Waterloo, Ont. (Aug. 25, 2018) – Saturday was a big day for the U.S. in Canada. Both U.S. Under-20 National Teams earned gold at the World Junior Ultimate Championships, the first time the U.S. has swept the event since 2006.
With severe weather threatening to roll in early Saturday afternoon, the gold-medal games were moved up from their originally scheduled times, moving the girls’ start time to 9:30 a.m. ET with the boys set to follow at 11:30 a.m. Both games were highly anticipated. Even though the U.S. girls had already faced Colombia in the power pool round, things can always change when a gold medal is at stake. And it’s an old adage that the hardest thing to do at an ultimate tournament is beat a quality team twice. The boys were set for another classic game, a rematch of the 2016 WJUC final against Canada.
Despite the earlier start, the girls’ team couldn’t shirk the tricky winds that had seemingly followed them throughout the week. The Saturday conditions turned the game into largely an upwind-downwind contest from start to finish, many hucks to play the field-position game included. Things weren’t easy for the U.S. when they got underway. The U.S. started on defense with Colombia on offense going downwind. Colombia had a little trouble calibrating their throws downwind, which gave the U.S. a few break chances on the first point, but it wasn’t to be. Valeria Cardenas subbed in on an injury call, and Colombia held to go up 1-0. Luckily, the U.S. offensive line, as they had nearly all week, was seemingly unstoppable. The teams traded to 6-6, with Stacy Gaskill and Robin Anthony-Peterson each reeling in three of the six U.S. goals to that point. On the next point, Abby Hecko did a great job on the mark, taking away options from Valeria Cardenas. Her low-release break backhand was forced a little too far for the receiver, turning the disc over to the newly tweaked U.S. D line. Going off script a bit, Coach Jason Adams mixed up his D line, adding in Alyssa Ehrhardt, for one. Ehrhardt picked up after the turn and hucked one upwind. Tess Johnson came down with the disc in a crowd, dumped to Claire Trop, who hit Dawn Culton for the game’s first break. That goal turned on the break train for the U.S., a train that ran through most of the rest of the game. After going down a few points, Colombia often tried to do just a little too much to force their way back into the game, which was enough for the U.S. defense, with the help of some big plays and great grabs, to capitalize. In the end, the U.S. ran away to the gold medal with a 15-8 win over Colombia.
The boys’ division final between the U.S. and Canada got underway shortly after the U.S. girls claimed gold. The U.S. and Canada have traded gold at the last two iterations of WJUC, with the U.S. coming out on top most recently in 2016, and the energy on the sidelines was palpable. The ominous clouds rolling in only added to the atmosphere. The boys started with opposite circumstances of the girls: on offense going downwind. The offense held, and the defense got their first break chance on the next point but couldn’t convert – until a couple points later. With the wind picking up, and the weather very quickly rolling in, the U.S. defense, led by Ryan Dinger, took advantage of a Canadian turn to go up 4-2. With the offense now working upwind, Canada pulled out their zone defense. At 5-4, with the U.S in front, Canada got their break back. The O-line defense forced plenty of throws, but Canada remained patient and got the goal. Tied at 6s and right after Canada called timeout with another chance to break, the first of the lightning horns sounded, and everyone bolted for the indoor space at RIM Park. And thus began the game of managing mid-game downtime. The teams threw around in the indoor space, trying to stay loose and dry out a little, interspersed with smaller group conversations with the coaches on tweaks to think about in the remainder of the game. When the teams were allowed to retake the field, Canada did manage to convert that break chance, but the U.S. took to heart those tweak conversations and followed up with four straight goals. Those goals gave them a 10-7 lead and control of the game, control they maintained through the remainder of the second half, through a second lightning delay at 13-9 and all the way to a 15-10 win and a gold medal. As he was throughout the week, Jonny Malks was the leader of the offense behind the disc. Downfield, Connor Ryan was unstoppable in the final, running away from people with seeming ease, including going two for two on a set play that isolated him out of the stack and let Malks air out throws for Ryan to run onto in the end zone. On the other side, Ryan Dinger was the fire and the field general. He wanted that gold, and everyone knew it. Dinger ran the D line and dominated the deep space, coming down with D after D on Canada’s many attempted deep looks. The game was a fitting end for a team that, in addition to their ultimate skill, played with impressive mental fortitude throughout WJUC.
The U.S. U-20 National Teams impressed from start to finish – from training camp to the WJUC championship games – and both teams closed out their experiences with fantastic wins and well-deserved gold medals around their necks. Congrats to all!