Blaine, Minn. (Aug. 5, 2019) – It was a day of firsts at the 2019 Youth Club Championships. After some schedule tweaks to try and avoid some potential incoming storms, things got underway in the placement rounds and the semifinal and final rounds. But things didn’t end up going exactly as planned. This is what happened in the U-17 division.
Championship day in the U-17 boys’ division got off to a hot start with a marquee semifinal matchup between the fiery boys of Oregon Eruption! and the iron men of Utah Swarm. With both teams filled with stocky, speedy athletes, this contest would come down to which team would take the most advantage of their opportunities.
Mica Glass, a familiar and consistent name this weekend, started things off for Eruption! with an assist to William O’Brien for the first goal. O’Brien led the way, along with Benny Cohen, with three goals apiece. Glass led the team with five assists in the game. He got some help from Jack Fassett, who recorded an assist on the game’s second point by booming a deep huck to his twin brother, Emilio Fassett. After withstanding the initial burst from Eruption!, Swarm got on the board with a goal from Preston Hawkes, one of three goals he would score on the day.
However, Eruption! smartly kept the disc in the hands of Glass and Ben Thoennes, another one of Eruption!’s top assist-makers, as they deciphered Swarm’s trap zone defense with continuous side-to-side movement up the field. Glass and Thoennes also helped spearhead Eruption!’s transition offense off of turnovers, as both players recorded deep hucks for scores to extend their team’s lead over Swarm.
On the other side of the disc, Swarm attacked Eruption!’s person defense by breaking the mark and sending the disc up the sideline to teammates streaking across the end zone for scores. Everett Saunders and Kimball Pew each finished with three assists for Swarm. However, Eruption! was able to ride Glass and Fassett’s coattails in the second half and cruise into the U-17 boys’ championship match with a solid 15-9 victory over Swarm. Mica Glass and Ben Thoennes finished the tournament with a combined 41 assists, setting up almost half of Eruption!’s goals scored throughout the entire weekend!
The second semifinal matchup was much more dramatic, as Seattle Horizon found themselves on the ropes against NC Hammer in their most difficult game of the tournament. Things looked familiar for Horizon early on as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. However, Horizon gambled a bit too much early on, missing multiple diving D attempts that allowed Eli Fried and Anil Driehuys to turn those open opportunities into goals. The lethal assist-and-goal-scorer duo found their groove and sparked a huge comeback for Hammer to end the first half only down 8-7. Fried and Driehuys were so dominant that Horizon had to drop from a three-person to a two-person trap because the duo was breaking them down too easily.
The second half saw Zubin Bimbach step up big for Horizon, as he scored three of his four goals to help Horizon maintain their slim advantage over Hammer. However, Fried and Driehuys would not be denied as they connected again to close their deficit to 10-9 as soft cap went off. After Bimbach pushed the lead to two, Fried recorded his sixth assist with a pass to Nathan Adair for the score to close the gap back to one. However, Bimbach came through in the clutch again and scored the winning goal for Horizon, securing their place in the championship game and setting the stage for an epic battle between the top two seeds in the division.
Unlike days one and two of the Youth Club Championships, the final day of competition in the U-17 girls’ division proved to be anything but a walk in the park. While the quarterfinals saw the top seeds handily defeat their opponents, replicating the same dominance against each other was going to be much more difficult.
Overall one-seed Seattle Blossom faced off against the surging, sixth-seeded Bay Area Belly of the Beast!, and with the first point lasting almost 15 minutes, both teams knew they were in for a battle of epic proportions. With Blossom receiving the first pull and looking to score quickly, Belly of the Beast! countered with a zone with all-time mark that left the rest of the team to patrol the open spaces downfield. Jessica Fiske of Belly of the Beast! was a beast hunting its prey as she recorded three D’s in the first point from her position in the zone’s deep deep spot.
Chagall Gelfand finally said enough was enough and hucked it deep for the game’s first point. Losing that lengthy first point seemed to knock the air out of Belly of the Beast!, as they quickly found themselves down three goals. Gelfand’s offensive attack and Lilliana Werner’s D’s gave Blossom an 8-4 halftime lead that they never relinquished. Mathilda Myerhoff gave her best effort to give Belly of the Beast! a shot at closing the gap with four assists in the game, along with Fiske who increased her D total to five. In the end, however, Anna Le flipped the disc to Amelia Kopf to win the game 11-6 and send Blossom to the U-17 girls’ division finals!
The second semifinal matchup looked like a one-sided affair on the scoreboard, but the stat sheet revealed just how back-and-forth the D.C. Force and rATLers matchup was. It was a classic battle of “offense wins games, defense wins championships” as Quincy Booth’s offensive attack for the rATLers squared off against the defensive pressure of D.C. Force.
In the first half, D.C. Force recorded 10 D’s, but Quincy Booth showed why she was her team’s most valuable player this weekend. Booth was all over the field recording goals, assists and D’s – breaking the game open with four assists in a row – and when the dust settled, rATLers found themselves up 8-1 at halftime.
Nina Huaracayo and Anna Salafsky gave their best effort in the second half to get D.C. Force back in the game, recording three goals and four D’s, respectively, but Quincy Booth was too much for them to contain, and the rATLers slithered their way into the finals with a decisive 14-7 victory. Booth finished the tournament with 11 goals, 15 assists and six D’s, leading her team in all three categories!
Just as the first pulls were getting ready to go up in the championship finals round – a round that had been moved up, in hopes of avoiding some storms predicted in the forecast – the horn sounded, calling the day’s first lightning delay. In a remarkably short amount of time, the sky opened up with pounding rain, crazy wind and impressive-sized hail. Continued lightning strikes pushed back the round’s start time repeatedly. Finally, the storm cleared up and games were underway at 3:15 p.m. But knowing that many teams schedule flights in the early evening, the soft cap time was set for 4:10 p.m., shortening the original round length, but ensuring people would not run into travel issues. But things never quite got that far. Almost exactly half an hour after the first pulls went up, lightning struck again. And once again, torrential rain blew in super quickly. Given the time constraints and the required amount of wait time after a lightning strike, the remainder of the round was canceled. For perhaps the first time in USA Ultimate history, the final round at a major championship event was unable to be completed. It was obviously not an easy decision to make, but athlete safety always comes first.
All of that means that the Youth Club Championships have co-champions for the first time ever. Congratulations to all the finalists from this year’s event!
In the U-17 division, here are your co-champions:
Oregon Eruption! and Seattle Horizon
Atlanta rATLers and Seattle Blossom