The beach arena is an excellent location to showcase ultimate. The track is fast, the stands are high and echo the cheers of the many countries there to watch the big games.
The action started this afternoon with USA versus Austria in Grandmasters. With precision offense and big ups the U.S. team hardly had a turnover on offense en route to a convincing win, albeit not a blowout.
In Mixed Masters the upstart Great Britain team led by an unstoppable Si Weeks began the day by upsetting the German team in semis before storming out of the gates on defense and offense against undefeated USA in the finals. It never seemed that USA could find a proper rhythm as miscommunications led to far too many turnovers for the USA O line. GB's squad, bolstered with women who won WCBU Gold in Brazil and Paganello Mixed division winners Poughkeepsie were stacked from the start so the question was how did they actually manage to lose to both USA and Germany twice in pool play—twice?
I talked to them after the game and it turns out that they played the numbers very well, using a large squad to rest top players like Weeks and Lucy Byrne over the course of pool play games before letting them fully anchor the team in the finals. They also saved up energy for the final and used heavy defensive pressure coming in waves to completely dismantle the American O.
The women's final was the highlight of the night. Both teams looked to come out of the gates hard and fast, knowing that the first 2-3 points of a quick 45 minute game can really set the pace. And that they did, blistering speedsters running down on defense, huge hucks from Canada's Malissa Lundgren (who, incidentally, dominated the leaderboard for the weekend with 44 goal shots, an average of 4.4 a game) massive ground-eating under cuts from USA's Marie Maderas and physical marks and hard D: this game was defined as a battle from the beginning.
Breaking the O and D proved not too difficult as turnovers weren't uncommon. But neither squad could find the right D-line handlers to withstand the pressure and more often than not the D would prevail. USA went up a break late in the game, 9-7, and held on as the cap went into effect meaning it was a game to 10 and Canada had the weight on their shoulders to score.
The O line managed to make it happen giving the Americans two chances on O to win. when the first one failed, however, the score was tied at 9s and the pressure returned to the American shoulders. With so much speed out there I felt the defense had the advantage and this almost proved correct after two USA turnovers had given Canada a chance to win the game. But it was not to be -- the defense of the USA proved equally stout and refusing to give in and the Canadians forced up two throws for turnovers. Finally with both crowds of stands roaring, the Americans, bailed out by a foul call on an IO throw that initially looked clean, converted the break after the same IO connected and won, 10-9, a stunning and anticlimactic end to a fantastic game.