The matchup between Spain and Australia was set be one to watch this morning after some unexpected results in the opening games of Pool A yesterday. While USA and Canada entered the second day maintaining seed at the top, both the lowest seeded teams, Spain and Estonia, were also heading into today’s games undefeated, having stirred the middle of the pack with wins over Denmark and UAE respectively.
The Spanish have headed into this tournament extremely well prepared. This is a team that has been building a formidable rapport since Euros in Copenhagen three years ago. They are the same Spanish team that went to Worlds in London last year. Although they have never played an international beach tournament together before, they have played several beach tournaments together in the lead up to WCBU and know that this is the terrain where their strengths lie. Although Australia had beaten the Spanish convincingly 13-3 in London last year, that was on grass. Here on the beach the Spanish knew it would be especially hard for them to know what to expect:
“Other teams know how we play, but they dont, and we are a completely different team on sand and that works in our favour.”
Moreover, they recognise that by not being in the alternative ‘Europe’ pool, they have much more of an opportunity to surprise. They are particularly excited to get their first opportunity to match up with the USA and see where the really stand against the rest of the best.
In contrast, the Australians, although an established Ultimate nation with no shortage of international accolades, are not so used to the beach. They did play beach nationals in Australia in preparation for the tournament but they did not enter as a collective since it was Mixed event.
The team was selected over the course of two training camps with players coming from all corners of the country. Having said that it doesn’t mean that connections with coach Kat citing a ‘strong chemistry’ established very quickly with the camps. Since not only is this a team strong with a lot of shared international experience, six of its players come from Melbourne based club Ellipsis who were this year undefeated on the domestic scene.
As a brisk morning wind picked up over the pitches this morning both teams were struggling to come out on offence with a clean point. The Aussies were looking tentative as a result of the wind at the beginning of the game, initially looking uncomfortable to break and not looking for swings. In contrast, the Spanish were moving the disc fast but generating unforced errors from rushing long shots that died quickly. Despite the turns, neither team was able to capitalise from a break early on.
The Spanish responded to the Aussies’ conservatism with a zone, forcing their handlers to step up their game. They did so in style – with #0 Caroline Ma and #2 Sally Yu beautifully and confidently moving the disc up the pitch, Australia did not once lose possession. The receivers waited patiently for the hole to bring them ahead 3-2.
With the Spanish offence now having to attempt an upwind score, the Aussies came out in hard woman D but they were unable to shut down the open side. The Spanish sent up a buzzing sidearm along the line for the first of many great take downs by #61 Isabel Gutiérrez Prada.
Both teams continued to trade until the Spanish eventually got the break after a lazy floating pass on a short reset that got picked up by the wind close to their end zone. It only took the Spanish three passes to capitalise and take the half.
This meant that the Spanish were now coming out on offence but a fired-up Aussie D line had them flustered. With the Spanish rushing to hit the quick I/O breaks into the middle of the pitch, they ended up turning on the first pass two times in a row. Again, the patient Aussie handlers fed the disc in to bring them back to 6-6.
With the Aussies seemingly back in the driving seat, their offence scored another well-worked and relatively quick point. However, the momentum of the game seemed to change just as it was drawing to a close after a huge full stretch layout grab from Prada chasing down the huck in the end zone. Her teammates flood the pitch and the Spanish were amped. They got another to bring them 9-7 up. HThe game was far from over, though, as the Aussies continued to push back and clocked another point. But it was the Spanish team’s pace and long game that brought home the win. The Aussie coach Kat reflected:
“They really used both sides of the field well with the breaks, they also executed their long game more than us. We found them very athletic and they have a lot of chemistry.”
It’s fitting that the description above is exactly how the final point played out. The Spanish quickly moved the disc, squeezing a tight cut up the line to then let rip a huge rolling huck to #11 Aina Perez Voto, who was completely free on the edge of the end zone and who patiently slotted it home for the win.
By Charlie Blair.