Blaine, Minn. (Aug. 5, 2019) – The final day of the 2019 U.S. Open Club Championships was maybe a first for USA Ultimate championship events. In addition to placement bracket games, the semifinals and finals in each of the Youth Club Championships divisions was on the docket. There were plenty of exciting games on offer, plus a lot more lightning and hail than anyone wanted to see. Here is how the day played out in the U-20 divisions.
Familiar faces filled the fields of the U-20 boys semifinals. One side of the bracket was Triangle Trifoce v. Boston BUDA, and the other was a matchup between Bay Area Red Dawn and the Atlanta ATLiens. This is the first time the Bay Area has reached the semifinals, but they have been inching closer for the past few years; they finished fifth at YCC in 2018. The other three are fixtures in the final four.
Triforce has reached the semifinals every year since 2013. And they’ve matched up with BUDA more than once, including twice in the championship game. So today’s game was another edition of a classic YCC rivalry, and it didn’t disappoint. The teams traded turns on each of the first two points, but both ended in holds. Both offensive lines were basically rock steady. There was very little moving around of lines, and everyone contributed. But for BUDA, it’s impossible to talk about their offensive line without talking about Orion Cable. It’s not like he was a surprise – even without his impressive play, he stands out pretty naturally at 6’5”. And he was BUDA’s go-to guy. They often started in a side stack to isolate Cable, sometimes as the initiating cutter and sometimes as the continue taking off to the deep space. He scored the majority of BUDA’s goals and was one of the few people to cross over to the D line late in the game. Wyatt Kellman, James Cairn and Cole Davis-Brand did the lion’s share of the work behind the disc, working amongst each other and distributing to Cable all around the field. BUDA broke to go into half, putting them up by a break, a lead they hung onto for most of the second half. Triforce also held steady with their lines, keeping rotations tight, but not doing much moving of people from one line to the other. On offense, Cal Nightingale and Josh Singleton kept the disc moving. Singleton was the center handler and rock for the O line. He was imperturbable in the handler set and against BUDA’s zone. Oh, and he is 16. Tobias Brooks, another player who could be playing in the U-17 division – he’s 14 – got the first D Triforce needed by jumping the lane on a short pass. He and Kevin Pignone went every other down the field before Evan Phillips got the break goal to tie the game at 11. A couple points later, a huge bid from Albert Yuan coming under got the D on a centering pass. A few throws later, Langston Lee got the go-ahead goal, putting Triforce in front 13-12 in a game to 14. BUDA held, waiting on the goal line for Cable to get open in the front corner, 13-13. On double-game point, Triforce got a little antsy. Instead of just walking the disc up the field, they took a shot from midfield – to an open receiver – but it was a little too far ahead. BUDA jammed the disc up the open sideline, with Kellman leading the way. They floated one across the front of the end zone to Cable who found Jerry He for the game winning goal. BUDA advanced to the championship final.
In the other semifinal, the ATLiens jumped out early, taking a 4-2 lead, up two breaks against Red Dawn. Red Dawn stuck with their zone look pretty much from start to finish: an all-time mark, with two more people in the “cup” taking away the lanes to reset handlers. Leo Gordon patrolled the deep space. Adam Miller, Aidan Downey and Ben Dameron led the way for Atlanta behind the disc. Early on, they played very conservatively against the zone, inching their way up the field with countless resets amongst themselves. They also turned it over a couple of times that way, allowing Red Dawn to get a couple breaks back in the first half. But as the game progressed, they got more creative about throwing both over the top of the zone and around with OI looks that opened up more space up-field. When halftime rolled around, the ATLiens were in front 8-7 with a break still in their pocket. The teams traded holds out of the half before the ATLiens got one more break for 11-8, but Red Dawn got it back just two points later, winning a marathon of a point to make the score 11-10. Daniel Landesman was doing it all for Red Dawn, as he did all weekend long – so much so that the led the U-20 boys’ division in goals. Same goes for Zachary Rosner. They continued to churn for Red Dawn with the semifinal head down the stretch. Red Dawn opted to stick with their zone defensive look, so the ATLiens did their thing, working the disc up the field a little at a time with Miller and Dameron leading the way. A short reset from Dameron to Miller set up a quick throw up-field to the ATLiens’ leading scorer, Justin Burnett, in the end zone for 12-10. The game was actually over at 12-10, with hard cap having gone on during the final point. But the teams apparently didn’t know that, so they played one more. The ATLiens scored that one too. So the game officially ended 12-10, but 13-10 works too.
