The Italian Mixed team seem to be a real contender. They fell to the USA by three points, 11-8, but had the disc at 8-8 before some poor choices in the wind sent them to a 12-9 defeat. They came up against a strong Dominican team looking to make a mark in their first ever WCBU in what proved to be a very tight, balanced game.
The Dominican Republic offence is similar to the Philippines, in that they look to exploit handler space with quick give-and-goes before striking down the field as directly as possible. Captain Shu-hwei Huang Freundt was a central figure, touching the disc almost every other pass on most points and making her defender work hard just to stay close to her. The game went to pull until 4-3, with the Italians using some clinical play of their own – Tomasso Francini and Laura Fantinato were particularly impressive. The first break of the game came on a simple swing pass. The Dominicans left a cutter with no dump and, as the stall ticked ever higher, a desperate swing was just out of the reach of Huang Freundt. Davide Morri, the vastly experienced Italian captain, rushed to the disc and too advantage with a quick pass to an unmarked Vanessa Barzasi.
The Italians notched a second break immediately afterwards. After trading huck turns, the Dominican again turned it near the endzone and, after some patient swinging, Morri popped it into the hands of Federico Sapucci. The Dominicans had their heads down; they knew that they’d put themselves into a very tough spot at 6-3 down to a strong Italian side. They called a timeout to get their heads straight.
Out of the timeout Huang Freundt had a heart-stopping moment. As she went up for a particularly brave catch of a pull, it bounced off her outstretched hands. Luckily it pitched right up into the air and she was able to gather at the second attempt. Good job, too, since she eventually sent a fabulous huck to Julia Jaensch for a vital score. Italy led 6-4 as the teams entered half.
Italy held serve out of the half, and after putting in their offence the Dominicans switched to a loose zone, pushing the Italians into the middle of the field and limiting their swings. The Italians had previously thrived on quick passes moving up the field and the zone seemed to stymie them. A bad pop pass to a handler cutting through the cup led to a quick score for the Dominicans, their first break of the game.
With renewed purpose, the Dominicans attacked on defence. Their pressure was telling on the Italians as they made a few miscues. However, the island team were not able to take advantage of the opportunities they earned. After a very tense point at 8-7, featuring a number of turns from both teams, the Italians finally caught hold of their senses and played with great patience. All that nearly went by the wayside as Alberto Girotto sent an ill-advised pass into the endzone. He must have been glad that Beatrice Sisana reacted quickest, laying out for an excellent catch and preserving Italy’s excellent run.
Talking after the game, Huang Freundt was positive about the game from a Dominican perspective:
“We knew from the start that they were going to come out firing. We had some weather conditions that made it tough and both teams were a little bit messy, but they fought hard out there.
“We put a zone on because we knew we had to be aggressive on shutting down the actual threats, rather than being gender specific. We had to make sure we could push their girls under while the guys were covered. We switched it around when things weren’t working with the wind.
“For the Dominican Republic, this is the first time we’ve come to WCBU. We’re still developing the sport so to even come here was a real achievement. To be winning three out of our five games, losing to two really strong teams in Italy and Sweden, we couldn’t be prouder. I still believe our team has more to give, though.”
Morri was very complimentary of the way the Dominican Republic played, and how close they made the game:
“This was the first game that we felt the pressure of the wind, and the possibility that we might lose. When they came closer to us, in these conditions, it was really difficult to manage the game. We scored with the wind at the end but it could have been the case that we were against the wind in a final point.
“When they played defence they didn’t give us any around resets, forcing us inside. It was difficult to play our fast, break-mark style because with that defence in this wind it is very hard. We couldn’t move across the field from the down-wind side, keeping us on the open side and forcing deep throws. This wind makes deep throws very tough.
“I think this was the worst game we played but in the end they demonstrated that they are a good team, a really good team. We have to win against Holland tomorrow. We are a little disappointed about the game against America, we played a little bad near the end. Everything is open I think. Our goal is to be in the pre-quarter and see how we can make the top eight.
“This is the first time Italy have put their fish into the Mixed basket, so we will see how it goes. It has never happened before.”
Based on their performances so far, the fish may be in the right basket.
By Sean Colfer.