Don’t be good, be SYC

Josh Coxon Kelly reviews SYC’s games on day four of WUCC 2018

Women’s power pool O saw SYC carrying in their loss to Traffic, and facing Austria’s Mantis as well as the familiar faces of Nice Bristols. With both teams starting on a loss, they needed to win their first matchup of the day, and then go onto win the following match against each other to get into the top 24. 

Mantis had looked strong, and already notched a win against Bristols but arguably presented their opponent the better chance to go up. Despite little cloud cover at 11:00am, the conditions were actually more forgiving than recent days, with temperatures a couple of degrees cooler and humidity noticeably reduced. What was less forgiving however was the gusting breeze, which created a pretty straight upwind/downwind game.

SYC started strong, taking an early upwind break to go 2-1 up with Caitlin Wilson finding Ingebjorg ‘IB’ Hungnes for the goal, setting up a really solid stretch for the Londoners. Pulling to Mantis at 3-2, SYC forced three turnovers – twice on missed options and once with a block from Sarah ‘Joey’ Laws. Mantis held for this point, but SYC immediately capitalised on the next point, with Wilson finding a streaking Hannah Kennell for a one-pass goal. Being able to keep an O-line out for so long, and then scoring with pace to put that same O line straight back on the field ratchets up the pressure and can really take a team apart. The pattern repeated, as another long point with multiple turnovers from Mantis saw a hold, immediately answered by a couple of passes from SYC followed by a huck for goal: 5-4.

Photo by Andrew Moss for UltiPhotos

SYC were focused and knew the task at hand. ‘D wins games, ladies’ was heard as the lines switched and SYC prepared another upwind pull. Mantis held on, just about, completing another high pass count hold – this time without turnovers. At 5-5, a miscommunication on a deep shot saw SYC’s first downwind faltering, however the disc was quickly won back with Darbi Donaldson making sure and getting the goal. At 6-5, Mantis seemed to finally have settled into the game with a four pass goal that was their quickest yet, but SYC were not to be shaken either, with Wilson distributing to Kirsten Wells who then placed a pinpoint IO flick into the endzone to finish the half 8-7.

The opening points of the second half are crucial in tight games. With legs tired and players having to get restarted after the mid-game paused, momentum is more volatile than ever. Tessa Bertozzi’s block provided an early opportunity for SYC, but Mantis held tight getting the disc right back, and holding out of half to draw level. The ensuing point saw the most turnovers yet – in a role reversal SYC were now finding it difficult to connect down-wind. Both teams opened up, with nine changes of possession which, luckily for Mantis, eventually saw the Austrians with the disc and a relatively short field. They didn’t waste this chance, with Hemma Gritsch scoring the upwind before Mantis doubled down and got the downwind break as well, with Katharina Meissl finding Floria Doblinger for her fourth of six assists in this game to get to 10-8.

These two breaks were massive for Mantis, and made good of their stubborn holds for the whole previous section of the match. With no sign of the breeze settling down, SYC had their work cut out for them, and the next hold was a long one. Rachel Douglas was a lynchpin for their offense throughout the game, but particularly in this late stage, threading calm backhands across the field against Mantis’ poach sets whilst Laws, Rosie Woodbridge and Eyan Sham kept hold of possession whenever a disc went errant. Tiredness was setting in on both sides, and changes of possession becoming more frequent. However after multiple SYC assaults down the home sideline without luck, Helena Andres Terre switched the play, opening up the field with a crucial break mark throw that quickly made it to Abigail Marklew in the endzone via a Caitlin Wilson scoober. Mantis had hit their stride though, and answered as SYC had earlier with a single-pass score. Both teams were now finding luck deep, as Andres Terre sent it to Fiona Rae for a quick goal to get to 12-11.

Photo by Andrew Moss for UltiPhotos

SYC came out with a flat wall zone, likely hoping for a short-field turnover by keeping the disc between handlers but Mantis instead found a hammer over the top for 13-11. SYC quickly replied, and going into 13-12 there was a definite sense that if it was going to happen, it needed to be now. After a few passes, SYC had their hands on the disc, and what’s more they were making more ground up-field than they had since their early break. A deep shot to Bertozzi held up just a little too much, though, turning the disc over. Despite another block from Alice Dinsdale Young, Mantis managed to take the goal, 14-12. The next point would be the last; after a couple of changes of possession Mantis took the game. After seeming like they would falter early on, it was undeniably impressive to see not only such a continued and sustained effort, but also a final burst of energy from the Austrians as Paula Haubbenwallner came from nowhere to sky a pack of players, then promptly handed the disc off to Meissl who boosted an unbelievable backhand upwind which Haubbenwallner herself collected for the goal, and the emphatic win.

SYC’s campaign had just missed out on the top 24, and the team were rightfully gutted but things were far from over as they now faced up with UK rivals, Bristol. Bristol had lost their early game too, and the familiar UK match-up between the two was now a game to decide who would get the more favourable route in the 25-40 bracket.

If the first match was an intense battle of holds, the second would differ hugely, proving instead to be a game of wild swings and runs of breaks on each side. Bristol went first, racing from 4-3 down to 7-4 up. Eight players scored and assisted the four points involved in this run, showing the depth and versatility of the Bristol D line. Learning from their earlier game, SYC wasted no time to respond with three consecutive points of their own, Bertozzi taking two of them down, and Sham scoring one and assisting one. Bristol answered two back, before SYC really put the engines on and took a second run of three points, taking the lead at 10-9 as Wells found Molly Burd in the endzone. The teams stayed locked in this to and fro, trading holds, then breaks and then holds again taking the match to 14-14, SYC receiving going downwind.

Photo by Andrew Moss for UltiPhotos

The atmosphere changed as the last game of the pull was prepared. Nerves are natural at this stage, but there was a confidence emanating from the Bristol players. Bolstered with support from Devon, their sideline was massive and sure enough, they got the turnover with an aerial block on a Wilson huck. Georgie Davin was now at the helm and controlling the offense – with all things pointing towards a Bristol conversion. After a contested foul call on an upfield pass that would have put Bristol within metres, Eyan Sham made the play of the game with an instant reaction layout block on the reset. SYC headed down the field, and looked as they had done many times in this game to Bertozzi, who eventually reeled in the sudden-death winner.

There’s something funny about travelling nearly 4000 miles and playing the team you meet at most Tour events, and it’s tough to see Bristol miss out on victory so narrowly once again given the fantastic performances they’ve put in this week. SYC missed out on their goal for the day, but they will have grown all the more for turning so quickly from disappointment to triumph. Sudden death points are always memorable regardless of the outcome, and both teams will take their battle scars with them as they take on the rest of the world to play for 25th.