Blaine, Minn. (Aug. 4, 2017) – The 2017 U.S. Open Club Championships are underway! The first-ever combined event of the U.S Open and the Youth Club Championships has 126 teams competing at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., this weekend.
Historically, the U.S. Open was held over the July 4 weekend, aka early in the season when teams weren’t really together yet, hadn’t figured out all their systems and were still getting comfortable with one another. The event’s move to a month later in the season puts teams that much closer to when they are trying to peak for the National Championships, so much more complete teams are in town this weekend. But throw in the international element, and surprises are always possible.
The day started out with good conditions, but a breeze blowing out of the northwest was enough to make pulls and some throws a little trickier than teams seemed to expect. Unforced turns were a common sight in the first few games, with drops and throws that either skidded into the grass or popped into the air featuring pretty prominently. As the day progressed, the wind dissipated and offenses started to look cleaner and more efficient.
After day one, Molly Brown is the pool leader. They earned two comparatively easy wins over Revolution and Showdown before battling with Brute Squad in their last game of the day. In all three of their games, Molly Brown came out strong, jumping out to early leads before dropping into a lull mid-game. For both Revolution and Brute Squad, those lulls were just what they needed to climb back into the game. Brute was well behind at halftime, the score sitting at 8-3, but they scored six of the next seven to tie the score. After two pretty sloppy offensive games, Brute Squad cleaned it up with some of their biggest names leading the way, people like Becky Malinowski, Amber Sinicrope and Claudia Tajima, among others.
For Molly Brown, their offensive engine runs through Claire Chastain, Paige Applegate and a cadre of cutters who can and do fill in in the handler set. The set also allows Chastain and Applegate lots of space to throw and go with slash cuts, keeping the disc moving and cutting lanes active. The teams traded goals, and a couple of breaks, into overtime, playing to the point cap at 17. On game point, a high-stall bailout throw from Brute Squad got picked off by Jesse Shofner, and a few throws later, Chastain found Sara Taggart for the break and the win, 17-15.
Molly Brown retooled quite a bit in the off-season, and their new recruits seemed to fit seamlessly into their systems. Liza Minor, Sarah Pesch, Hannah Leathers, Melissa Devlin and more all got consequential playing time, and Molly Brown looked all the better for it.
The loss to Molly Brown was Brute Squad’s second. They fell to Revolution in their second game, after Revolution figured things out a little in their first-round game against Molly Brown. The Colombians came out much stronger in their game against Brute Squad. Unforced errors gave Revolution the opportunities they needed, and they surprised the defending national champions. Revolution embodies the classic Colombian style, using hard steps out and cuts back under to advance the disc, with lots of inside break throws to open up the field. Revolution held their early lead, and Brute couldn’t get quite enough back late in the game. Revolution got the upset 14-11.
Brute Squad’s two losses leave them sitting fifth in the pool at the end of day one. But Revolution also lost two games today. MUD defeated them in their third game, which leaves four teams at 1-2. Molly Brown is sitting pretty comfortably at the top of the pool, with a lot left to be decided tomorrow.
Where Pool A is all over the place, Pool B is a study in solidity so far. Teams beat who they were “supposed” to beat and lost to the ones they were supposed to lose to, and the games that were supposed to be close were close. The best games in the pool were yet another classic between Riot and Fury and a marathon between Scandal and Iceni.
In their second game of the day, the Scandal and Iceni offenses went toe to toe from start to finish. Both offenses played well, and neither defense was particularly successful in taking the disc away. The teams battled all the way through overtime before Scandal finally closed out the game 17-16.
In the women’s division’s third round of play, we got rematches of both of last year’s National Championship semifinals: Brute Squad v. Molly Brown (as mentioned above) and the latest chapter in the epic rivalry between Fury and Riot. After trading throughout the first half, Riot broke to go up 7-6 thanks to a great layout D from Sarah “Surge” Griffith. While guarding the reset handler, Griffith saw Anna Nazarov set up to throw to the inside lane. Griffith jumped the throw, laying out from her spot behind and to the inside of the throw. Riot took their break into halftime. The next break didn’t come until Fury scored to come within one at 12-11 – a lucky break for Fury after the throw was doinked on its way into the end zone before ending up in Opi Payne’s hands. Riot got that break back and ended up winning 15-13.
So at the end of day one, Riot sits atop the pool at 3-0, with Fury right behind them. Scandal is third in the pool, having squeaked out two double-game point wins – the second one coming against Heist, in an epically long and not especially pretty game that went 15 minutes past hard cap – to end up at 2-1.
Notes of Interest
- Several teams were missing players this morning after travel delays cropped up last night, particularly because of severe weather in Chicago.
- Scandal was missing Sandy Jorgensen, and Heist was missing Georgia Bosscher today. Both women will be in Minnesota for games tomorrow.
Also! Tune into all the great coverage from Minnesota, including all the live streams on the USA Ultimate Facebook page, streams from Ultiworld, and the upcoming games on ESPN3 and ESPN2.