Heidelberg, Germany (July 19, 2019) – All three U.S. National Teams have reached their gold-medal game! Friday was semifinals day at the World Under-24 Ultimate Championships in Heidelberg, and despite some initial nerves about how the U.S.A. might do against really tough competition, they all delivered in spades.
The women’s team took the field first in a rematch against Colombia. The teams initially met up in power pools; it is a match-up of heavy hitters every time the teams take the field. The power pool game ended in a pretty solid for the U.S., 15-10. But there was an understanding from the U.S. contingent that Colombia had more to offer. They showed that this morning. The U.S. may have been a little nervy to get things started. An early drop gave Colombia a chance in a short field, and they took advantage, breaking to go up 1-0. The teams traded points until 4-4, before Sadie Jezierski got up to bring in a floaty throw. She put one deep to Abby Hecko, who dished a short pass to Dena Elimelech to get back on serve. The U.S. followed that up with another break to go up 6-4, and then another for 7-4. They got one break to make it 10-9. The U.S. broke back to go up 14-11, and things closed out 15-12 to advance to the gold-medal game. We focused heavily on trying to take away the deep space, recognizing that Colombia has a couple incredibly talented throwers and a couple really impressive receivers that thrive in a fast-moving offense. Forcing underneath significantly slowed down their high-power offense and provided just enough opportunities for the U.S. to get an edge. Colombia worked to limit the U.S. offense through junky zone looks, but Kelli Iwamoto was having none of it. Point after point, she was a blur of motion in the handler set, running circles through and around the first wall of defense from Colombia. No one could tamp her down. And as usual, the Dartmouth crew of Angela Zhu, Julianna Werffeli, Caitlyn Lee and Claire Trop were constant threats behind and around the zone. The 2018 WJUC corps, particularly Abby Hecko and Kate Lanier, have been a huge addition to the team, doing a great job behind the disc and sometimes downfield, as well. Overall, the team played great, executing well on both sides of the disc. They will carry that energy and momentum into the gold-medal game against Japan tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. local time / 4:00 a.m. ET. The match-up will be livestreamed on the Olympic Channel.
The mixed team took the field second for the U.S. contingent, taking on Singapore in their semifinal match-up. Singapore did a good job utilizing the talent they had. They ran most of their offense through their male handlers, while their defense put their women up front in their zone look. That zone did a good job throughout the tournament of forcing impatience, and therefore floaty throws, into their bigger strength – their men playing in the deep space. But the U.S. offense did a good job of working through the cup, rather than putting things up and over. On defense, Singapore’s reliance on their handlers allowed the U.S. to play a lot of help defense, particularly the women. Because a lot of Singapore’s offense ran through their men, the U.S. women were able to drop off their people or poach into throwing lanes, forcing tougher throws or handlers to go to their second or third looks. Just the ability to move off their people ended up forcing turns from Singapore. The U.S. jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Singapore got on the board. The U.S. took half 8-2, and the game ended 15-6. The U.S. did a great job spreading the disc around, with 14 different people getting assists, and 12 people scored the 15 goals. The U.S. mixed team will be the last to pursue gold in Heidelberg tomorrow afternoon. Their first pull against Japan – a rematch of the 2018 U-24 World Championships mixed final – will go up at 3:00 p.m. local time / 9:00 a.m. ET. Stream it live on the Olympic Channel.
The U.S. men took the field last on semifinal day in arguably the most highly anticipated match-up of the day, a rematch of the 2018 World Under-24 Ultimate Championships gold-medal game against Italy. Last year in Perth, the U.S. men ran into an unexpectedly tough challenge in Italy. After going up 4-1, Italy came back strong and was out in front 10-7 before the U.S. came back to win. Italy returned most of those players to this year’s squad, so when the teams headed out on to the showcase field this afternoon, the energy was almost palpable. But the U.S. was confident. They felt prepared, ready to take on what Italy brought. They did some scouting on the team last night and had solid scouting reports on what Italy like to do and felt comfortable with, pairing defensive matchups accordingly. Knowing Italy doesn’t like to attack the deep space, the defense shaded hard to take away the under cuts and let loose their great handler defenders, people like Eric Sjostrom, Chance Cochran, Sol Yanuck and Eric Taylor. Italy also likes to rest with inside throws, and the U.S. defense adjusted accordingly. They also got a little help from the wind, with was forcing pretty solidly to the home sideline. The U.S. defense took the advantage, forcing Italy to that sideline. As a result, Italy popped up some reset and inside throw attempts, which were chased down by the athletic U.S. defenders patrolling the wings. John Randolph also had a couple more opportunities to “do the John thing” on offense, juking his defender out of his shoes off the front of the stack. But just like last year, the U.S. went up 4-1, so the 2018 nerves weren’t entirely gone until about halftime at 8-2. In the end, the U.S. closed it out with John Randolph on a huck to Tannor Johnson that he brought down in a crowd, 15-7. The U.S. men will take on Canada in the gold-medal game tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 p.m. local time / 6:30 a.m. ET. Tune in live on the Olympic Channel.
Be sure to keep up with the U.S. teams at nationalteam.usaultimate.orgfor 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.