Perth, Western Australia (Jan. 10, 2018) – Day four of the 2018 World Under 24 Ultimate Championships is in the books in Perth, and the U.S. remains undefeated with a combined 17-0 record between the men’s, mixed and women’s teams.
The women’s team kicked off day four in the first round against Germany. The Germans hung around for most of the first half, using a zone defense to force the U.S. into lots of extra passes, and some errors. But as has become somewhat standard, the U.S. just kept plugging away and pulled ahead 8-4 by halftime. Germany got four more on the board but couldn’t keep up with the U.S. for the long haul. Carolyn Normile had another outstanding game and came out on top of the stat board with two goals and two assists.
Then came the game everyone was waiting for: U.S. v. Japan. And it lived up to the hype. The wind picked up just in time for the first pull, adding extra interest to the match. Despite being somewhat protected by trees and grass hills, the showcase field wasn’t exempt from the really gusty conditions, making execution for both teams messier than what you would normally expect. Jaclyn Verzuh made her first real appearance this week, switching out the boot she has often been wearing on the sidelines for her cleats, and her presence was certainly a factor, offering a big target downfield, especially in the wind. After early traded breaks and some marathon points riddled with turns, Japan broke to take the 8-7 halftime lead. The U.S. got that break back and went up 10-9 on one of Verzuh’s two goals and rode that slim buffer to the win, 13-11. Abbie Abramovich and Jenny Wei were both monsters downfield, particularly on defense, but they each also ended up with tallies in the goal column – both on spectacular layout grabs. Normile and Ella Hansen were again rocks in the backfield alongside Tulsa Douglas, Angela Zhu and Julianna Werffeli. And Claire Trop is a name you are going to hear for a long time to come. She snagged two goals in the game, but could have ended up with several more.
The U.S. women’s next big test will come tomorrow; they face Canada in their second game of the day, the only other still-undefeated team in the division. The game versus Canada will be livestreamed on the WFDF YouTube page – tune in at midnight ET on Jan. 11 (9:00 p.m. PT on Jan. 10). The U.S. women will take on Philippines first thing tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. local time.
Like the women, the men’s team also took on Germany in their first game of the day, and also got a little bit of a run for their money to start against the zone defense. Germany has a pretty well-balanced offense; they are capable of both working the disc with short passes and opening up the field with deep looks. They also matched up against the U.S. height reasonably well. Early on, U.S. errors allowed Germany to hang around. The halftime score was 8-6, with the U.S. in front, but that was pretty much all she wrote for Germany. The U.S. cleaned up their game and rattled off six in a row to take the game 15-7. The U.S. defense is good. Opponents have to work hard to get any space on their defenders, and with lesser depth on their rosters, it makes it difficult to stay with the U.S. from start to finish.
The U.S. men carried their late-game momentum with them into their second match up of the day, and their final power pool game, against Italy. The Italians came in already tired after a barnburner of a game against Great Britain earlier in the day (Italy lost that one 15-13), and the U.S. took advantage. They cruised to a 15-4 win and moved to 6-0. The win gave the U.S. the top spot heading into bracket play, so they have a bye into the quarterfinals and will play the winner of Ireland v. Canada at 5:00 p.m. local time.
The mixed team had a light day, with just one game on their schedule. They faced Denmark this afternoon, and after a long first half, easily pulled away for the win. The wind direction made the game largely an upwind-downwind affair, and the intermittent gusts caused problems with a number of upwind looks in particular. Both teams do a good job of spreading the disc around and utilizing the under and deep spaces, and a similar number of errors led to numerous lengthy points and a tight score line before the U.S. broke for 5-3. That break was the first of many in what ended up as a 15-4 win for the U.S. Michael Ing had a big game downfield, tallying one assist and three goals. The U.S. women are doing a great job in the backfield, with Anna Thompson, Kirstin Johnson and Alex Hardesty often acting as handler workhorses. Alissa Soo is, as usual, racking up run-through Ds, and beating her defenders downfield to be a consistent deep threat for the U.S. The wind has made it a little difficult to find her at times, but seemingly more often than not, she’s open in or near the end zone.
The mixed squad is finding their chemistry more and more each day. They have one game left in pool play – they’ll face China tomorrow morning – and will jump into bracket play in the afternoon. As the overall one seed heading into bracket play, U.S.A. mixed will face the Pool B’s fourth seed in the quarterfinals.
Things are starting to heat up! Stay tuned for more updates from U-24 Worlds.