Perth, Western Australia (Jan. 11, 2018) – Things are starting to heat up in Western Australia. The men’s and mixed teams both headed into bracket play today after finishing out pools: pool play for the mixed team and power pools for the men’s team. The women’s division started the week with just one big round robin pool, so the women’s team had two more pool play games today, first versus the Philippines and then against Canada this afternoon.
Perth has earned its moniker as the windiest capital city in Australia. The breeze was up over 20 miles per hour for the majority of the day with gusts exceeding that with regularity. For the mixed team, it was a crosswind in their game against China, for them, highly preferable to the upwind-downwind direction they battled yesterday against Austria. The game still wasn’t the cleanest effort, but the team’s ability to generate blocks was again front and center. Tannor Johnson had the morning highlight: a second-throw layout Callahan after chasing down the pull. China is pretty new to the world stage, and their inexperience showed. The 15-4 win closed out pool play for the U.S. and had them looking ahead to their quarterfinal game against India.
The mixed team was the first U.S. squad to get rolling in championship bracket play when they took on Singapore in the quarterfinals this afternoon. Despite a still-intense wind, now upwind-downwind, the mixed team played maybe their strongest game yet this week. Singapore did a good job of forcing lots of throws with their zone looks, but the U.S. was largely unfazed. Alex Hardesty is a rock in the backfield. Despite playing many points as an every-other handler, she might have the fewest turnovers on the team. Brett Gramann has also been incredibly solid in the handler set, with many other players rotating through. Handler depth is certainly a strength for the mixed team. The U.S. moves on to the semifinals tomorrow with a 15-5 win, a score that doesn’t fairly reflect the impressive play from Singapore. Great throws and layout grabs abounded for the new-to-Worlds team that put together a great run this week. The U.S. will take on Canada, who defeated Colombia 15-0 in their quarterfinal match up, tomorrow in the semifinals. The game will be livestreamed on the WFDF YouTube page at 9:00 a.m. local time (8:00 p.m. ET, Jan. 11).
Playing on the upwind-downwind side of the field complex, the U.S. women took on the Philippines in their first game of the day. In true U.S. National Team fashion, playing time and stats were spread evenly across the roster, with everyone playing their part. Ten different women had an assist in the game, and 11 different women scored for the U.S. in the 15-3 win. With their spot in the semifinals locked in, the U.S. women are doing their best to protect any players with nagging injuries, and several sat out the game versus the Philippines. It was a slightly different story in the afternoon game against Canada. For the first time this week, everyone on the U.S. roster was cleated up at game time. Things started off largely as expected. Breaks were traded early before the U.S. went on a run to take a 7-3 lead. But it took four chances on offense for the U.S. to finally close the first half, up 8-6. The second half was a different story – as has become standard for the U.S. delegation here in Perth. The U.S. took the game with a final score of 15-7 to lock up the top spot in the women’s division. The biggest take away from the game is its effect on semifinal match ups. In the semifinals, the U.S. will take on whoever ends up as the number four overall team, which looks to be either Japan or Colombia. Tomorrow’s pool play game between Canada and Colombia will actually cement the top four standings and determine Saturday morning’s semifinal match ups.
The U.S. has two more pool play games tomorrow before they head straight to the semifinals – two more chances to put all the pieces together and reduce their number of unforced errors. The defensive pressure has looked strong throughout the week and continued today, consistently making Canada work hard on offense and earning the U.S. additional scoring opportunities. They definitely took advantage of those opportunities in the second half this afternoon.
After locking up the top spot in their pool, the U.S. men’s team got a bye into the quarterfinal round. The U.S. finishing in the top spot wasn’t a complete surprise given expectations coming in. But it was a surprise to run into Canada this early in the championship bracket. Canada defeated Ireland in the pre-quarterfinals this morning to advance, setting up the eagerly anticipated match up most expected to see in the semifinals or finals. The game did not disappoint. A marathon point got things started, with Ds and hucks traded equally before Canada finally held. They got an early break before the U.S. scored four straight to put a small cushion on the board at 5-3, a lead they took into halftime. Canada broke to start the second and knotted things up at 9-9 before the U.S. put their collective foot back on the accelerator and finally closed it out, scoring three of the last four to win 15-11. It was the first true test for the team, and they stepped up. It was a great game all around for the U.S., with huge performances coming from Jack Williams, Jake Fella, Ben Sadok and Codi Wood. Carl Morgenstern was again massive on defense, playing alongside Sawyer Thompson and Tim McAllister as D-line anchors and behind the huge pulls of San VanDusen. After a quieter-than-normal day yesterday, Williams put up one assist and caught four goals. But contributions came from all parts of the roster; it was a true team win. You can watch the whole game, archived on the WFDF YouTube page.
With the left side of the bracket stacked with all the traditional powerhouse teams (U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Great Britain), the U.S. faces another tough battle in the semifinals tomorrow against Australia. Italy will take on Germany in the other semifinal; the U.S. faced both teams yesterday in power pools.
Keep checking nationalteam.usaultimate.org for updates and scores from the 2018 World Under 24 Ultimate Championships in Perth!