The World Championships of Beach Ultimate have finished, and the champions crowned. After a week of sensational Ultimate on the beaches of Royan, let’s have a look at how things shook out at the top of each division.
In truth, this division was never really that close. The United States turned up with a squad full of players who have played at the highest level and ran through everyone else with relative ease. They conceded 33 points in 11 games, an absurd number that shows just how dominant they were. The star duo handler Keven Moldenhauer, an ex-Truck Stop player, and cutter Kelly Swiryn, with the former throwing 24 assists and the latter catching 24 goals. The final, against Great Britain, was put to bed early. Britain held to kick the game off but a four-point USA run soon indicated how the game would go. By the time the score got to 6-3, the USA had warmed all the way up. They rattled off seven more points without response to take home the golds, Don Tom reeling in the final score.
Canada made light work of Finland in the third-place game and took home bronze medals, a turnaround from the first time the two teams faced earlier in the week when Finland won 11-6. The Canadians beat Great Britain on universe point in their first game but losses to the Finns and their Scandinavian neighbours Sweden left them with a semi-final against the USA that they never came close to winning.
Spain took home the spirit prize with an outstanding average of 12.18, closely followed by Germany, Japan and the USA with almost-as-excellent 12.00 scores.
The USA team looked like they’d receive a stiff challenge from the Canadians in the Master Women division, with the first game in the pools ending 11-7 to the Americans. The rest of the tournament was a procession to that final as both teams ran roughshod over the opposition. Canada defeated Great Britain 13-3 in their semi-final, while the Americans won 13-6 against Australia.
The final, though, was rather more one-sided than the neutral spectator might have hoped for. The Americans triumphed 10-4, notching their first break to go up 2-1 and scoring three more for good measure to take the score to 5-1. Canada managed to stop the rot but the USA responded with three more points in a row to extend their lead to an unassailable 8-2, and they closed the game out from there despite a Canadian break to get back to 8-4.
Former Drag’N Thrust handler Robyn Wiseman was the main woman for America, throwing 33 assists, but was overshadowed in total by the two top scorers in the division from Canada – Jennifer Leroux (21 goals and 25 assists) and Malissa Lundgren (8 goals and 37 assists).
In the bronze medal game, the honours were all even until the Aussies managed to get two breaks to take a 6-4 lead over the British. The teams again traded until Australia took another break for a 9-6 lead, the decisive point coming soon after as they secured the hardware with a 10-7 victory.
The spirit in this division was again excellent with only Canada scoring below 10. Australia added the spirit prize to their bronze medals, taking home the honours with 11.62 ahead of Germany on 11.54.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was another division in which the USA wasn’t really challenged. The closest anyone got to them was the 13-8 defeat they handed to Great Britain, where the British team came down with some huge hucks but were still on the end of two Callahans and an all-around devastating display from the Americans. With players like Revolver squad member Tom Doi, former Sockeye mainstay Moses Rifkin and former Revolver and Johnny Bravo handler extraordinaire Bart Watson (among many other household names) on the squad, they simply had too much talent and depth for anyone to live with.
They stormed through knockouts, defeating the Dutch 13-3 in the quarter and Canada 13-6 in their semi. They faced hometown heroes France in the final and, despite a spirited fight from the French, ran away with a 13-7 win. They broke on the first point of the match through Casey Degan and didn’t look back until Doi reeled in the winning catch.
The bronze medal game was between the upstart Spanish and Canada. Spain had defeated Great Britain on sudden death point in the quarter, scoring the final two points of the match to go through. They fell to their French friends in the semi, 13-7, and faced a tough match against the John Hassell-inspired Canadians. Spain’s star player, Miguel Carames, had an excellent game but they trailed 9-6 late in the game. Spain, who had completed a number of come-from-behind wins in the tournament prior to this match, scored three points in a row to claw back the deficit and send the match to a winner-takes-all universe point. They were undone, though, by a huck to Andy Collins who pulled in the winning score mere seconds into the final point.
This was another highly-spirited division, with Canada again the only team to finish below 10. India took home yet another spirit award, finishing with an excellent 12.83 total.
Yet another dominant USA team took this division. Featuring stars like Trey Katzenbach, Sean Murray and the indomitable Dominique Fontenette, they looked like a juggernaut before the first pull and it turned out that first impression was bang on.
