Wednesday, September 7, 2011

WCBU2011: Mixed finals

All tournament Germany and USA were on a collision course to meet in the title game. The tall and experienced Germans—a team with key players from the international beach veteran club the Woodies and featuring five who were at WCBU in 2004 (gold) and WCBU 2007 (silver) were captained by Paganello bon vivant Rü Veitl and Janne Lepthin and dominated Pool B with relative ease, their closest games three-point wins over regional adversaries Poland and Austria.

The Americans, culled primarily from a core of the 2010 USAU Mixed Champions Polar Bears and joined by other California stalwarts, were led by beach aficionado Dave Hammond and veteran Steve Dugan and also went undefeated in their pool.

The finals proved the two teams' supremacy.

Sometimes it doesn't matter which team you're rooting for when you get a game like this: Big upwind hucks for scores, layout blocks for Ds and a massive comeback completed with a layout grab leading to the game-winning goal shot.

Still it was a disappointment for many as the role of underdog spoilers belonged to the archetypical favorites—the Americans—who fought back from a 6-2 deficit to defeat a strong German squad and take the championship, 9-8.

Early in the game Germany's ultra-patient and effective offense capitalized on American turnovers to take a decisive 6-2 lead, forcing the U.S. to take a timeout. At that point fortunes changed for both sides.

Scoring downwind, USA pulled upwind to the commanding Germans. Perhaps the Americans changed their defense or maybe Germany just wanted to hit some downwind goal shots but in a decisive series of plays, Germany—uncharacteristically and against their captain's wishes— twice hucked endzone-to-endzone to an open receiver and both times the throw was carried too far by the wind. USA's Greg Marliave then laced a half-field IO forehand to Erol Yildiz for a crucial upwind goal and momentum-builder.

"Definitely [the American's] upwinder at 6-3 was the point to go," wrote Veitl afterwards.

After two upwind chances for Germany, USA converted the down-winder to close it to 5-6. On the next possession a solid pull trapped Germany in their upwind end zone. Trying to break out without the huck, a short up-field shot was instead the victim of a layout D from American June Srisethnil. An easy score from there tied the game at 6s and gave the U.S. a ton of confidence.

Facing the wind, a German short-field miscue gave the U.S. an easy goal and their first lead, 7-6. Again for another downwind Deutschland opportunity the U.S. utilized a defense that all of the U.S. teams were playing—protect the unders, play a straight-up mark and force throwers to bend or hook their hucks. Even with the wind at their backs this strategy worked. Germany's open looks were deep and temptation ruled again as a throw that sailed long was picked up by USA and converted upwind, this time an impressive, forehand rip from Tyler Grant that came out fast and high before seeming to float down like a UFO into the waiting arms of An-Chi Tsou and Sally Mimms for the back-breaking upwinder and an 8-6 lead deep into the match.

Finally Germany recovered behind the strength of their veteran A line. Two goals later, an upwinder from Nicolas Fink to Marvin Horter (one of five on the team to compete in his third WCBU) and downwind Arne Reusch to Daniela Sprunk (another of the five) and the match was tied at 9s, game to 10.

Similar to the Mixed Masters' final, the Germans failed to hear that the time cap had been called. The American's top line then took the field seeking to close out the game—although like his Condors teams of the past, co-captain Dugan utilized an open/non-sub-calling strategy and players went on the field of their own accord. In quick fashion a layout catch by Mimms at half-field gave her two looks to rip an unmarked backhand and the second look found a small spot to hit Adam Raty and just like that the match was over.

This was a thrilling game and I'm sure the Americans were overjoyed with their comeback.

For their part the classy Germans won silver and the Spirit of the Game—no small feat and a sign that the veteran German side was built with precision and passion and an unwavering belief in playing good-spirited disc no matter the circumstances.

1 comment:

  1. At 6-2 I made what I thought was a pretty safe bet regarding beer purchase should the USA win... doh...