With the fourth and final day of the U.S. Open came four undefeated U-20 girls’ teams: the Triangle Warhawks, Boston BUDA, Maine Rip Tide and D.C. Rouge. The top-ranked Warhawks took on BUDA in the semifinals for what promised to be an excellent match. BUDA scored their first point to hold 1-0, but the Warhawks quickly rattled off their own hold before bringing to bear the zone that had already carried them this far. With only a mild wind in the first half, the Warhawks’ zone focused on containing the midfield while putting ever-increasing pressure on the mark in the cup. BUDA had no trouble with the swing and resets, but would quickly grow overconfident and over or under-throw a cutter. The Warhawks wasted no time transitioning into offense, quickly putting the disc back into play and sending it deep – often to Jessica Wu or Clil Phillips in the end zone. It didn’t always pay off, but the Warhawks’ defense usually granted itself a few chances on each point. They went on a run of five breaks to take half 8-4. At the start of the second half, BUDA found a successful strategy in going over the cup instead of around it, going on their own run of breaks to get within two points. The Warhawks easily found open half- or full-field hucks but started to struggle in the red zone, having a hard time keeping the clutter to a workable level once they were on the goal line. Nevertheless, the Warhawks rounded out another comfortable win, 15-10, to advance to the championship game.
On the other side of the bracket, DC Rogue looked to put a stop to the rise of Maine’s Rip Tide once and for all. Maine had been rolling over teams all tournament with the combination of Kennedy McCarthy, Devin Quinn and the Pozzy sisters, Emily and Annie, one of the youngest players in YCC this year, let alone in the U-20 division. Rip Tide had, so far, relied on fast transitions and quick connections, rarely letting the stall count get established, and seemingly never above two. This semifinal was no exception, and if it’s even possible, Rip Tide came out even faster on the draw than at any previous point in the tournament. Rogue attempted to slow them down with a 3-3-1 zone, but it was a rare sight to see it fully in place before Rip Tide already had the disc in the air. On offense, Rogue handlers Claire Schmitt and CeCe Collinson found some rhythm with a side stack opening up the break side as much as possible, leading to a few much-needed connections with Emma Salafsky in the end zone. But Rip Tide capitalized on the open-side clogging of the side stack before switching to a zone of their own, widening their lead out of half to 12-5. In the end, D.C. Rogue just did not have enough steam or time to recover. They fell 15-8, sending Maine Rip Tide to face the Triangle Warhawks for the championship.
Seattle Bankroll finally met up with the Madison MUDAbots in the semifinals, a match everybody could get excited for. Madison has been shredding zones all weekend but faced a strong person defense against Bankroll, one that rarely gave them a free break opportunity. While the first few points were back and forth, Bankroll was able to force enough turnovers, including a few key layout Ds by Dominic Jacobs who more than once converted them into bookends goals. The combination of Bankroll handler Abby Hecko and cutter Sophia Palmer should not be understated and was worth three goals by itself. Bankroll quickly took half 8-4. Madison was unable to adapt their offense in a way that could open up more of the field or best the person defense played by Bankroll and were eliminated from championship contention with a 15-8 loss.
Connecticut Harpoon and Indiana INcognito faced off in what perhaps should have been renamed to the Upset Bracket Semifinal. Both teams fought their way through difficult pools and pulled off upsets in the quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon to earn their way to the semifinals. The match went point for point through the first half with Harpoon’s zone jamming up the wings and patiently waiting for INcognito’s offense to make a mistake, which paid off more times than not. John Clyde, Theresa Yu and David Vega ran much of Harpoon’s offense, but it was the work of INcognito’s Nick Phillips and captain Darren Smith that led Indiana to a narrow victory over Connecticut, 15-13, sending INcognito to face Bankroll in the championship game.
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-20 division, here are your co-champions:
Atlanta ATLiens and Boston BUDA
Maine Rip Tide and Triangle Warhawks
Indianapolis INcognito and Seattle Bankroll