The Road to Toronto and the U-23 World Championships

Posted: July 19, 2013 12:41 PM

The WFDF World Under-23 Ultimate Championships kick off in just a few short days, and the U.S.A. squads are ready.

With three divisions scheduled – open, women’s and mixed – the second-ever WFDF World Under-23 Ultimate Championships, to be held July 21-28 in Toronto, Canada, promises to be an outstanding event. What’s more, the U.S.A. teams appear poised to cross the border and bring home some heavy metal.

U.S.A. mixed player Mike "Ogre" Ogren, who cut his teeth helping the University of Central Florida claim silver at the USA Ultimate College Championships this year, noted, "The pure talent and athleticism we will be able to put on the field is certainly impressive.  We have players with impressive track records in Junior Worlds, college gold and silver medalists, and perennial Club Nationals qualifiers and gold medalists.  It's exciting to see how we will all find our roles and play together as a team."

Ogren isn’t alone in his excitement: the fans also expect a lot of all the squads. After all, these teams come from a championship tradition – the U.S.A. has a long history of winning in ultimate, particularly in the open division. In fact, American teams have claimed gold in the open division in every World Championship in which they’ve competed since 2008.* Nonetheless, the players remain modest.

"We have a big challenge at hand in coming together quickly during camp and the beginning of the tournament," professes young Ring of Fire talent Ian Toner, who will take the field with the U.S.A. open squad. The past is the past, and nothing is taken for granted, and as Toner sees it, the real draw isn’t just the competition – it’s playing for the red, white and blue.

"I'm most excited to learn from my teammates," says Toner.  "That may sound kind of lame and boring, but a lot of these guys have so many experiences, backgrounds and ways of playing that differ from my own...To be able to pick their brains to better myself and our team for two straight weeks, especially when a lot of us will go back to competing against each other in the club season after this tournament ends – that's a really special opportunity."

To be sure, the roster reads like a Who’s Who of the new wave of talent in ultimate. Toner will be joined on the U.S.A. open team by two of his Ring of Fire teammates, along with a plethora of college and club stars including Doublewide standout Dalton Smith, Johnny Bravo’s Jimmy Mickle, Elliott Erickson of Chain Lightning and College Championships finalist Mischa Freystaetter.

In contrast to the heavy artillery that the open team boasts, the women’s team is a "faceless army" – at least according to handler Amanda Kostic, herself a key contributor to the University of Washington’s USA Ultimate 2012 College Championship team, Element.

The faceless army will be short a couple soldiers in Toronto, however. Standouts Sarah Davis, also of Washington Element as well as Seattle Riot, and Michela Meister of Stanford and San Francisco Fury are both sidelined with ACL tears. But, as Kostic asserts, "Every person on this team can do everything, and there is no one person who will lead us to victory. We use the depth of our team incredibly well, which allows us to mix things up no matter the situation."

It has been some time since America has won an international competition in the women’s division – August 2011, in fact, when the U.S.A. women won a double-game-point victory over Canada at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate. The U.S.A. women have since claimed silver twice, falling in the finals of the 2012 World Junior Ultimate Championships in Ireland to a tough Colombian squad and losing at the 2012 World Ultimate Championships in Japan to the home team. Both Japan and Colombia will be present in Toronto, and both teams will surely be gunning for a title alongside the United States. Will this be the year the U.S.A. women go over the top?

Of course, as with any tournament, there is more to this event than just winning. There are trading nights to be had and far-flung friendships to be made. For many players, this will be their first taste of international competition and will doubtless be a formative and special experience for all involved. Nonetheless, players, friends, family, coaches and fans all look forward to the first pull of the WFDF World Under-23 Ultimate Championships and are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to watch the young representatives of the U.S.A. bring home some gold.

*(Note: no American teams were sent to the inaugural under-23 World Championships, hosted in Florence, Italy in 2010)

Editor’s Note: Eric Brach will be reporting on the U.S. teams from Toronto for the duration of the U-23 World Championships. Follow @USAUltimateU23 on twitter for updates on the U.S. National Teams and their quests for gold, as well as the team twitter accounts (@USAUltimateU23O@USAUltimateU23W@USAUltimateU23X).

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