Heidelberg, Germany (July 18, 2019) – All three U.S. teams are officially into bracket play at the 2019 World Under-24 Ultimate Championships. Day five of competition closed out power pools for the women’s and mixed teams, before the men’s and mixed teams headed into the quarterfinals. The women’s team will jump straight into the semifinal round tomorrow.
To get things started today, the U.S. Mixed National Team met up with the Czech Republic for their final game of power pools. The Czech Republic runs something of a similar offense to ours, using the handlers to drive most of their movement. That their main handlers, particularly on the male side, happen to be very tall helps them be successful in working in small spaces, despite tight handler defense from people like Alan Villanueva and Stan Birdsong – both people with considerable wingspans themselves. Their handlers also had a good arsenal of throws that made pretty much any spot on the field a viable option for receivers. But good team defense, a combination of active marks and tight positioning downfield, pushed many of their throws just wide enough to turn the disc over. The handler movement that drive the U.S. offense looked really smooth throughout the game, rotating in person after person, all able to run the throw-and-go style that results in many of the team’s goals. The usual suspects, people like captains Anna Thompson and Brett Gramann, along with others like Joe White, Anne Worth, Anne Worth and Kyle Rutledge were also frequent contributors in that space. Things initially stayed pretty close in the first half, but after the U.S. won a marathon of a point to go up 7-4, the Czech Republic seemed to lose some steam. They got a few more on the board before the U.S. closed out the game with a solid score of 15-7.
We had a couple miscues, either on miscommunications in the dump space or throws that popped up too high, creating some goals for cleaner still execution in the team’s next game when things truly get real: the quarterfinals. The point differential in a three-way tie for the power pool’s fourth spot ended with a U.S. match up against Australia in the tournament’s first round of bracket play. From here on out, competition is one and done. Australia is a good match up for the U.S. mixed team in terms of size and style of play. They are strong throwers and cutters who are good at utilizing the deep space. We worked to neutralize their deep game by starting many D points in junky sets and/or playing a pretty flat mark that forced back to the middle of the field. The adjustment to the flatter marks happened several points into the game, after they had managed a few goals on deep looks both from and to their men and women. Australia broke first, early, after their defense forced our handlers deep into our own end zone and created a turn. They went up 2-1, but we got the break back at 4-3 on a long point that had several great defensive plays – including a great one from Luke Webb where he made up tons of ground on the deep look to make a successful bid on the disc. Joe Freund launched a deep shot to Alissa Soo for the break goal. From there, our play was pretty efficient, and when we had miscues, the defense nearly always got the disc back. The U.S. continued to chip away and, stacking up breaks, usually on turns that resulted from real team defense – tight downfield defense and active marks that, together, forced tough resets or floaty hucks. The game ended 15-8, and the U.S. Mixed National Team advanced to the semifinals. They will take on Singapore at 1:00 p.m. local time / 7:00 a.m. ET. The game will be livestreamed at ultiworld.com/live.
The U.S. women’s team closed out power pools in one of the event’s most highly-anticipated match ups: another edition of the U.S. v Japan. Japan got the game’s first break, and it came early. After a couple turns, they punched one in to go up 2-1. Goals were traded all the way to the game’s next break – another one for Japan – to put them up 7-5. Japan spent a lot of time playing their seemingly standard junky defense, particularly sagging into the throwing lanes around the handlers. Luckily, the U.S. has a very experienced handler corps that includes a number of games against Japanese teams. Lines were slightly tighter for the U.S. in this match up than they have been so far this week, but that rotation allowed players like Angela Zhu and Julianna Werffeli to lead the offense regularly and together on the same line. A lot of the U.S. yards gained in the early part of the field – and a few of the goals – was from movement between those two handlers. They had plenty of help from their teammates, including Kelli Iwamoto and Michelle McGhee in the handler space and people like Caitlyn Lee, Claire Trop, Shayla Harris working downfield. After halftime, the U.S.’s energy seemed noticeably higher. Defense was a little tighter, cuts were coming a little faster. And it worked. Japan missed some throws, but a lot of those throws were affected by U.S. marks, whether it was just forcing a throw slightly wider or if a defender actually got a touch on the throw. Japan is famous for throwing things that are right on the margins of their receivers’ ability to bring it, in spots where on their receiver has a chance to make a play. When they’re on, it feels like it’s nearly impossible for the defense to do anything to stop it. When it’s not 100%, break opportunities appear. With Japan not executing at a full 100% in the second half, the U.S. took advantage. They went into the half down two breaks, but got the score back on serve two points into the second half at 8-8. That momentum continued through the half, and the U.S. closed out the win with a 7-3 run. Final score: 15-12. The win solidified the overall top spot in the semifinals for the U.S., which pits the team against Colombia in tomorrow’s semifinals at 11:00 a.m. local time / 5:00 a.m. ET. Tune in on fanseat.com/ultimate.
The men’s team’s lone game of the day was their quarterfinal match up against, like the mixed team, Australia. The Australian men tried to play a pretty big huck game, but it didn’t really work out for them. The U.S. defense was tenacious, forcing some tougher throws than Australia would have liked, but the Aussies didn’t play their best game. The U.S. got the disc off drops on more than one occasion, and took full advantage. After a couple of up-and-down games, the U.S. men have really dialed in on their focus and execution, beginning with their game against Colombia. This afternoon, the team had just a handful of turnovers. Cole Wallin also seems to have found his rhythm. He ended the quarterfinal with a stat line of two goals and two assists. Leandro Marx is another seemingly underrated player – at least as “underrated” as any U.S. National Team player can be. He was everywhere on the field, playing lockdown defense and then doing work to get in the end zone on offense, and it’s not the first time. He has been a huge presence for the team all week – as has Tannor Johnson. Add two more goals to his stat line for the tournament after this afternoon’s game. The U.S rolled to 11-0 before Australia got on the board with a deep shot, but not until after we earned another break opportunity but couldn’t convert. The final score ended up being 15-3, and the U.S. cruised into the semifinals. They will face Italy in the semifinals tomorrow – a rematch of the far-too-close-for-comfort gold-medal game from the 2018 U-24 World Championships. That game will kick off at 3:00 p.m. local time / 9:00 a.m. ET, and will be livestreamed on ultiworld.com/live.
We are officially onto bracket play at the World Under-24 Ultimate Championships! All three teams are headed to the semifinals tomorrow. Be sure to keep up with the U.S. teams at nationalteam.usaultimate.org for daily recaps, results, photo galleries and more. Plus, follow @usaultimate, @usaultimateu24 and @usaultimatelive on Twitter for even more content, including live in-game updates from @usaultimatelive.
Semifinal Livestream Links: