Highlights - Images by CBMT Creative



WFDF World Under-23 Ultimate Championships (official website)

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