Beach Diaries, Open (Brach) 8/23/11

Posted: August 23, 2011 09:22 AM

Well, it's been quite a road getting here.  After hitting up three beach training tournaments with the team (Huck It Long Beach, Sandblast, and Wildwood), the level of anticipation for Worlds had grown quite high.  I think we'd all been looking forward to hitting up the beach in Italy to see how we stack up against the best of the rest of the world - it's nice to have finally arrived.
After spending the last month traveling with Team Israel around the European circuit - and a great spirited bunch they are - I was very much looking forward to reuniting with Team USA out here in Lignano Sabbiadoro.  Arriving the afternoon of the 20th, I met up with the North Carolina boys and Xtehn, who had been working to set up the Five Ultimate area on the beach.  We spent a day settling in, waiting for the rest of the squad, and preparing ourselves, and on the afternoon of the 21st, we met all of our teammates, the rest of the US delegation, and all the other players and staff as the entire tournament paraded for a mile down the beach to attend the opening ceremonies and opening showcase game: an evening matchup between host team Italy and defending silver medalist (and Pool B 1-seed) Philippines.
Going right into the game, it was clear that both teams were prepared.  The Philippines came out moving the disc quickly, with low stall-count breaks across the middle of the field to keep the defense on their heels, as was known to be their M.O.  As for Italy, they came out passionate and hard, looking early for hucks and opportunities to come up with big grabs.
From a strategic perspective, this was an important game for us to watch - the top two other seeds in our pool battling it out.  Personally, it struck me as a really tough first game for the Philippines - getting off a cross-oceanic plane, with no rest or preparation, and being forced to suit up against the well-settled and heavily supported home crowd.  Not much value to being the first seed, there! 
As it happened, the Italians capitalized quickly and ruthlessly on this advantage.  Feeding off the energy of the crowd, they baited a few bad hucks from the Philippine team and used their height to their advantage on both sides of the disc.  The game to 13 was capped and Italy pulled out the win 12-9.  Though the game was clean and fun to watch, it was clear that the Italians did not shy away from physical play - a tactical nugget to put in our back pockets later.
Day 2 of the tournament, our first day, saw us matched up against Ireland.  One of the old guard quipped that we were the "Evil Empire", three seed be damned, and that Ireland would come out gunning for us.  Well, they did, and they were a tough team, but our preparation proved to be too much for them.  With only two turnovers all game, we walked away with it by a score of 13-2.  Our afternoon game against France was more of the same: we turned the disc only twice all day, and with the strength of some strong team D, actually bageled the other squad, running away with it, 13-0.
After cheering on our other teams, all of whom also had strong showings the first day - I'm quite sure that the women, mixed, and masters all won out their matches, though I didn't see much of the mixed masters or grand masters squads - we settled in for an icebreaking pan-USA party on the beach, a much needed pressure release valve going into our next games.
Day 3 for us opened with a matchup against Currier Island, a fictitious country known as the "spiritual home of beach Ultimate" and a nation that regroups only once every four years to bring new players to Beach Worlds.  With a very early start time, both teams looked worse for the wear, but the U.S. managed to again rattle of a 13-2 win on the strength of patient offense and intense team D.  Immediately after the open game, the women's squad took down Finland, also by a large margin. 
We've got India coming up in the afternoon, and it's clear that having done all of the pre-tournament prep work has paid off: while other teams are still learning each others' tendencies, we're firing on all cylinders.  The only things we were ill-prepared for are the heat and humidity: the sand gets almost too hot to walk on in the early afternoons, and one of the masters players, Rob Severson, went down the first day with dehydration and heatstroke (don't worry - he's fine now).  Our team is feeling confident and playing hard - if we can keep this up, we're hoping to return this week very proud of the job we've done representing our nation. 

Team USA Beach Diaries

Some members of Team USA will be submitting diary entries during the event to keep everyone posted on their experience in Italy.

  Grand Masters
Mixed Masters