The only team to challenge the Americans was the German team they played in the semis. After a USA break in the first point, the teams traded to 5-4. From there, though, the USA were able to control the game without totally dominating, eventually running out 13-9 winners courtesy of two breaks to win the match. The final was regrettably less close, with Canada scoring their first offensive point but then conceding eight straight. From there it was something of a procession to victory for the Americans, as they eventually capped it with a throw from Fontenette to Katzenbach for a 13-4 win.
The bronze game pitted Germany against France, with the crowd pulling strongly for their countrymen and women. The Germans took an early lead at 2-0, but France pulled back and went ahead 5-4. A four-point run proved the game-breaker, with the French scoring two to go into half and two coming out of the break to streak ahead 9-4. The Germans responded with a four-point run of their own to bring it back to 9-8, but by then the cap was on and Cedric Trestard managed to notch the winning score for the hosts, securing them bronze medals.
Japan won the spirit prize, their 11.77 average finishing narrowly ahead of the Swiss at 11.69. Only three teams finished below 10 in yet another display of well-spirited Ultimate.
There were some very tight games in the Men’s division all week, with the USA clearly looking like the quality team in the field. The Americans featured players known around the globe for their exploits in the club, international and professional scene – Jonathan Helton, Cassidy Rasmussen, Jonathan Nethercutt, Brett Matzuka and Tyler DeGirolamo to name but a few. Despite that, there were some other strong outfits; Canada looked formidable, Great Britain were hot and cold but clearly had talent and the Philippines brought their unusual combo of speed and unorthodox throws to the party.
The USA beat Australia 13-5 in their quarter and France 13-6 in their semi, qualifying for the final having had only one scare – a 13-12 win over a surprisingly competitive Spanish team, after being down 7-5 at half. In the other half of the draw, Great Britain defeated Canada 10-7 in a hotly contested match and the Philippines defeated Spain 12-8. The British and Filipino teams had faced each other earlier in the tournament with the Philippines winning 12-10. This time, though, Britain did a much better job of limiting the Philippines’ typical handler movement and managed to take advantage of their height advantage. A superb final two points from the GB D line won them the game, with the defence scoring two breaks to win 10-7 – the final point coming after a fabulous endzone block from Sam Bowen, who then threw the winning assist.
The final was blown apart early, with the USA scoring four in a row after Britain held to start the match. By the time the British managed their first break, it was 10-8 and the USA needed only one more point to win. They obliged, with Jonathan Helton making a catch to bring yet more gold back to the States.
The bronze medal game did throw up a surprise, though. The French were vying for yet another medal against the Philippines, who entered the game heavy favourites (not least because they’d won 11-7 earlier in the tournament). However, the home support drove the French team on and they managed to take a topsy-turvy game, which featured three separate instances of three-point runs, 13-10 for a hugely-popular-with-the-locals win.
Again, only two teams finished below 10 in the spirit rankings. New Zealand were the clear winners with 12.46. They also featured the highest scorer, with Em Hodgson scoring a scarcely believable 25 goals and 33 assists in only 13 matches.
A number of nations looked to have stacked their Mixed rosters. Portugal are always strong and featured the big players from last WCBU – David Pimenta, Pedro Vargas and Ines Bringel all brought extensive beach experience. Germany were the defending champions and had added stars Rob Schumacher and Nici Prien to a roster that featured many of the winners from 2015. Russia had brought on two players based in North America – Isaac Masek-Kelly and Anatoly Vasilyev. Canada featured several players with extensive experience at the top level including the Norden brothers, Justin and Jeremy, and Cam Burden. The Philippines featured women and men who could all play the same unique style that they usually bring. And then there was the USA, who had brought superstars from the Open (Revolver’s Simon Higgins), Women’s (Molly Brown’s Liza Minor) and Mixed (Drag’N Thrust’s Sarah Meckstroth) among a litany of other stars in what looked to be a super strong squad.
The big teams largely avoided each other in the early going, with the quarters presenting the first important match ups. Portugal fell to Canada 10-7 in a game that was never a rout but always fairly comfortable for the Canadians. Russia felt the full force of the American squad despite a good showing, losing 13-9 to the USA. The Philippines defeated the story of the tournament in an Indian team that managed to finish fifth overall, and Germany dispatched Great Britain 13-6 in a pretty convincing performance.
