Heidelberg, Germany (July 17, 2019) – Things are heating up in Heidelberg. The mixed and women’s teams have moved into power pools so are facing some tougher competition than much of what they saw over the first few days – and most of the time, the heightened challenge is evident.
Still working through their remaining games of pool play, the men’s team was the first to take the field on Wednesday for a face-off with Colombia. It was an incredibly clean game, for both sides, really. But the U.S. only committed one turnover in the whole game. Even though Colombia was playing well, that kind of efficiency is almost impossible to withstand. Colombia ran a lot of zone, which made Mac Hecht like a kid on Christmas morning. He had yet another big game, working as an initiating cutter of sorts in the standard ho stack, going back to join the handler corps after the first centering pass. In the zone offense, he use his creative throws to break open the defense time after time. It also helps to have guys like Henry Fisher and Tannor Johnson working in the middle and deep spaces. Johnson had another big game after his monster effort against Germany yesterday afternoon. He had one assist and three goals to complement Hecht’s four assists. On defense, Chance Cochran spent his time locking down Colombia’s main reset handler. He generated the game’s first turn and the bookends goal to put the U.S. in front 5-3. From there, more great lockdown defense, particularly on the handlers, forced several high-stall throws that the U.S. was able to get touches on. Quinn got one of those on the very next point, and the U.S. jumped ahead by a second break. Things progressed in a similar vein through the final point. Colombia played a solid game, but it was clear their stars were feeling the effects of four straight days of heaving playing time. They just couldn’t do enough to force the U.S. offense into turning it over, and the U.S. came away with a 15-7 win.
The U.S. men faced Panama in their second game of the day. 2019 marks Panama’s first-ever appearance at the U-24 World Championships. They have a short roster and not a ton of international experience, so facing the U.S. men was always going to be a challenge for their squad. The U.S. wanted to use the opportunity to work on focus and execution. It wasn’t always easy. Panama gave it their all, but are still working on fundamentals. The U.S. men closed out pool play with a 15-0 win. Things officially get real tomorrow with the start of bracket play. The U.S. men’s team will face Australia in the quarterfinal round at 3:00 p.m. local time, 9:00 a.m. ET. Their quarterfinal game will be livestreamed on Fanseat, so get your subscription, and set a reminder.
The women’s team’s first power pool game was against Italy. Italy was also committed to running a lot of zone defense. They rotated between a pretty standard cup zone and a 1-3-2-1 look. The U.S. handling line is very strong and very experienced, so there isn’t much they haven’t seen. Angela Zhu, Julianna Werffeli, Ari Nelson, Kelli Iwamoto and co. did a great job working through and around both zone looks, finding people like Claire Trop, Sadie Jezierski, Renata Pepi and plenty more downfield. Italy has a couple strong throwers, led by Irene Scazzieri, but with enough pressure on the receivers that forced the throws into different or tighter spaces than they would have liked, the defense was able to create some turnovers. Also, Michelle McGhee doesn’t always bid on defense, but when she does – hopefully your camera is ready. She got an amazing block on an under cut later in the game that felt a bit like an exclamation point. With the exception of a few points, the U.S. played a pretty clean game and took advantage of many of their break opportunities. The game ended 15-5, and the U.S. women began looking ahead to Canada.
The U.S. and Canada scrimmaged last Friday, before the tournament started, and the U.S. won big, but the expectation was that today’s game would be a very different story. It ended up being a tighter game than the scrimmage, but the U.S. still ran away with things, particularly in the second half. One thing the coaches mentioned in the post-game huddle after the team played Italy was that the energy levels in the game were okay but could definitely stand a bump. That bump was very apparent against Canada. Cuts were coming quicker and with more commitment, the defense stepped up a notch, and the trust levels seemed way higher. Throws were going up that were definitely trust throws – not always what the coaches may have advocated, but completely looks way more often than not. Canada held to open the game before the U.S. went on a 5-0 run that was a microcosm of the game. Canada tried out several different defensive looks, among them person, a standard zone and a “box and one” zone that put the “one” on either Zhu or Werffeli to try and show them down. It didn’t work out quite as well as they would have liked. Canada got a few more goals on the board in the first half, but in the second, down 10-5, they may have decided to dial it back a little, knowing they probably didn’t absolutely need a win against the U.S. to still finish in the power pool’s top four. Those are the four teams that advance to the semifinals on Friday. The game ended 15-7 behind strong play from up and down the roster. Canada moves on to Canada, while the U.S. will take on Japan tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. / 7:00 a.m. ET for the top spot in the power pool and, therefore, the semifinals. The U.S. v Japan women’s game will be livestreamed on Fanseat, so mark your calendars.
The mixed team jumped into power pools with a little more excitement than many U.S. fans would have liked. In an up and down game against Canada, the U.S. alternately led by a few and was behind by a few. Canada played tight defense, but more than anything, our turns were caused by miscues or throws that had just a touch too much on them. Our defense on all lines is strong enough to get some of those turns back, but they also provide solid opponents with opportunities to pull away. After a couple lead changes, the U.S. went into halftime on serve, up 8-7. They broke out of the half, thanks to a Stan Birdsong D, but Canada followed up with a three point run that put them in front 10-9. Team defense created a turn and a scoring opportunity for Birdsong to put the U.S. back in the lead at 12-11 and points were traded until double-game point at 14 all. Canada had a chance when the U.S. turned it in the end zone, but they quickly gave it back, and the second chance wasn’t squandered. Joe White hit Matt Gouchoe-Hanas to close out what is, so far, the tightest of the U.S.’s tight games in Germany. The upshot for U.S.A. Mixed was that they didn’t play their best game but were still able to fight their way to a win. That sets the tone for them going forward and gives them things to focus on. Putting the game in the back of their minds, they moved onto their second power pool game against the home team.
The mixed team’s game against Germany was much less exciting – as far as fans’ tension levels are concerned. The U.S. still dealt with some execution errors, but were better able to recover against Germany with good defensive pressure that forced Germany into tough throws. They also often resorted to deep looks in an effort to score quickly and make it more difficult for the U.S defense to get set. Steven Benaloh, Anders Olsen, Ashley Powell, Clea Poklemba and Michael Ing played great for the U.S., together accounting for eight of the team’s assists and four goals. U.S.A. Mixed has one game remaining in power pools. They’ll face the Czech Republic tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. local time / 5:00 a.m. ET. But they have already locked up the top overall seed in the quarterfinals with their existing record. Japan and Poland are currently tied atop the other power pool, both sitting at 3-1, and they face each other tomorrow morning. Even if there is a tie between the U.S. and either Japan or Poland at 4-1 tomorrow morning, our point differential will keep us in the top spot. The quarterfinals are win or go home time! They’ll get underway for the U.S. mixed team tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. local time / 9:00 a.m. ET.
We are moving on to bracket play at the World Under-24 Ultimate Championships! The men’s team is up first in the quarterfinals, with the mixed team following tomorrow afternoon. The women’s team has one more game to go in power pools before the semifinal round on Friday. 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.