US' Girls do well in round two

Posted: August 5, 2010 11:36 AM

 This August, 44 of the best youth Ultimate players in America will be traveling to Germany to participate in the 2010 World Junior Ultimate Championships. But first, the Open and Girl’s teams will meet at Amherst College next week for a weeklong training camp hosted by USA Ultimate.

Five members of Team USA have agreed to blog about thier experiences for - Bethany Kaylor, Sally LandefeldMaddy RoorbachNick Stuart and Matt Barnes. Follow their progress here as they train, travel and compete throughout the next few weeks.

The twelfth entry is from Miranda Roth, assistant coach of the U20 Girls' team, as she recaps day two.



Wednesday marked the second day of the World Championships for Team USA Junior Girls.  The team felt good after the first day’s solid wins over Finland and Israel but resisted complacency by setting new goals for a new day.  The two Wednesday games were against Belgium and Sweden.

The morning started off with well-deserved rest and sleeping in since the Belgium game did not start until 2:30pm.  The girls enjoyed a delicious breakfast of thick bacon cooked just outside the door, fresh yoghurt and the best scrambled eggs Bethany’s ever had.  Lots of girls were missing some things they needed (for me it was chapstick, sunscreen and a nectarine) so we stopped by a store on the way to the fields.  From the outside, it looked like a quickie mart but inside it was a lot closer to a Super Target offering everything from fresh produce to Big Wheels.  Feeling a bit more prepared for life abroad, we left for the fields feeling pretty darn good.

We arrived at the fields with a good bit of time to spare before warm-ups so we were able to catch up on showers, naps (mostly Claudia) or watching the boys.  The showers at the fields were very nice – hot shower for the first time in awhile! – and the boys took care of business to our great enjoyment.  Next focus…Belgium.

Since we were playing both games in the stadium, our warm-ups had to take place outside the complex on a shared warm-up field.  I’ll make a short digression to say how nice the facilities are here.  While I had a fantastic time playing at the Club World Championships in Prague last month, there was rarely field space to warm-up and my teammates were on constant lookouts for big holes and big trees and one even took a spill on the cement while we were doing a warm-up drill.  We risk none of those dangers here and it’s actually quite nice to share warm-up space with teams from all over the world to get to see the different plyometrics from Germany to Japan.  The girls went through our normal warm-up routine while I went into the stadium to scout the Colombia vs. Canada pool play matchup.

Colombia and Canada are the teams we would likely face in semifinals and finals on the last two days of play so I wanted to be sure to get a good look at their offenses and defenses before we stepped on the field against them.  I had watched Canada on Tuesday and was honestly a bit horrified to see them destroy the defending champions, Japan, 17-2.  They were fired up and played a clean offense with very few mistakes – needless to say I was excited to see the Colombians give them more of a challenge.  Well, challenge they did.  The game was very close and while the Canadians ended up pulling ahead by 2 at the end, I could definitely see chinks in the Canadian armor which just fires me up to play them whenever we get that chance.

When the Canadians finally finished off Colombia, we all stomped the divots on the stadium field to try to prevent ankle sprains on the soft new sod that was rendered squishy by the night rain.  Since the previous game was so close, we had no warm up time on the field and went right into the game against Belgium.  The Belgium girls are athletic and tall but we took advantage starting with great defense and crisp offense.  We started looking for more hucks to open space and had some really nice ones by Lindsay Lang, Bethany Kayler and Sally Landefeld.  It is certainly a blessing to have so many strong cutters who can catch and then throw upfield so well.  This combined with aggressive handlers like Lauren Baecher and Natalie DiPalma who readily push upfield makes for a very dynamic team offense.  Honestly, I pity the team trying to match up on us. 

We finished the Belgium game exactly the way we started – by scoring fairly easily after a defensive stop.  The game finished with a score of 17-0, our first shutout of the tournament.  This is certainly a testament to our defense and strategy – most teams will get a goal here or there even against very good teams, but we held our focus and pushed all the way through to the end.  I was also very impressed with our spirit – at one point an opponent called a foul against Lane Seidor on a deep throw against our zone and immediately threw it back to the thrower.  Lane made sure to talk to her and told her she did not contest the foul so the disc should come back to the opponent who made the call.  We had a lot of fun after the game exchanging MVP awards and silly bands and playing a game of Belgium-rules Ninja that Natalie nearly won.  It was a great start to a big day.

After the Belgium game, we made sure the girls (and coaches) got food immediately and got some shuteye in the stadium stands.  It was a bit hard to rouse the girls, and myself, from this but we really pulled it together in warm-ups.  Chelsea gave an inspiring speech reminding us all what it means to represent our country and it truly worked to get the girls fired up for a great showcase game against Sweden

We eventually moved our warm-up from the practice field to the main showcase field inside the stadium and I could tell by the way our girls were warming up that this was going to be a great game.  In our offensive pattern drill, Anna Reed laid out for a deep catch and Cassie Swafford was skying imaginary defenders just to practice doing the right thing.  I was getting so excited just watching them I could hardly wait for the announcer to call out the start of the game.

Once it was 6:30pm, we all lined up and the names of every player and coach were called to the great joy of the fairly full stands.  The Swedish players then sang their national anthem from the field which I thought was quite a nice touch.  Now, the USA girls are not, on the whole, amazing singers, but we belted out "From sea to shining sea" like we were opening the World Series.  Let the game begin!

We started on defense.  After watching the Swedish team play earlier in the tournament, we knew that they really liked their bendy around forehands so we started out forcing backhand with a high left hand on the mark.  This turned out to be a great strategy throughout the game.  In the first point, the girls were all super fired up and got a turn and scored quite easily.  Soon enough it was 3-0 through similar points.

The Swedes are no slouches, though and managed to work it up against our defense using some very nice inside-out backhand breaks thrown remarkably quickly.  Our offense, however, is not to be trifled with and scored efficiently whenever we started being pulled to (a grand total of 4 times the whole game).  While we were not perfect, we were truly great.  As I mentioned to the team after the game, this was the first time that I was sure that the girls on the field were doing everything better than I could have done it myself and it was really a joy to just sit back and watch.

We ended up winning the game 17-3, convincingly.  The Swedish team had some amazing players, particularly number 20 who had played amazing defense and offense against Australia’s top player the previous day and number 22 who unfortunately was injured in our game.  I was also very impressed with their zone offense.  To be fair there was not much wind, but they threw blades and around forehands with the same precision that most players throw short backhands and they were able to regularly advance the disc easily.  This is certainly something I learned from playing against them and I hope to teach when I return to the States.

In the end, though, even the top play of the Swedes was no match for our play.  While there amazing stand out plays – layout D’s from Claudia Tajima and Natalie DiPalma, shutdown D from Hannah Yee and Nina Finley, pinpoint hucks from Sophie Darch and Lindsay Lange and amazing receiving from Maddy Roorbach and Cassie Swafford – the whole of this team is definitely greater than the sum of our parts.  These players are all amazing individuals on and off the field, but seeing the play and click together is absolutely beautiful.  I have enjoyed getting to know these girls as people and I know we will all be friends forever after this, especially remembering the flow and connections they have formed on the field.  I can’t wait for play to continue today, tomorrow and all the way through the finals.