Our day started with a long walk to fields a little ways from the dorms. It was unexpected as we had thought that we were playing on the fields beside the dorms.
Our first game was against sixth seed Doublewide who we weren’t expecting a victory against. Nonetheless it was valuable experience to play a UPA finals team outside of the NW. Something I find consistently scary is how much I like the US handling and cutting systems as opposed to the old school European systems. There’s something very natural about always having an eye on the prize and the creation of space through “fluid chaos” as my friend Geoff calls it.
Our game itself wasn’t noteworthy as Doublewide won easily and it was a warmup for them. For the first half we were able to keep the score quite even but our opponents easily adjusted to our style and pulled away quickly. It’s important to note that the adjustment is important for a team that doesn’t have much International experience like Sockeye. Most of the International experience the players have is as a part of NotSuOh, who have won Paganello several times, but that doesn’t translate all that well to grass.
The players themselves are impressive with a tall lineup mixed in with a group of shorter quick players that are able to get open on a whim. I haven’t been in top form but I found myself able to keep up with the tall players as well as the short ones and it was definitely one of my better defensive games.
The mentality of DoubleWide was one that I like to see, they always took the game seriously. There were a few unforced errors and the players (particularly #24) took it very seriously. I’m happy to see UPA/USA Ultimate teams at WUCC and I that they’ll travel to more high level tournaments around the world.
Of the three games in our pool I was excited about our game against Euforia, of Colombia, the most. I had heard that they were a passionate and quick group that had spirit “issues”. Keeping an open mind we started our game.
Our first half was quite exciting where both teams played with great intensity. The first point alone lasted almost 10 minutes with great layout Ds by both teams. What few calls there were in the first half were a bit passionately contested but not drawn out in any way. Our team (Cotarica) was quite happy with the first half (down 7-6) and also happy with how great it was to play against a Colombian team they were enjoying competing against.
Personally I found a few of the guys on the team to be exceptionally cool and while we did have some discussions on the sideline they were quite amicable and we were in agreement with the outcomes of foul calls or plays.
The second half was by far the worst half of Ultimate I have experienced while playing against a team. Actually, I should validate that by saying that it ties for the worst half as last year a player on Blackfish clocked me in the back of the head with a closed fist and contested the foul. I should add that the aforementioned Blackfish match was fraught with aggressive behavior and consistent violation of the rules of Ultimate.
Every player on Euforia is passionate about Ultimate and is also a good player. It’s no doubt that they could probably have won the game without resorting to suspicious calls. The foremost issue was with travel calls that simply weren’t travels. Players were calling travel without looking at the feet of the thrower (I was watching) and they wouldn’t call travel immediately but would rather wait until the throw was caught.
There were also several delay tactics used including: kicking the disc slowly on the ground back to an offensive player, kicking the disc out of bounds when on defense when there wasn’t an offensive player in the vicinity, repeatedly refusing to tap a disc in after a foul call, and in general frustrating behaviour along with swearing and name calling in Spanish (I understand the key few words that are derogatory to another person).
What made the game palatable was that the same veteran players that had talked to me in the first half continued to be very kind. The same players that were involved in calls under the same situations responded calmly and quickly whereas their younger teammates would explode as if somebody had personally offended them.
Our team grew frustrated to the point of checking out of the game early and it left us wondering how a team could behave as some of the Colombians did in that instance. I am happy to play the team again if only to matchup against the guys that I enjoyed meeting. The rest will eventually need to learn how to behave like adults rather than children.
Storm vs Hot Beaches
The showcase game on the first day was a Women’s matchup with Hot Beaches vs Storm (listed in order of seed). As I got to the fields late I entered the stadium (in a grand fashion) once Storm was leading by a large margin. Much of the crowd considered the game over and started to leave. Unfortunately for those that left Hot Beaches made a run and closed the gap on Storm as they edged ever closer to game point.
Hot Beaches was able to create turns through the use of zone on a hot and muggy evening with relatively no wind. The errors made by Storm weren’t on the big throws that cut through the zone but rather in small errors on close movement close to the goal line. It was unexpected and odd to see Storm make so many errors close to scoring with relatively little pressure. I’m not sure how Storm will adapt to this in the future but the errors seem to be on the execution of innocuous players rather than with decision making.
Between the Doublewide and Euforia games ONYX took to the field to play a German squad. From what I saw ONYX came out very strong and I expect them to do decently well at this tournament. I cannot make a stronger statement as there was an issue of nerves for the German team and there were quite a few drops that were unlikely for any team that attends worlds.
Smurfs vs Wellington
Finally, a quick shootout to my friends on the Australian squad, Smurfs, that played Wellington in the battle of Oceania that once and for all decided which country is #1 in the world for absolutely everything. Fortunately the match was held in secrecy to prevent outside influence from traditional media. The result will be hidden forever from prying eyes (Smurfs won).