The setting was certainly unique: the game started is twilight before the evening floodlights filled the beach arena with an eerie glow and a touch of cinematic drama.
But first and foremost: USA versus Canada finals was a heavyweight bout. Both squads came out ready to compete seeking a mental and physical edge over the other.
The sides formed a mirror image: physical marking and chippy handler defense on the USA side was duplicated by Canada as the squads jockeyed for the edge. A massive forehand IO huck goal shot from Canadian star Malissa Lundgren (six goals thrown in the finals, 48 total for the tournament) was countered by a Kathleen Ratcliff forehand huck. The cuts from speedy American Marie Madaras (22 goals thrown, 24 caught) left her wide open for unders and deep goals while the fleet-footed number 42 Kate Jardine for Canada found herself with steps on defenders seemingly at will.
Both teams had their lines set by finals but whereas the United States had enough depth for solid starting O and D lines with second lines in place, Canada had shorter lines due to a lack of depth. The team had top Capitals players and veterans Anja Haman and Anne-Marie Carey but also brought several younger players and beach rookies.
Despite a slew of impressive plays from #55 Lundgren, including two quite improbable deep IO flicks and two run-through blocks on under swing cuts, USA found themselves with a two goal advantage at the time cap, 9-7. It would be a game to 10.
Canada scored on offense and then kept several of their O line players on the D line, moved Jardine over to guard Madaras and benefited quickly when Haman got a block and Canada converted to tie the game at 8s. Pressure was now on the Americans.
With their A line on the field it looked like the game was over when Ratcliff hung out a forehand for a racing Madaras. But the disc fell too fast for a turn in Canada's end zone. It sounds strange to say this on game point, but I believe that the choice to huck was a wise one to gain field position and almost immediately USA got the turnover back at mid-field. They tried to punch it in again and failed but when Lundgren picked up the turnover her cutters were swamped by the Americans' D and the final turn of the game gave USA the disc back with only a third of the field to the goal. After a dump and a swing, co-captain Rohre Titcomb had the disc in the middle of the field and slung an IO forehand to the far side short cone that sailed wide—but a foul was called by Titcomb, marked by Lundgren. It sure looked as if the disc path looked true. But after a short discussion with Titcomb illustrating her throwing motion and Lundgren seeming to suggest that the hit on Rohre's arm had come after the release, the disc was checked back in and Rohre again chose the IO, this time painting the corner but short of the goal. After a quick cut opened up a short dish up the line the coup de grace was made and the game was over with USA's second gold medal of the day.
After the game several of us on the Blockstack TV video crew (I was commentating live for the web broadcast) gathered around Tushar Singh's laptop to replay the critical foul call that so disappointed the crowd and seemed like it could have been bad. Zooming in to grainy footage and stopping the video frame brought us this: In one frame the disc is out of Rohre's hand and in the next frame Malissa's hand hits Rohre's arm. Replaying at normal speed you can see Rohre's arm snap back. But was the hit after the release? It looked like it. Would any thrower be able to know when the hit occurred exactly, especially given that a good IO needs follow-through? Doubtfully. And would a foul call be made even then, considering that at least a short follow-through on an inside-out flick is particularly necessary?
The game was a great one, it had elements of the epic Fury-Uno 17-16 Worlds title game of 2010 in Prague with neither teams ever up by more than two.
In the end Canada had two chances to score and the USA ended up with three chances to score and the third one counted.
Both sides showed some real grit and talent and special props has to go to Canada for getting to the finals with a team many didn't quite see coming.