Julia Dunn gives us a rundown on the Women’s division yesterday and what to expect today.
Torrential downpours last night threw quite a wrench into the schedule for WUGC 2016 this morning. Despite the waterlogging of most of the fields, the tournament directors communicated to all teams in the quarters excellently. The quarters happened on the high ground of pitches four and five, the only functional fields at the complex on Thursday. The women’s quarters followed all the predictions that our reporter Victoria Higgins made going into the day, with Colombia and Germany presenting the biggest question mark of the day.
After a devastating loss to Russia yesterday in pool play, and a triumphant win over Finland to make quarters, Australia had to put all the pieces together against powerhouse Japan. Japan, one of the squads with the most depth at the tournament, gave Australia a tough zone to beat. With a four-person wall, Japan slowed down the Firetails’ offence tremendously. The Phillips sisters played a large role in breaking open Japan later in the game, and used their height to sky some Japanese players. Losing five breaks in the first half unfortunately put their squad behind, and Australia could never make it back in the game. The team had some unfortunate turns that Japan easily converted, with well placed throws into tight spaces. Japan beat Australia 15-6.
While this game was finishing, Switzerland and USA warmed up right next to the pitches. The TDs told both teams to prepare to start play at the first possible opening of the field. Switzerland came out of challenging pre-quarters with a struggle to win over Sweden, but looked a lot better today against the US. Unfortunately, the speedy Americans intercepted Swiss deep looks that would have worked against any other team. The Americans wasted no time, and reached half-time within 30 minutes. The dynamic squad showed off the variety of throws that they have in their toolkit, including scoobers, hammers, and lefty backhands. One of the fastest quarters of the day finished 15-4.
A field over, Colombia and Germany played the most riveting quarter of the day. The winner of Windmill 2016 and powerhouse of South America faced off for a game that could have gone either way. Kyoko Hosokawa of Germany showed her dynamic cutting and defensive pressure, and put up a number of goals on the scoreboard for the her team. Nici Prien also came out strong with a number of assists in this game. However whilst the match started off extremely tight, Colombia ran away with it in the second half and won 15-12.
Immediately afterwards the underdog of the bracket, Russia, squared up against Canada. Canada’s captain Rachel Moens commented on the game, “we came into today’s game knowing that we were going to have to play a solid game to beat Russia, as they beat Australia by one point in pool play, and Australia beat us by one point in a friendly game before the tournament.” The teams traded points early on in the game, with the most notable play by Audrey St-Arnaud who scored a layout Callahan to tie it up at 3-3. Catherine Hui was seen flying across the pitch, a player with excellent form on her layouts. Aleksandra Pustovaya led Russia in assists, breaking open the field for the squad a number of times, and also baited multiple layout blocks. Both teams put on a straight-up force to contain the long game, but Canada had more ease breaking through Russia’s defence. In the end, Canada could afford to rest their roster to prepare for semis, as they went on to win 15-8.
Tomorrow, if the weather gods permit and the fields have drained, we will see some of the world’s highest level women’s Ultimate.
The two North American powerhouses will test each other again tomorrow, repeating a friendly scrimmage held a couple months ago in which the US came away with a 15-12 victory. Canada’s Rachel Moens mentioned their excitement for this semi-final: “We are really looking forward to tomorrow’s game, as we met up with the US once in the early season, and had a great match against them.” Canada’s team chemistry from playing together on Vancouver Traffic definitely played a role in making this match a close game. Team USA had a number of training camps and five WUGC days under their belts since that scrimmage to build chemistry in their offence. Both teams have a variety of offensive and defensive sets in their arsenal to pull out tomorrow to make for an exciting semi-final. Canada expects a tough and athletic game, but feels ready and willing to fight it out point by point.
Finally, Japan and Columbia will meet for the first time this tournament. Defending champions from WUGC 2012 Japan will face in Colombia a team that has similar speed in disc movement. Colombia may struggle though, despite the two teams’ similarities in playing style. Japan have looked a bit more co-ordinated in their games, and have slightly more depth compared to Colombia, who have nevertheless started to connect more offensively as the tournament goes on. The Japanese women really know how to isolate their players on horizontal cuts, and have a seemingly uncontainable offence. Look out for Yuri Fujii (#53) as a dominant receiver, and Asako Takaura (#23), the assist leader for her team. Colombia will depend on Yina Paola Cartagena behind the disc, and expect to see big plays by Laura Ospina and Maria Manuela downfield.
None of these teams will have an easy road to the finals on Saturday, but ultimately I expect a Japan – USA final. Expect great bids, zones, and tight games in some of the most exciting semi-finals at WUGC 2016.