World Games Cali: Day 1, Part II

Posted: July 29, 2013 10:23 AM

The following is part of our of continuing coverage of the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia. 

Mike Natenberg’s Greatest to Cree Howard was the most remarkable play I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes.

A Greatest, for those who don’t know, occurs when a receiver saves possession of a disc that would otherwise fly out of bounds. Natenberg’s came when he chased down an Alex Snyder huck and, with an effort that seemed simultaneously valiant and meaningless, jumped out the back of the end zone, grabbed the disc, and flung it backward. It slowly sailed the length of the end zone, never hovering higher than two feet off the ground, into the hands of a wide-open Cree Howard.

"Everything in warm up was taking off out of the back of that end zone, so I knew I would have to just throw something," said Natenberg. "When I threw it, I thought it was going right into the ground. But I turned around and saw Cree there."

2013WG d1p2
Photo credit: CBMT Creative

The Greatest headlined a long list of highlight-reel worthy plays in a game the United States won 13-8 over Canada. The wind was constant – even audible – throughout the game, giving players second and sometimes third chances at tracking down the disc. Diving blocks were abundant, and even the pulls were noteworthy. On the point before Natenberg’s play, Canada just missed a layout Callahan (when the defense intercepts a disc thrown by the offense in its own end zone), only to catch one when the very next pass was bobbled. 

The United States’ deep game was particularly strong. After Canada tied the game at 3-3, the U.S. scored four goals in a row, taking half in the process, with all of them coming on hucks.

"We have a good deep game," said U.S. coach Alex Ghesquiere. "We want to create space and then take advantage of it. And while I think more preferably we’d like to use the under space as much as the deep, tonight the deep was available, and we took it."

Though the United States’ next two goals, one to hold to 8-4 and another to break to 9-4, didn’t come on long throws, they stuck with the big-play theme: Natenberg had to leap to pull down a short pass that bounced in the wind on the first, and George Stubbs laid out to block a Canadian in-cut on the second.

Canada would eventually hold to make the score 10-5, and on their ensuing defensive point, used a junk zone that forced numerous short throws. The move threw the United States off of its rhythm, and Canada rattled off three breaks in a row.

"In those first couple points when they were junky, we all just sucked into one space and weren’t using the whole field at all," said U.S. captain Alex Snyder.

"They capitalized really easily because we didn’t have our match ups right," added Howard.

Still leading 10-8 but ready to stop the bleeding, the U.S. called a timeout. They would score the next point on – you guessed it – a huck, this one coming from Stubbs to Dylan Tunnell, who leapt over Canadian defender Morgan Hibbert and threw an easy pass to Sarah Griffith to complete the score.

"We had total trust in each other," said Griffith of how the U.S. stopped Canada’s run. "After the third time our O got broken and was going out, Ryan [Farrell] and I were saying to each other ‘there’s no seven people I’d rather have out there right now.’"

The United States ended the game with a run of its own. A Mac Taylor layout block set up a goal to go up 12-8 (it also brought on team cheers of "MacAttack!"), and the final goal came after Beau Kittredge got open deep and tossed the disc to Snyder, who found Taylor in the end zone.

Canada’s adjustment, though too late to change this particular game, demonstrated that winning the World Games will require more than a potent deep game. At tonight’s team meeting, coach Matty Tsang implored the U.S. team to make life easier for themselves on offense. "We’re making incredible plays that I don’t think we need to make," he said. "We have to be more complete. It only works until it doesn’t.

Natenberg’s evening actually illustrates the even-keel approach the United States sees as ideal. Though he executed a Greatest for the ages, he quickly headed to the sideline and started cheering for the next point. "I didn’t want to have that play and lose the game. You don’t want to talk about a play that’s awesome when winning is the important thing."

One can surmise that Ghesquiere likes Natenberg’s attitude. "We were good," the coach said of his team. "But there’s still a lot left on the table."

Pool Play - USA vs Canada - Images by CBMT Creative



2013 World Games (official website)


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.