A Week at the Under-23 World Championships – Day 2, Part II

Posted: July 24, 2013 11:09 AM

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

Because of organizational issues and still more time overruns, the women’s nighttime showcase game, scheduled for 7 p.m., doesn’t kick off until just before 8. By then, the late afternoon rains have already come and gone, and a northern summer sunset graces the sky just in time for the first pull.

U.S.A. is coming off a nail-biter – at 9a.m., in the first round of the day, the women just barely managed to take a 17-16, double-game point victory over Japan. With a whole day’s wait between rounds, Canada’s desire to defend their home turf and the crack in the armor the U.S.A. showed in their Japan game, the fans hope for and expect a tight battle, pitched under the lights.

They get their wish. The point-by-point recap follows:

Point 1: Canada comes down on defense in a four-man cup. U.S.A. rushes upwind and breaks it easily, with tall target Claire Desmond from Fury earning the game’s first goal. 1-0.

Point 2: U.S.A. unleashes a huge pull and follows it up with a very early stuff on Canada’s goal line. A high-release backhand earns the break score. 2-0.

Point 3: It’s a short pull, but an early drop gives U.S.A. very good field position. Claire Chastain picks up the disc in the middle of the field and throws an around backhand break to Magon Liu coming under from the center of a horizontal stack. Liu gets low and whips another backhand around the mark to North Carolina’s Shellie Cohen, but Cohen can’t get a grip on it, and the disc hits the ground in the end zone.

Cohen redeems her drop with a big defensive block in the air, and after a pair of back-and-forth turnovers, Liu runs down a huck and dishes to Chastain. Ever calm and collected, Chastain marshals her team’s red zone offense until she can find an I/O break to Lisa Couper for the score.

It’s 3-0, and by this point, enough people recognize the players on the U.S.A. team to have picked favorites. The entire men’s Aussie squad seems to have fallen for Shira Stern in particular, loudly cheering every time she touches the disc. After an onlooker responds to one particular love-heckle by pointing out that Stern wasn’t even on the field, the fan yells, "Great work on that sideline, Stern-O!"

This garners not so much as a glance.

Point 4: Canada calls time out before the point. They promptly turn over the disc, and despite clamping down with a zone off the change in possession, U.S.A. earns the break. 4-0.

Point 5: Even with the wind in their faces, U.S.A. runs a zone of their own. Unlike Canada, they do manage to make it work, going up 5-0. At this point, it seems like the U.S.A. may be in for a cakewalk.

Point 6: Canada finally wakes up, and they march the disc all the way up the field on the force sideline. From 20 yards out, they send a beautiful flick up the line that looks certain to put them on the scoreboard, but Kami Groom comes out of nowhere to get the D. The U.S.A. works it halfway up the field before turning it themselves, and this time, Canada benefits from a missed defensive assignment to notch their first score. 5-1.

Point 7: Claire Chastain starts the point in the handler spot again for U.S.A. It’s clear that today, with this wind, the coaching staff has made the tactical decision to keep Chastain back and put the disc in her capable hands. Against a four-man cup, Chastain touches every other pass, but when Ohio State’s Paige Soper – herself a talented handler – throws a turn, Canada is able to put up a first-pass deep floater that connects. 5-2, and Canada shows signs of life.

Point 8: U.S.A. earns a surprisingly easy downwinder in the blink of an eye, bringing the score to 6-2. The longest part of the point comes in getting the disc back to the thrower after a travel call.

Point 9: U.S.A. races upwind with a modified 1-3-3 defensive zone. It works, forcing flat swings back and forth with no yardage gain, until Canada’s Lauren Kimura laces a half-field huck that tacks across the wind to the back corner of the end zone on the high side. Even perfect defensive positioning from Jessi Jones can’t stop this one. 6-3.

Point 10: With the wind at their backs and stars Chastain, Liu, Jones and Desmond on the line, U.S.A. is stunned when Canada earns a quick block and scores. It’s 6-4, and U.S.A. is left to wonder: what happened to the cakewalk? What happened to being up five to nothing?

