Heidelberg, Germany (July 14, 2019) – The World Under-24 Ultimate Championships are officially underway in Heidelberg! Saturday’s opening ceremonies were wet and a little chilly – the rain conveniently poured down just as long as all the teams were on the field – before the Belgian and German women kicked things off in the event’s first game.
The U.S. National Teams saw their first competition of the week this morning. The mixed team was up first and took on Latvia. The U.S. came out strong, showing no signs of nerves or lack of focus and quickly jumped out to a 5-0 lead behind great shutdown defense. Latvia got on the board at 5-1 by moving the disc really quickly down the field. The U.S. rolled onto 12-1 before Latvia scored again. They closed out the game strong, scoring three more goals before the U.S. closed out the game 15-4. Despite the low score, the Latvians have potential. For anyone following last year’s World Junior Ultimate Championships, Arvids Orlovskis is a familiar name; he was near the top of the event leaderboard in both goals and assists for Team Belgium. He is back with his home team this week, but had to play opposite the likes of Alan Villanueva, Kyle Rutledge and Joe Freund. As a result, he ended up with just one goal in the game. On top of their stifling defense, the U.S. did a great job spreading the disc around. The 15 goals were scored by 12 different people, and assisted by 11 different throwers. It was a great start to what will hopefully be a stellar week. Schedule-wise, the mixed team has a relatively easy first two days. They had just the one game today and have just one tomorrow, as well. They’ll see France tomorrow afternoon at 5 p.m. local time, 11 a.m. ET. That game will be livestreamed on Fanseat, so mark your calendar!
The men’s team jumped into the U-24 World Championships against Chinese Taipei. There were initially some turns that looked to be driven by nerves, before the team had fully settled, but play cleaned up a bit as the game went on. And like the mixed team, by the time things were over, the disc had been spread around a lot. Fourteen different players threw assists in the game, to 12 different receivers. Nick Vogt led the way with three goals, and Mac Hecht was the only person to throw more than one goal with two. The U.S. got their first win of the tournament 15-3.
Their second game of the day was a little more highly anticipated: a face-off against Japan. And it turned out that the anticipation was well founded. Surprisingly, today was the first time the U.S. men have run into Japan at the U-24 World Championships, despite many high-level match ups between the two nations in the mixed and women’s divisions. Things started off with the teams trading offensive holds. The U.S. got the first break to go up 4-2. Then it was 6-2, and 7-3. Things were feeling relatively comfortable for the U.S. But even before half, things started to go a little more in Japan’s favor. Using their always-impressive low-release throws, Japan concentrated on working the disc up the field quickly, throwing under their typically taller U.S. marks. And as can often be the case for Japanese teams, they throw to the layout – where only their receiver can make a play, well out of the reach of their defenders. But a strategy a little more unusual for a U.S. v. Japan match up in any division, Japan also took advantage of the deep space, winning more than a few battles in the air. By halftime, Japan was back within striking distance at 8-6 and staring on offense after the break. A hold put them within one at 8-7. They traded points until Japan got a late break to tie things up at 12-12 after a U.S. huck was misread, giving the disc back to Japan. Just when the nerves of all the families and fans were getting a little tense, the U.S. men broke to go up 14-12. A pair of offensive holds closed out the game, and the U.S. walking away with a 15-13 win. The men will face Austria and Great Britain for games three and four of their U-24 World Championships experience tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., respectively.
About five kilometers south, as the bird flies, at the event’s second and more southern field site, the women’s team took on Switzerland in their first game of the week. A combination of solid defense from the U.S. and some nervous hands from the Swiss gave the U.S. a lot of scoring opportunities. In particular, Sarah Kim stood out on defense, especially early, pressuring under cuts and eating up things in the air. Heads-up defense and good communication helped the U.S. come down with many high-stall-count throws or punts from Switzerland, and solid handling from people like Angela Zhu, Ari Nelson and Abby Hecko helped the U.S. convert break chances. The U.S. women took their first game 15-0.
Their afternoon game pitted them against the home team: Germany. The German women’s defense came out strong to start the match, using a zone defensive look to very effectively force a lot of throws – and some turnovers. They broke to stay on serve at 2-2, but that was as close as it got. Despite the defense creating some opportunities, Germany couldn’t quite get the conversions they needed. Close U.S. defenders forced throws a little too far or a little too high. And the U.S. women ate up yards with the disc in their possession. Touches were spread all around the team, with nearly everyone contributing in a big way on nearly every point – not great to get atop the stats leaderboard, but absolutely what the U.S. coaches want to see. In the end, the women closed out the game 15-3 and their day with a 2-0 record. The U.S. women will continue pool play tomorrow against Belgium and New Zealand at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., respectively.
That’s a wrap for day one! 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.