Blaine, Minn. (Aug. 2, 2019) – The 2019 U.S. Open Club Championships are underway in Blaine! After several years of pretty extensive pool play with two pools of six that led straight into the semifinal round, the International Club Championships got a format shift. This year, ICC has four pools of three which end in the pools’ top seeds playing crossover-for-seeding game, while everyone else heads into the pre-quarterfinals. The format feels like it makes things move quickly, with pool play over pretty early in the day and bracket play underway before the end of day one.
At the end of pool play, the top four spots looked exactly like they did when the day started – they just each had a 2-0 next to them. There were some results that probably look a little closer than fans might have expected – like Fury v. Germany ending 15-13, or Riot v. Nemesis ending 15-14. But a lot of that just comes from it being the U.S. Open and early enough in the season that teams are still figuring themselves out. Fury took some time to get going against Germany. Germany is a good team, with a solid handler corps, that has a lot of experience playing together. This summer, they’ve spent time playing together at Windmill Windup and just finished competing at the European Ultimate Championships a couple weeks ago. So they are a team with good chemistry and experience against some good other teams. But Fury also didn’t do an especially great job of applying pressure on defense. Germany took advantage and made Fury work for their first win of the weekend. Riot’s start was similar. Nemesis is a stronger team this year than they were in 2018. They picked up some good new talent, and it showed today in the form of a win and two very close losses. Keep an eye on them going forward this year. Both Fury and Riot won their second games more comfortably and advanced to the crossover round that helped set seeds for the quarterfinals.
Medellín Revolution, always fan favorites, earned the second overall spot to start the weekend and held onto it through pool play. They faced Nightlock first, and despite Nightlock’s skill, they could not outplay Revolution’s defense. The Colombians’ constant switching and heads up poaching forced Nightlock into more than a handful of turnovers. And despite a few long points, Revolution’s offense was clicking well and won big. Revolution had more of a challenge against Schwa. The match up was Schwa’s first of the day, when they still had plenty of energy in the tank. Everything was working well for Schwa, and they were able to contain Revolution’s explosive offense all the way to 8-7, on serve, at half. The level of play was still high in the second half, but Revolution inched away and held onto a two-point lead all the way to 15-13.
Brute Squad got their close pool play match up against the newly reinforced Scandal. Their additions have been a hot topic throughout the summer, which makes sense, given that their additions are people like Carolyn Normile, Robyn Fennig and Lauren Boyle. And they made their mark early on today, in their first game of the day, which also happened to be the always-fun 4 v. 5 match up. Jumping on some early miscues from Brute Squad, Scandal put together a three-point lead by halftime. Normile and Fennig seem to have fallen into the Scandal handler set pretty easily, but Normile is perhaps at her most effective when she has the freedom to take off out of the handler set into the cutting space. Having her downfield, with powerful throwers like Fennig and Sarah Lord behind her – as well as Katey Forth looking for continue throws after starting in the cutting line – was a great formula for Scandal. But in the second half, Brute Squad cleaned up some of their unforced errors and re-focused on their system. A scoring run brought the score from 11-8 Scandal to 13-12 with Brute Squad in front. Three traded holds closed out the game as a W for Brute. They had already defeated HUCK earlier in the day, which gave them the all-important 2-0 record. Scandal also defeated HUCK, in another close game, to solidify the second spot in Pool D.
Molly Brown had an early lead on Fury, but after a first half of runs, which Fury won by the end of the half, Molly Brown could not bring the game back within reach. Fury carried that lead to a 15-10 win. Despite missing several big pieces of their team, particularly their offensive line, Molly Brown ended up on the other end of that score line against Germany. Jesse Shofner will arrive in time for day two of play in Minnesota, but Melissa Devlin, Allysha Dixon and Sam Peletier are out for the weekend, along with Rena Kawabata is out for a still-to-be-determined amount of time with an injury. They are all noticeable absences for Molly.
Just like that, in a seemingly crazy short amount of time, the seeding crossovers and the tournament’s first elimination round was underway.
Although they don’t actually mean all that much in the long run – since they are not elimination games, and any match up in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open is going to be a good test – the games between the pool’s top seeds were still both very tight from start to finish. Teams took them as an opportunity to test themselves against some of the best and to play at a high competitive level. Riot and Fury had another of their classic battles, all the way into overtime, when Riot won it on defense, 16-14. It was a similar story on the other side of one of the National Sports Center’s many water features. Brute Squad and Revolution fought it out all the way to a 16-15 win for Brute Squad. You can re-watch that game anytime on USA Ultimate’s YouTube page.
And don’t be surprised when you see some of their faces later in the weekend.
Two teams who had been making noise all day, but maybe not winning quite as many games as they would have like, met up in the pre-quarterfinals: Nemesis and the German National Team. And now, in the first round of elimination play, the games really mattered. Jenni Corcoran was a monster behind the disc for Nemesis in the game. She finished with a crazy eight assists – a full two-thirds of her total for the day. And then there was Sarah Lipscomb. She ended up with five goals, plus an assist. But on the other side, Kyoko Hosokawa matched that stat line for Germany. There was just great play everywhere. Germany got the game’s first break to take half at 8-6. Nemesis got that break back to tie the game at 10-10, and points were traded until 13-13. Understandably a little tired at this point, the game’s last several point weren’t quite as clean, particularly for Nemesis. They were up 14-13 before Germany closed things out with a 4-2 scoring run. Germany pulled out a huge win and advanced to tomorrow’s quarterfinal round.
Scandal v. Nightlock was the round’s next closest game. They traded breaks early on and were back on serve by 7-6. Scandal got the next one, putting them in front 12-10, and that was all they needed to advance to the quarterfinals. Final score: 14-12. Nightlock is a well-balanced team. They play through everyone on their roster, and nearly everyone touches the disc on seemingly every point. Meanwhile, Scandal is definitely solid, but they can tire a little down the stretch. Their handler corps doesn’t have a ton of depth, and in long games that means they are all playing a lot of points. But so far, they are pushing through and pulling out the wins they need in Blaine. They will get a tough, but familiar, match up tomorrow when they take on Fury first thing in the morning. That game will be livestreamed on USA Ultimate’s YouTube page and at ultiworld.com, so be sure to tune in.
The women’s division certainly has an argument for the most parity from top to bottom this weekend. Their “less exciting” pre-quarter match ups were still pretty close games. Schwa lost yet another close one, 15-12 against HUCK. And Molly Brown jumped out in front of UNO 4-1 and maintained a lead throughout. They eventually closed out the game 15-10 and will face one of their TCT teams in Manuela Cárdenas and Revolution in the quarterfinals, a rematch of the championship game from 2017, the last time Revolution was at the U.S. Open.