Point 11: A diving pull comes in fast, blading in on the wind – and it’s dropped! Canada picks up the disc on the end zone line, but they can’t chalk up the point. An around backhand break is pushed out of reach by the wind, and even a monster layout from the Canadian cutter can’t save the throw.

Undeterred, Canada sets up another four-man cup. The U.S.A. has a second chance here and knows it. They move the disc smoothly, prodding the Canadian defense for openings – and promptly throw into the teeth of the zone.

Possession bounces back and forth, until at last, Kimura loads up and hucks, an offensive strategy that has generally borne fruit for them. It’s caught on the goal line, and after utilizing their second time out, they punch it in. 6-5.

Point 12: Coaches Jit Bhattacharya, Carolyn Matthews and Mike Whitaker walk to the line, trying to calm their players. On the line are Jessi Jones, Magon Liu, Megan Cousins, Shellie Cohen, Julia Snyder, Amanda Kostic and…Shira Stern. The Australian boys cannot be happier.

Canada runs up-field in another four-man cup. They have momentum, and they know it. This point will be enough to tie the game, if they can just get it – but they can’t. Liu finds an unguarded Shellie Cohen in the end zone and rewards her with a perfect huck that hits her in stride. Canada walks back to the line shaking their heads. Next time, their zone will need to actually have a deep-deep. 7-5.

Point 13: It’s getting cold and windy, and unlucky number 13 turns into a hell point punctuated by drops, throwaways and the occasional amazing D. As the lights come on, Lauren Kimura lets fly with another big throw for Canada, a perfect hammer into the waiting hands of a wide-open receiver. 7-6.

Point 14: U.S.A. breaks through the Canadian zone, and after the transition to man, Amanda Kostic saves a potential turnover by eating up a tipped disc. U.S.A. turns it anyway when Chastain can’t quite reel in an over-aggressive, trailing edge end zone shot, giving Canada an opportunity to tie it up. They fail to do so, however, as Claire Desmond gets a defensive block, and Jessi Jones launches a perfect break throw to put the U.S.A. back up 8-6. As nearly an hour has elapsed, halftime is called early, as per WFDF rules. This portends a capped game, and it’s just as well. It’s getting so cold that, during the break, nearly all the players put on their warm-up jackets.

Point 15: U.S.A. pulls to start the half, and their line – Chastain, Groom, Desmond, Liu, Alysia Letourneau, Sarah Pesch and Snyder – seems custom designed to get the block and punch it in for the score.

It does, and they do, Chastain to Snyder to Liu. 9-6.

Point 16: U.S.A. pulls and comes out showing zone despite not having the advantage of the wind. Canada easily storms through the defense, and U.S.A. is forced to transition. They get a turn and aim to score again to send a message but cough up the disc on an errant swing pass against Canada’s four-man cup, and Canada scores. 9-7.

Point 17: Canada’s four-man cup, which they’re now running almost exclusively, generates an early turn as the U.S.A. cannot get the disc to the high side of the field. Lauren Kimura throws a 20-yard gainer, receives the dump, then lets loose a beautiful cross-field break that slices right through the teeth of the wind to put Canada back within striking distance. 9-8.

Point 18: Canada looks to cash in a downwinder to tie the game, but a bricked pull leaves the U.S.A. with too much room to work. After a little handler movement, Chastain takes advantage of the good field position with a 40-yard backhand break to a streaking Julia Snyder for the goal. 10-8.

Point 19: Canada is still very much looking for Kimura to do the work, and she does: after catching the pull, she makes every other touch on the disc. A 50-yard flick huck upwind puts a laying out Aya Peloquin on the goal line, even with Jessi Jones vying for the poach block. Unfortunately, Peloquin throws it away when she can’t find Kimura for the score after a time out, and the U.S.A. happily hucks for field position as if to dare Kimura to try to lead her team all the way up-field again.

She nearly succeeds. The U.S.A. just can’t keep Kimura from getting the disc, and she continues to make every other pass. Her teammates, however, may not be as up to the challenge, and after a drop and a U.S.A. jugular attack on the turn, Liu hits Sharon Tsao in stride to give the U.S.A. a break score and the momentum. 11-8.

