The 2018 U.S. Open Club Championships are underway! But as has been the trend with major events this year, it couldn’t get going without a little weather delay. As the early bird teams were beginning to arrive at the fields to warm up this morning, lightning started splitting the sky, and the delay began. But it was mercifully short-lived, with games starting just 15 minutes late.
More and more, the U.S. Open has become one of the most exciting and unique tournaments of the year – in part because of the youth division, with players showing up early to watch the adult club teams compete before they start their own games and in part because of the level of competition. Adding in unknown, international teams just adds to the atmosphere. That all definitely rang true in the mixed division on day one.
Anyone who watched the several teams who also competed at the World Ultimate Club Championships a couple weeks ago may have had some expectations coming into the U.S. Open. Roster changes – departures for 2018, many of which excluded WUCC – players currently competing at Masters Worlds in Winnipeg instead of in Minnesota, and other obstacles led to some teams defying those preemptive expectations, both good and bad, and some held true.
If you expected newly crowned world champs, BFG, to have a good day, you’d be right. But you probably also would have expected the reigning national champions, Mixtape, to have a similar day. Based just on their record, you’d be wrong. The WUCC semifinalists ended up on the wrong side of all three of their games today. After falling to a Drag’n Thrust team that is clicking on all fronts, Mixtape lost to both Public Enemy and BFG on double-game point, dropping them to 0-3 in the pool. So we won’t have a repeat champion at the U.S. Open.
The aforementioned “clicking-on-all-fronts” Drag’n Thrust made their way efficiently through the day, topping it off with a 15-6 win over Team Germany. With both BFG and Drag’n Thrust sitting at 3-0, they knocked the winless Mixtape and Charlotte Storm out of semis contention. Despite seemingly significant turnover each year, Drag’n Thrust continues to be one of the most consistent teams in the division. Sarah Meckstroth and Erica Baken both are still seemingly unstoppable both behind the disc and downfield, Brian Schoenrock is still scoring goals left and right, and the addition of Caleb Denecour and Tavis Leighton (along with the return of Emily Regan) supplemented an already strong roster.
Maybe a surprise to some, Public Enemy is currently sitting in the pool’s third spot. Although they’re missing a couple mainstays in Minnesota, the addition of Chris Mazur for one weekend only was very welcome. Mazur, along with Kevin Christian, ran the Public Enemy offense and arguably gave them the bump they needed to overtake Mixtape and nearly come back against BFG. After being down 4-8 at halftime in that game, the final score line read 12-11 in favor of BFG. Public Enemy was very nearly 3-0 at the end of the day.
Team Germany got a strong win over Storm before running into the likes of BFG and Drag’n Thrust. They are a solid team, led by Steffen Döscher. but, like many international teams at the U.S. Open, perhaps not really accustomed to a day – and tournament – with so many strong back-to-back opponents. Similarly, Storm is a team finding their legs. They have a mix of youth and experience, but most of the experience comes in the form of single-gender-play veterans. The potential is there, but they’re still learning to be a great mixed ultimate team.
Philadelphia AMP rolled through day one, looking every bit the part of the WUCC semifinalist. They ended up 3-0 with a +20 point differential. No problems there. Below them is where things get interesting.
AMP’s fellow WUCC semifinalist, Boston Slow White, finished a respectable 2-1 today, but it wasn’t all that easy. And then they got blown out by AMP. Slow White had some real turnover this year, losing standouts like Lexi Zalk and Tannor Johnson. They felt those losses today. Captains Alex Trahey and Hannah Baranes still led the way for Slow White through their first two games – Trahey is just one off the assists lead in the mixed division after day one, even with leaving their last game early. Both Trahey and Baranes were forced to leave early due to injuries (and hope to return tomorrow), helping AMP’s depth really shine through. Slow White sits above NOISE right now, +2, after NOISE’s upset of Denver Love Tractor. Love Tractor was up a break at halftime, but frequent throwing errors on Love Tractor’s reset attempts gave NOISE plenty of chances to make up that deficit. Big performances from Ian Hahn, Josh Wilson and Frank Qin, among others, helped NOISE pull away to a 14-11 win.
Love Tractor is still alive with their 1-2 record, and their final pool play games against Steamboat and Slow White still to come. Jack McShane is the Tractor driver, going every other more often than not. The reunion with his former Bravo teammate, Jesse Roehm, is also working well, with Roehm eating up yards downfield and quickly popping the disc back out to McShane for continuations.
After a not-so-great showing at Colorado Cup with a short roster, Steamboat is feeling better about their play today. They got their first win of the season over Fire this afternoon and hope to parlay that into a strong day tomorrow. Despite an unsurprising standout performance from Valeria Cardenas, plus an impressive 14-assist day from Javier Yanez, Fire and their short roster couldn’t notch a win today. They’ll finish out pool play tomorrow with the super easy one-two punch of Worlds finalist AMP and semifinalist Slow White.
Tomorrow, teams will finish pool play with their last two games and move straight into the semifinals. The mixed division semifinals are up first this year. The first pulls go up at 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., respectively. The first semifinal will be live on ESPN3. The second will be available on tape delay thanks to Ultiworld.
While not many things are set in stone quite yet, BFG and Drag’n Thrust certainly look to be in the driver’s seat(s) in Pool A. AMP is in a similar situation, but that second spot in Pool B is still very much up for grabs.
Stay tuned to see how it all plays out. Plus, get ready for YCC action, which gets underway tomorrow morning.
Keep up to day with everything U.S. Open at usopen.usaultimate.org.