Lots of opportunities available to start the end of Pool Play as teams kept their spirits high. First game round 2 featured Great Britain versus Japan. After a strong first half and a late 9-7 lead, once again GB faltered as the Japanese defense tightened up. The big hucks failed and Japan wins 13-11.
Colombia-USA followed, a good test for Colombia. Could they hang with the rangy, confident and hard-to-read Americans? It’s tough to counter a team when you’re not sure what angle they are taking. The Americans rarely show frustration or anger, even when Colombia made a run late in the game. USA would win 13-7.
The most anticipated match of the opening session featured Canada versus Australia — a rematch of the 2009 World Games Bronze medal game (won by Australia). The Aussies came out strong and Canada lost their composure and kept overthrowing or underthrowing Jeff Lindquist. The meltdown ended finally at 8-2 Australia when Canada finally put one in on offense. From there: four more from the D line to close to 8-7 and suddenly the game was on. As they’ve done all tournament however Australia responded as Joel Pillar found Dani Alexander for consecutive goals. From there Australia was able to trade out to win 13-10 and Canada’s gold medal aspirations were severely dampened.
Clearly Australia is the “toughest” team here, mentally or otherwise. They rarely give up calls, even questionable ones. They seem to like to stay on that edge. Canada, after the controversy in Sakai, seemed to take a much more reasoned approach as Coach Cruickshank told his players “if you aren’t 100% sure of the call, don’t argue.” Australia on the other hand seems to lean more in the other direction as most calls are contested and that has served them well here.
The last game of the opening morning session pitted Japan versus USA. Some very interesting plots in this game. The opportunities to find the gold medal match had already been calculated: USA needed only to win the game to secure a spot and Japan had to win by two to have a chance. Furthermore USA was without one of its players, Ashlin Joye, who suffered from food poisoning and captain Alex Snyder had missed the first game of the day with a migraine. Japan, somewhat disappointing all tournament so far, had to have this game.
Star Eri Enzu had finally stepped into her game after a quiet opening round and the Japanese put everything on the table, used all of the strategies they had saved for what they hoped was a gold medal appearance. But to get there they had to win here. One effective technique unveiled was an amoeba zone, some sort of five person cup that sometimes didn’t even mark players with the disc. This ultra-loose cup proved difficult for the United States to read and definitely slowed the American flow. Japan playing confident, took half 7-6. But USA proved yet again to be a second-half team as the coaches made adjustments, Mike Natenberg made another amazing Greatest play, and the U.S. outscored Japan 6-2 to win at the time cap, 12-9.
It was the second-to-last game of the day that had the stadium absolutely riveted. The tall husky Canadians faced the speedy Colombians at 5:30pm, a perfect time for local Caliueños getting off work to come out and watch. And come out they did—the stadium once again was a rollicking affair and once again Colombia rose to the challenge running out to a quick lead 3-0 and forcing Canada to use a timeout after the very first point of the game. Showing their true versatility and depth, Maria Forero (and not Cartagena, Mendoza or Mosquera) scored two of the first three goals, one on a long bomb. A spectacular play from Santiago Montaño, the Colombian “flying squirrel” came early as he streaked downfield on the opening pull and absolutely crushed the first pass with a lay-out block to a huge cheer from the crowd. The Canadians hung their heads then but it only continued. Colombia took half 7-5 and stretched to 9-5, each score bringing with it a cacophony from the stands. Canada would not give up but the odds were stacked against them and Colombia proved too mentally tough. The final point saw an exhausted Canadian team make four turnovers before Julio Duque found Yana Mendoza in the end zone and the home team had won again, 13-10 significantly bolstering their chances of making the medal rounds.
Great Britain hoped to find their flow against Australia but again proved inconsistent and vulnerable, again, in the second half. Tied at 6s, Australia scores for half and then starts the second half with four in a row to ice the game away and trade out to a 13-9 final.
The win left Australia at 3-1 and locked into a medal round, either for Gold or Bronze.
The last games of pool play started early Tuesday morning with some key matchups. The first game was Japan versus Canada. It was calculated out that Japan was already eliminated from gold medal contention, win or lose, based on point differential and head-to-head matchups. Canada, also eliminated, faced the same goal: get to the Bronze medal game.
A Japanese win gave them the berth; a Canada win by two points did the same. This game therefore had everything at stake and both squads knew it. Physical marks, pick and travel calls were the normal here — and most if not all of the calls were correct. Canada’s tight man-D kept running into Japanese offensive players in their “compact offense” and causing pick calls. Japanese defenders and Canadian defenders alike on the mark were physical.
The point difference Canada needed kept this game thrilling until the end. With the second half winding down Japan held a 10-9 lead, guided by “Endzone Eyes “ Enzu and her four assists and two goals. Canada could afford to give up only one more point if they wanted to advance. Japan’s female handler “dominator” set of three handlers had been working all tournament but it was Catherine “Chewy” Hui from Canada who busted it up with a run-through block and score to swing momentum Canada’s way permanently. When Candace Chan roped a huck to Lindquist for a goal it was all cheers and smiles on the Canadian side and that confidence allowed them two more scores on the D line to win, 13-10, and earn a place in the Bronze medal round.
The last game of the day was a meaningless one for the medal rounds as undefeated USA took on 0-4 Great Britain. A slow game with little defense ensued and the Americans won 13-9. But before that: a thriller.
Australia-Colombia met Tuesday morning 10:00 with the clearest of intentions. The winner would play for the Gold, the loser for Bronze. With the crowd now bolstered by some Australian travelers bearing flags and horns the home crowd advantage was somewhat mitigated. The game started off with a show of nerves, finally, from Colombia. At 4-3 they had the disc on the goal line with a chance to tie it but tried to jam it in and Australia capitalized going the other way. This small incident changed the whole tide and Australia behind Joel Pillar and Tim Laves streaked to the half up 7-3.
As usual big Tom Rogacki was a force to be reckoned with, opening up the field with his long throws and superior height. It didn’t matter if the turnovers came: his ability to hit targets anywhere on the field opened up even small under cuts and swings to the sideline. The Colombians turned to zone defense to stop the big man and this worked, but only some of the time.
Still they fought back, scoring on offense four straight possessions, but so did the Aussies, each one on a Rogacki throw, two to his favorite receiver Sarah Wentworth.
While the game looked lost for Colombia, however, they did not think so. Big play followed by big play and capitalizing on turnovers the Colombians rallied with three straight goals, the last two again by their Ospina to Mosquera then Ospina to Cartagena to bring them within one, 12-11. The stands roared to life, believing that this epic rally would mean an inevitable victory. Australia looked rattled and called a timeout. The crowd, buzzing, stayed loud but the Gold medal game was not to be for the home team as a Rogacki hammer opened up the middle of the field and a fast break combo of Peter Blakely and Tim Lavis sealed the deal, 13-11 for Australia. Amazing game and heart shown by both teams.
With the round-robin pool play now finished the results stand as follows:
Gold Medal Game:
USA 5-0 vs. Australia 4-1
Bronze Medal Game:
Colombia 2-3 vs. Canada 2-3