Point 20: Huck. D. Huck. D. Up-line poach block. Up-line poach block. It’s like playing ultimate in a house of mirrors.

Both teams know how crucial this point is. Canada needs to win it to keep the heat on, and the U.S.A. wants it to gain some breathing room. But both teams are exhausted; it’s 9:30 p.m. and dark out, and the game’s still not even close to over. Add in the cold – the temperature has plummeted some 20 degrees over the course of the game – and even the best players on these top teams can’t help but stumble.

Drop. Throwaway. Throwaway. Throwaway. Each team matches the other’s error.

After the ninth turnover of the point, Claire Chastain calls for time out with the disc near the dead center of the field. The crowd, freezing, sits noticeably muted – save for the raucous U.S.A. mixed squad, who, over the howling wind, blares the lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ "Party in the U.S.A." at the tops of their lungs to try to pump up the women.

The disc is tapped in, but the time out has changed nothing. Throwaway. Block. Block. Block. Nobody can find a rhythm. Finally, on the 15th (!) possession of the point, Canada’s Vivianne Fortin catches a macked disc in the end zone to cap off the longest point of the game. 11-9, U.S.A. to receive.

Point 21: An early U.S.A. drop gives Canada a short field to work with, and Kimura picks up the disc. Crystal Koo catches Kimura’s swing pass like it’s a medicine ball, wrapping the disc with her arms and cradling it into her gut. It’s odd to see, but it’s just that cold and windy, and nerves are just that high – everyone’s being extra careful. No one wants to make a mistake.

Silly though she may have looked, Koo runs down Kimura’s next pass, a 25-yard up-field gainer, and catches it past not one but two U.S.A. poachers. She then flicks up-line to who else but Kimura, giving Canada the big upwinder and making the score 11-10.

Point 22: Coach Mike Whitaker stalks the sideline. His top seven are on – Chastain, Jones, Desmond, Kostic, Couper and Liu – but he’s nervous.

He should be. U.S.A. turns the disc over, and Kimura unleashes a downwind bomb that somehow, crazily, just pushes past the outstretched hand of its downfield receiver.

The U.S.A. hucks the disc away again, and again Kimura lasers the disc downfield. After a swing and two more downfield gainers, Canada punches it in and ties it up – or have they? The crowd’s on their feet, but the pass after Kimura’s huck is called back on a travel, and on the ensuing replay, Canada turns the disc over. On defense again, Canada gets the support of the fans, as feet, hands and vuvuzelas sing out for a block. It’s not to be, though: U.S.A. scores to make it 12-10, and the game is capped at 14.

Point 23: That U.S.A. upwinder killed Canada’s spirit, and it shows. Canada could have tied the game, but they failed to, and now, they’ve lost focus. After neglecting to catch a soft pull, they err by putting up a swilly hammer as a swing pass against the U.S.A. zone. U.S.A. smells blood in the water, and they punish the mistake. 13-10.

Point 24: Every point is a must-score for Canada, and at last, they play like it. 100 percent passes, sure hands and good execution make for easy offense – it’s the first turnover-free point in quite a while. 13-11. But it can’t last.

Point 25: With the disc in hand to win the game, the U.S.A. makes a poor decision, putting up a swilly crossfield hammer. Not surprisingly, it’s blocked. What is surprising is the manner in which the block is made: the zone wing, running towards the intended receiver, throws her hand blindly in the air with her back to the disc, hoping to swat it down. And she does, sight unseen. It’s amazing. Unfortunately, it’s also sent back on a foul, and after that scare, U.S.A. makes conservative choices and marches the disc up-field to chalk the game winner, 14-11.

The next day’s games, on Wednesday, will pit the U.S.A. women against Germany and New Zealand and the men against Ireland and Colombia. Mixed, having already clinched their spot as winners of their pool, will begin to mentally prepare for their games against other top finishers on Thursday and Friday.

Day 2 Highlights - Images by CBMT Creative

WFDF World Under-23 Ultimate Championships (official website)

Tw (@USAUltimateU23):


Have any questions or comments? We welcome community feedback and discussion made in a respectful manner. Please refrain from profanity or personal attacks, as such public comments negatively reflect on our sport and community.