USA Girls' finish up pool play

Posted: August 6, 2010 10:38 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 fifthteenth entry is from John Sandahl, the USA Girls' head coach, as the girls' finish up pool play.




We entered our third day of pool play feeling rested and still riding the energy from our awesome win against Sweden last night. We knew we had the toughest game of our pool at 12:30 against Australia. The girls seemed confident, pumped, and ready. For some of us, the memory of losing to Australia in pool play two years ago was in the forefront of our minds. They beat us with a strong 1-3-3 zone, and the very solid play of their strong deep-deep and all-around superstar Cat Phillips and cast of hard running green jersey’s.  We made had a social event with the Australian teams the day of opening ceremonies (a rollicking photo scavenger hunt through the town of Heilbronn).  They are a spirited bunch with a lot of team chemistry and a strong bunch of adult coaches and organizers who are CLEARLY passionate about making great a reality down under.  In fact – that’s been one of the greatest things about this tournament – meeting all the great adult coaches and organizers from around the world.  Scottish, Latvian, Columbian, German, British and all the rest with a common goal of sharing their passion for ultimate with the youth of the world. 

At the time of the game, 12:30 P.M., it was overcast and cool.  We started warm-up with a group dance party in the spirit of all that is fun about this team.  Then after warm-ups, in the team huddle, we discussed the style of game that we expected from the Aussies (Zone and more zone) and how we would beat it (keep it away from Cat whilst moving it quickly).  US coach in the making and huddle voice extraordinaire Taylor Kanemori. who was on the team in ‘08 reminded us again of our need to bring the fire.  Australia might have a loss to Sweden – but they would be fired up to play us. 

And after our Defense got the first turn (Julia Fuster’s)– sure enough – the Aussies went to their zone.  And though we marched it down quickly, we managed to stall near the end zone as their zone baited and collapsed and cased a turn. Luckily Fuster was up to a second D and earned us another chance and once again – we managed to get it right to the end zone but Cat sniffed out the goal scoring throw and baited it into a D.  This only seemed to fire up our girls more as their tight person Defense earned a coverage sack (Stall Nine throwaway) almost immediately and this time we punched it in.  

The second and third points went much as the first.  We earned a D or turn (we have a lot of girls hungry for D) and then moved the disc almost effortlessly until a slight miss throw or overeager play which the Aussie Zone was encouraging.  Luckily for us the Aussies were having a VERY tough time moving it and after the third straight break the Aussies called a timeout to regroup.  

We talked about being just a bit too frantic when behind the Four-cup and our handlers responded with more composure to lock up points four and five and the rout seemed to be on.  On the sixth point we were knocking on the door again after a sweet backhand huck from Lauren Baecher to Ellie Shaul near the goal line but Ellie’s reset pass fell right at the feet of her receiver and this time the Aussies capitalized, no doubt smelling an opportunity to strike quickly.  They hucked it to Cat and the point was over. 

At 5-1 we played a little too fast and loose turning it with a floating pass into the teeth of the zone and watched as the Aussies converted a quick score into our first Offensive break of the tournament.  It was bound to happen but the suddenness of it was a bit jarring.  The loudness of the Aussie Fans certainly added to the suddenness.  We called a time out and talked it over.  We all looked at each other and felt confident.  We knew we would respond well.  We just needed to play OUR tempo – OUR game and start dictating again.  

And in our first true "must score" moment of the tournament Afra Danai answered the bell by feeding Cassie "The Beast" Swafford.  Sophie Darch then returned the favor on the next point by getting a layout block and finding Afra for a quick end zone score. 

The half ended at 9-3 and the Aussies fans were noticeably quieter.  We’d played through the noise and come out confident. At half I mentioned to a few girls that that was the first time a team had pulled to us and scored – they were all surprised and even more surprised that they didn’t even notice it in the moment.  They were so confident in our play that they didn’t even flinch.  Play our game was our halftime theme and after a few more adjustments we were ready to receive the second half pull. 

I’ll need to cut this off so I can get some sleep but needless to say – we kept the pressure on and the aussies – though managing a couple more scores just couldn’t 

Couple of things worth mentioning for the fans at home – Our girls are putting on a clinic in person defense in this tournament.  We’ve had more high stall turns than I can count and more run through D’s that turned into easy fast break goals (usually on sweet hucks) than I can believe.  It’s stunning to watch at times.  There’s just no where to throw it much of the time and when there is its usually backwards.  It’s also worth mentioning that our depth is REALLY starting to come into play.  We’re playing all 21 girls almost evenly and there’s not been drop-off in effort or performance once.  It’s a new idea for most of these girls who are used to playing every point they are upright on their college and High school teams but they’re starting to really appreciate how fun it is to play fresh and fast defense on girls who’ve had to play three times as many points.  

Props to the Aussies as they definitely gave us the best game we’d played so far.  

Our second game was against Latvia (wow – LATVIA!) and though it was a great effort (by both teams) it was a muddy and sloppy game and so probably didn’t reflect either team very well.  Latvia is a very physical team it should be noted (they looked more like a hockey team than one built for ultimate) and they had great hands.  

Tomorrow – Quarters against Japan and hopefully on to Semis…Wish us Luck!