Game review: women’s masters semi-final is instant classic

The teams in the semi-finals of the women’s masters division had already played each other given the round robin format of the first part of the draw. In one semi-final, Denmark avenged their loss to neighbours Sweden in the early part of the tournament, defeating them 12-10. The start of the other semi-final, between Great Britain and Spain, was delayed due to an injury in another game.

Great Britain came out on offence and were faced immediately with a Spanish zone. They moved it around near their own endzone, trying to find a way through the cup but made a mistake early on, throwing it into the sand when trying to go through the Spanish defence. Spain picked it up and scored quickly, drawing first blood with an immediate break.

GB played with better flow in the second point and eventually found a gap in the Spanish defence near the endzone, Rachel Kelly throwing it across the field to Emilia Cruz who laid out to secure the catch. After levelling the scores, GB took the upper hand by breaking Spain on their own first offence. Becci Haigh caught an errant Spanish pass and patient offence led to Cassie Seaborn finding Phil Sturt on the front cone for a 1-2 GB lead.

Photo by Verena Brucklacher

The momentum swings continued. Spain held on the next point, and then broke GB for a second time. A throwaway from the Brits led to a short field for Spain, which they executed by tossing a disc up and backing their receiver. The Spanish were content to let long discs fly with minimal separation, trusting that if they put the disc on the wrong side of the defender that their teammates would catch it even under pressure.

Britain were finding it tough to gain separation from Spanish defenders now. A shot to the endzone was slightly overcooked and Cruz was unable to reel it in despite a great bid. Spain couldn’t capitalise this time, and GB were able to punch it in for a pressure relieving score despite another great bid, this time from Lucia Aguera Bravo on defence. The teams were again tied, this time at 3-3.

The teams traded scores – Spain hucked for another quick goal, while GB started to move the disc better and a cut by Katrina Ford caused a double team in the endzone leaving Susanna Bidgood wide open. GB tried a zone to slow the Spanish flow but it was wildly unsuccessful as the Spanish scored just as quickly as before – their offensive points were lasting less than two minutes as they were so confident and efficient with their long game.

Photo by Verena Brucklacher

GB turned it over again at 5-4 to Spain, and the Spanish went right back to the well with a huck. Cruz made a fabulous diving block in the endzone but was incredibly unfortunate to see the disc pop up for a dolly catch for Angela Diaz del Rio Lago for a 6-4 lead. She lay on the ground, face down in disbelief. Spain celebrated their fortune and their slight, but vital, lead. GB held the next point, and Spain held quickly to go into the half 7-5 up, this point facilitated this time by generating big open side gainers.

Spain held out of half, another quick point where GB struggled to get close to their marks. The Spanish then extended their advantage further – a Meg Hurst huck went too far and Diane Davis responded by sending a huck to the endzone where Lara Medin Lopez won a jumpball for a 9-5 lead.

At this point GB looked down and out. They were trying everything but couldn’t get pressure on the Spanish offence, and were struggling to move the disc against intense pressure. They called a timeout to discuss how to get back into the contest.

They held out of the timeout with a nice crosspitch throw to the back corner by Ford. They still couldn’t get pressure, though, and Spain held easily again for a 10-6 lead. GB held more easily this time, Alex Meixner laying out for the score.

The noise from the adjacent pitch indicated that the game was over at this point – Denmark celebrating wildly as they secured their place in the final. The games elsewhere at EBUC were also finishing, leaving this as the only one still going. That had the effect of meaning all the Spanish and British support gravitated towards this field. Compatriots from the masters and grandmasters divisions surrounded the action, contributing sideline and creating noise and a great atmosphere.

Britain reacted to this new dynamic. There were a few turns in the point against zones, but a huck from Alize Clough to Hurst scored a break. They kept the same intensity and pressure on the next point – where they had been struggling to stop the Spanish flow before, they were now close on blocks and forcing throws to go slightly off target by being right on the shoulder of the upfield players. After a few scrappy turns, GB worked it up patiently and after a miscommunicated switch Haigh scored a totally uncontested goal on the front cone. They’d pulled it back to 10-9 and the British sideline was hyped.

Photo by Verena Brucklacher

The Spanish put out a strong line and showed excellent mental fortitude to hold. Gemma Perez Gomez connected with Lopez for a second time in the game, extending the lead back out to two points. Britain looked more confident now and Meixner reeled in a throw at the back of the endzone for a quick hold. Spain were receiving the pull, 11-10 up in a game to 12.

Britain put out a strong line, but Spain worked it up to their endzone quickly after a turn was called back for a foul. They swung to the break side but missed a wide open upfield throw handing the disc back to GB. Clough wound up for a big huck over the Spanish defence, Haigh read it perfectly and then faked out her mark for a break to Hurst. A break at a crucial time, and it was 11-11 with a universe point.

A full article could be written about the universe point. It lasted nearly 10 minutes, with both teams working it close to the endzone and having turnovers forced by great red zone defence. Cruz got a full hand on another layout block but her mark caught it simultaneously. A loopy flick to the offence turned over, giving GB the disc back on their own endzone line. Spain, though, weren’t going to allow this one to slip through their fingers. They got a block on the first pass and put it in quickly for the 12-11 win, barely surviving the inspired British comeback.

This was an absolute classic, with two teams giving everything for a spot in the final. The Spanish took it, though, and will go into the final against Denmark as favourites. Britain will face a tough Swedish side with bronze medals on offer, and both teams will need to pick themselves up to try and secure something to go home with. Let’s hope both those games are on the level of this one.

May 9th, 2019|