That left what seemed to be the best four teams in the tournament playing each other. The Philippines and Canadians had played a bad-tempered match earlier in the week that the Philippines took 11-8. However, the Canadians managed to come out on top in a thriller in the semi, winning 10-9 after a three-point run from the Filipinos brought it to universe. The point to go to 9-9 was 20 minutes long, with some very long calls taking it a long way past any other point in the tournament.
The USA, on the other hand, looked convincing against the Germans. Germany had looked exceptional in the tournament up to that point but the USA defeated them 11-8 in another game that they had control of from start to finish. A run from Germany made it respectable (from 10-5 to 10-8) but the USA took their place in the final.
The final was hotly contested and both teams ran hard, but really the Americans were rarely in trouble. They broke for a 2-1 lead and then again for a 4-2 lead and never really looked like they would let that lead slip. They managed to run out 12-10 winners thanks to a superb catch from Elijah Kerns, setting up the clean sweep chance.
Isiah Masek-Kelly merits a mention for his statistical dominance – 29 goals and assists, making it an amazing 58 overall. Spirit-wise, New Zealand made it a 100% record in the divisions they entered by winning with a 12.67 average, far ahead of their opponents. Only four teams finished below 10 in this division.
In this case, we’ve saved the best until last. Or, at the very least, the most dramatic.
The United States and Russia quickly emerged as the two best teams in Royan. While the States had close games with Denmark and Canada, they went through every team they faced and showed enough talent and grit to see off all comers. Like every other USA team at the tournament, they featured several superstar players – Becky Malinowski, Cree Howard and Paige Soper were three that stood out amongst yet another deep group.
The Russians, who have been a beach power for some years now, operated a familiar style. Sasha Pustovaia ran the offence with a group of quick, athletic cutters giving her lanes to throw to. The defence, which featured Sasha’s sister Anna, were a group of hard working, smart players who did a great job at shutting down their opponents’ first options and taking them out of their comfort zone. The two teams met in power pools, with the USA able to score the two points before half and the two points immediately following half to take the game 13-10.
The USA defeated a good Swiss side 11-5 in the quarters and Canada 12-8 in the semis, displaying some great offensive play but certainly not dismissing their opponents like we had seen from some other American sides. The Russians beat Denmark 10-6 in their quarter, and Great Britain 12-6 in their semi. The stage was set for a rematch, and an intriguing final.
The USA broke for the first point, and then twice more for a 5-2 lead. Russia immediately pulled a break back, taking it to 5-4, and the teams traded until half at 7-5. Russia nabbed another break out of half, narrowing the deficit to one point. From there, though the USA took off. They scored three points in a row with two long defensive points yielding two huge scores.
With the score at 10-6, Russia were in trouble. Their offensive line managed to put the score in, but were looking tired. The D line were getting turns but struggling to convert the chances they were getting.
It was at this point that Russia began mixing lines. Olga Podolskaia, the top scorer in the Women’s division with 25 goals and 24 assists, caught the first break to peg the lead back to 10-8. Sasha Pustovaia, playing her first D point of the game, threw an assist to Elizaveta Voronkova, another O line player, to bring it back to 10-9. The energy in the stadium was building, and the USA players looked to be feeling it and tightening up. After a huge layout block, Russia were able to take advantage yet again – game tied at 10-10, with the next point winning the title.
The USA looked shell-shocked, while Russia sensed all the momentum was with them. A poor throw from the USA gave Russia a chance at a short field near the USA brick mark. The disc ended up with Sasha Pustovaia, who saw her favourite target, Podolskaia, go deep and unfurled a backhand huck. Cree Howard, though, used all her years of experience and read the play before Sasha had even released the disc. She peeled off the back of the stack and was in a perfect position to make a play in her own endzone and win possession back for the States. The disc, though, bobbled at the most inopportune moment for Howard, and it slipped underneath her extended hand and bounced off her head. Podolskaia reacted with lightning speed; she laid out, clap-caught the disc and Russia toppled the USA giants.
Russia reacted with joy and disbelief – they had scored five in a row to win an instant classic. The Americans, on the other hand, were distraught, especially the desperately unlucky Howard.
The bronze medal game was less dramatic, with Great Britain riding exceptional performances from the Forth sisters, Bex and Katey, to win 13-5 against Canada. The spirit was again notably good, with only two teams scoring below 10.
By Sean Colfer.