This was the inaugural year for the Mixed Masters division (defined as players born before 1978) and no one knew what to expect. Would speed be a defining factor? Beach experience? Strategy? Confidence?
Perhaps all. This turned out to be the most interesting of the six finals as savvy and speedy Great Britain surprised the USA 11-7 in a convincing performance before the setting of the sun.
USA had gone undefeated in ten games of six-team pool play including wins over GB and Germany, each twice. They had expected to meet Germany in the finals because Germany had beaten GB in both matches and played the USA to closer outcomes.
But that's where Great Britain staged their first coup, knocking off the Germans in semifinals 11-9. By the time the finals were set the G.B. team was prepared for its final take-down.
Scouting was their first step: they devised a game plan for each of the top USA players. Secondly they disguised their strengths in pool play knowing results there were relatively unimportant. They sat their top player Si Weeks in the first game against USA but in the finals, Weeks was causing trouble everywhere on the field. One of their captains, Lucy Byrne, also sat for games against the Americans to nurse an injury. She too played a key role in the finals.
Perhaps USA underestimated the depth of Great Britain. GB carried core players from three-time Paganello mixed finalists Poughkeepsie, they had two women who won gold at the 2007 WCBU in the Women's Division, several men from the GB Masters team that won Silver at WCBU2007 and they had recently eligible Weeks—a human stat machine at Paganello in 2007, among other tournaments.
In other words, this team was stacked.
Great Britain also changed up their defensive sets and came out of the gates aggressive and confident. Put it all together and what we witnessed on the field was a series of turnovers from the Americans and lightning-fast strikes from Great Britain. The turnovers came everywhere: USA could not find a rhythm. Drops, miscommunication throwaways, overthrows, nothing seemed to work for a team that hadn't been down in a game the entire week. Only a couple of big plays from Kimberly Beach and some solid handling from Rod Hannon kept USA alive.
The ending was unfortunate and seemed to sum up the confusion that reigned on the American side and on the part of the time-keepers. Down 9-6 with a scant few minutes left in the time cap the Great Britain team scored on an easy 12-yard throw up the sideline. But the goal came back on a call and a discussion ensued. Upholding the call meant USA was taking a gamble. They could have let the score stand to get another point of offense before the cap. Instead the time cap was called during the discussion and shortly thereafter GB punched the disc in easily with the same throw to make it 10-6, game to 11. This gave GB a chance to win the game on defense.
To be fair to USA, the time cap was never signaled properly to either team and the Americans never checked so they never knew it was coming.
The U.S. scored on offense, Great Britain did the same and unexpectedly the game was over, 11-7. After a ten-minute delay to explain what happened to a confused American it was decided that GB had indeed won the game.
It was a fair choice by GB who would have won in a game to 11 regardless. To cap it off, they won the Spirit of the Game award for the division, a double peak for Beach Worlds.
My final impression of the Mixed Masters division was that it worked. We saw solid play, quicker-than-expected players and above all, the kind of great play that comes when you've been playing with your teammates for ten, fifteen years. Never hurts.