Friday, August 26, 2011

USA Women, Great Britian Mixed Masters, USA Grandmasters win Gold

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.

WCBU2011: Masters, MixMastas, GrandMasters Semis and Beyond....


The Masters division here has two things going for it: parity and some serious height. It seems that the taller guys keep playing longer as teams across the board tend to outsize their Open counterparts. Or maybe a little extra girth makes them look taller.

Pool play has finally ended this morning and settled final positions for the playoffs. Perhaps expected, perhaps not, the Canadians managed to defeat the top-seeded Austrians this morning at 9am even though the game meant little to either team. Austria, crafty, tall, perhaps not as good looking as the U.S. Masters team, knew that win or lose they would likely face France in the semis.

France defeated Austria 11-10 and will be fired-up to do so again and make it to the finals. The French team is young, hungry and they run quite well so it will be interesting to see if they can do it again.

With the Austrian loss the U.S. regained the top spot and face off against Spain whom they defeated 13-6 yesterday—although it was clear in some ways that Spain was not putting out their best effort in the game, perhaps holding reserves for the likely semifinal re-match.

Of note is that if the U.S. and Austria win their semis we can expect a raucous crowd for the re-match in the finals. Wednesday's Austrian upset win over USA was punctuated by an energized and active sideline of fans waving flags, cheering loudly before and during plays and at one point rushing the field with four giant Austrian flags during a timeout. It was an impressive display that seemed to rattle the Americans and if they meet again we can expect more of the same—which is great for the game and great for the fans.

Both teams have been warily eyeing each other since that electrifying Austrian win and the scouting ledgers have increased. If this game happens, it will be a good one.


Following their countrymen, the Austrian GM team rattled of the last two of the game on defense with Johannes Petz connecting with Stefan Pichler to upset the favored Americans on Thursday and tie them for the top spot in the pool. However, USA had defeated Austria earlier by more points meaning they retained their top spot.

Still the Austrian win is a big one for their confidence even if it does motivate the Americans now to seek revenge and come out fired-up. After what should be an easy semi for the Americans against either Great Britain or France and a more difficult one for the Austrians against Germany, we'll find out tonight who's planned better for the expected rubber match to be broadcast live.

Great Britain upset Germany in semifinals this morning, 11-9, perhaps a shock to the German system and will now face an undefeated USA team in the finals this evening.

USA earlier outlasted Austria in their semifinal 13-6 led by their height, Jeremy Clark, Kimberly Beach and Sarah VanWagenen. In GB they will see a familiar Paganello foe, a team with several ex-Poughkeepsie and Iceni players and some serious goal-scoring from captain Si Weeks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Recap of the Week and Semis Preview for WCBU2011

As we peek into matchups coming up for quarters and semis let's remember that there's been a fair amount of close games and the parity and spirit here is a pleasure to experience.

Where once it looked like USA might run away with all six divisions the results from yesterday have upset that prediction and placed USA in a weaker position heading towards the finals.

The biggest upset may have been in the Open division as Italy overtook and outplayed the United States in a showcase match at the Beach Arena. Playing loose, relaxed and connecting on wild scoobers and long hucks, the Italians seemed to get in the heads of the tight Americans whose number of unforced errors was remarkably high.

It may have been a good thing for the Americans to knock them down a notch early enough in the tournament to not suffer any real loss of positioning. The next game after the loss the American offense that looked quite shoddy in the showcase match went 8-8 against the Germans to put away a tough opponent.

The upset placed Italy atop the pool, followed by United States, Philippines and Germany and all four teams looked solid on the beach with tight games against each other. The strength of this "pool of death" will strongly test Pool A in quarters as what appears to be a weaker side with Switzerland at the top (but let's not forget they have more than a few Paga all-stars on the team) followed by Canada, Spain -- unexpectedly, in my book -- and Austria.

It's interesting to note that the teams that are closest to Venice -- Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Spain—have been the biggest surprises of the tournament so perhaps a regional advantage exists.

The news is already out that Great Britain squeaked by USA on double game point yesterday sending the Americans to their first loss and propelling GB atop the leader board. It didn't last long however. By the end of the day today the American women re-adjusted their cuts to orient less on massive deeps and unders and more on shorter more economical maneuvering appropriate for the beach. It must've worked as they put up enough points on Canada in a 10-6 win to virtually lock up first place as Canada had earlier defeated Great Britain 9-7.

Fighting to make semis are Germany and Finland, both at 6-3 and both playing 8-1 teams tomorrow (Great Britain and Canada). Germany has the edge with a win and tiebreaker over Finland and Finland is rumored to be losing some of their players tomorrow meaning semis should look like this:

USA (1) versus Germany (4). Pool play result was a USA win 11-8.
Great Britain (2) vs. Canada (3). Pool play was a Canada win 9-7.

These four teams are evenly matched and the GB-Canada game is expected to be quite a battle.


Estonia's Sexy Legs, despite their thrilling come-from-behind win over a top-loaded Australian squad, are out of the running for quarterfinals. At 4-4 they appear to have a shot with one more game tomorrow to close at 5-3 and tie Poland if Poland falls to the Netherlands. However, head-to-head Poland wins a tie so they are locked into the fourth seed in pool B meaning Poland—coming out of an initial #17 seeding—will cross over to play the British tomorrow in quarters.

Rounding out pool B will be Switzerland in the second spot presuming they take care of business with Italy. Riding high with an impressive showing and the pedigree is Germany, defending silver medalists and frequent beach tournament winners. Tonight they play Australia under the lights in the highlight match which will certainly be their strongest test yet but one they are expected to overcome.

What it looks like at the moment is this:
USA (1) versus Australia (3)
Germany (1) versus Portugal (3)
Great Britain (2) versus Poland (4)
Switzerland (2) versus Austria (4)

Some note here: Poland's team is based on the club team Grandmaster Flash and their run to success here is somewhat of a surprise and a great thing for growing ultimate in the country.

If my guess at the snake is correct (its what Open is doing) then Australia's mixed team, the one expected to medal, could be relegated to a fight for 5th pretty quickly.

Switzerland's success caught me off guard, I was not privy to knowing what kind of team they put together and have not seen a Swiss mixed team to my knowledge at Paganello in recent years.

Great Britain's resurgence behind the Forth twins is for real and the do have every mean of defending their title.

Germany, you just have a sense, could be the team whose year has arrived. Led by international jet-setter playboy Ruë and his merry band of Munich-stein raisers, they will have a lot of mojo on their side.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Interview with Karen Cabrera

simple piece

Boracay Interview post game

Make sure to check out the livestream webcasts I will be doing this week from WCBU throughout. Check out the fcebook page for more info