In Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei today the weather was pleasant, slightly cloudy with temperatures in the low eighties. The weather in Atlanta, Ga., on the other hand, was verging on miserable. Rain dripped from the sky in the slow, steady style that forces you to assume that it will never stop again while wind gusted occasionally reaching up to 12 MPH and temperatures dropping to an uncharacteristically cold 60 degrees.
So, the question that comes to mind is: How on earth could a scrimmage in Atlanta help prepare Team USA for anything that stands ahead of it in Kaohsiung in merely 58 days? Well, it may have helped Team USA prepare for any kind of adversity, weather or otherwise, that stands ahead of it in Kaohsiung.
Team USA spent the early part of its morning running a clinic for the Juniors of the Southeast, US. Teenagers came from near and far to learn from the best in the game and, while dealing with teenagers can be a hassle, it hardly compared to what a mixed team of Chain and Ozone club players had in store for Team USA.
While the National team won the game 15-10 it wasn’t without a fight from the Atlanta residents.
USA received the disc to start the game and opened up the scoring as Chain Lightning’s Dylan Tunnell reminded his Atlanta friends and teammates that he was no longer playing with them by helping pierce ATL’s zone defense and putting USA’s first score to take a 1-0 lead.
It’s hard to imagine a line that includes Josh Markette, AJ Tiarsmith, Chris Goodson, Jason Simpson and Julia Echertoff being outmatched by a lot but that’s the way things looked for the first several points of this scrimmage. A narrow turnover on a hammer look from Simpson led to USA’s first break of the game. Then, a very familiar but slightly altered set of happenings led to a 3-0 lead for USA when, after another ATL turn, Johnny Bravo’s and former Colorado player Beau Kitteridge put a beautiful inside out backhand to Johnny Bravo and former Colorado player Jolian Dahl.
However, that would be where the ease would stop for Team USA. Chain Lightning’s Josh Ziperstein took it upon himself to make a play and did just that, making a layout grab on the goalline and then throwing the score to give the Atlantans their first point of the scrimmage and close the gap to 3-1.
The two teams would trade points to go to 6-3 with scores from Fury’s Gwen Ambler and Ozone’s Dub Cussen for Team USA and a connection from Simpson to Tiarsmith for Atlanta. Then, Atlanta would show USA that this game would be no walk in the park as Rob Barrett scored a layout-d with USA backed up in its own endzone after an Atlanta turn to bring the lead down to two at 6-4.
Team USA ran a space creating sidestack to quickly move the disc down the field and find the endzone for a 7-4 lead. Ziperstein would attempt to keep his team in again by hucking to an open receiver to close the gap once again. With halftime looming the Atlantans would set up a staunch defense that led to a marathon point which ended in another Atlanta break to close the lead to 7-6.
At this point, Atlanta had USA on the ropes. They had the momentum and the local fans were doing their best to keep the hometown heroes in the game. However, USA would gather up its resolve to take half 8-6 and then, get a break directly out of halftime to get back to a three-point lead. Ziperstein then connected with Rob Barrett for a score to bring the game tally to 9-7 in favor of Team USA.
Atlanta forced a turnover on the next point and USA once again showed its ability to stave off a run by talented players by trapping Colin Bellair and Dusty Smith in their own endzone. Bellair called a timeout but even with a set play the Atlantans could not get the disc out of their own endzone and a short-field turn led to Team USA increasing their lead to 10-7.
The teams traded points and while the teams were busy fighting to 15, an old college rivalry was reigniting inside of the scrimmage. Ziperstein and Kittredge were lined up across from each other on multiple occasions and seemed to putting forth a little more fire than everyone else on the field. Ziperstein called a foul as Kittredge laid-out for a disc through him and a point or two later Ziperstein made a bid for a disc around Kittredge only to make contact with the disc and see Kittredge come down with the wobbling disc.
After the teams met at 11-8 Team USA got another break to go up 12-8 and the teams would trade points to 13-9. USA seemingly did not make many outstanding plays over the course of the game, instead opting to make easy plays and march the disc up and down the field. After 13-9 Team USA would get one last break to get to game point at 14-9 and Atlanta would score one more goal to close the gap to 14-10 before USA scored the 15th and final point of the game took home the 15-10 win.
Atlanta, as any Ultimate fan already knows, showed that it has plenty of players but Team USA demonstrated a patience and perseverance, playing through tough weather and impressive ATL runs, that will certainly show up in Kaohsiung and shows that the team is beginning to gel more and more.
Sorry for the lack of perspective from players and/or coaches. We spoke with Greg Connelly after the game and Team USA was in quite a rush to catch a plane. He promised to correspond via e-mail later in the week and we’ll make sure to have that for you later. For the time being though, our take will just have to do.