WUCC 2022: Win gold with flying colors (mixed division)

A battle between future regional rivals on the world stage.

Ari Lozano and Mixtape flew over the competition all week at WUCC. Photo: Sam Hotaling — UltiPhotos.com

MASON, OH – A successful team requires trust. Players need to trust their systems, their teammates and their coach. The coach must trust his players to execute plays. Each member of the team must adhere to the culture of the team itself. Trust was one of Seattle Mixtape (USA)mantras throughout the week at the Ultimate Club World Championships in Cincinnati, and it paid off on Saturday with a 15-6 thrashing of Vancouver Red Flag (CAN) in the mixed final to earn them a gold medal.

From the get-go, Mixtape had its eyes on the prize. They came to the WUCC in 2018 as top-ranked favorites with title aspirations, but lost in the quarterfinals to Boston Slow White; they finished fifth overall, but were the only American team not to make the medal rounds. Since then, the team has worked hard to prove they are strong enough to take the world stage. That’s exactly what they did this year.

In a full week of dominance, the people of Seattle came out firing in the mixed final against their upstart neighbors Red Flag. Mixtape certainly had the edge in big game experience in this one, having appeared in more national finals (four) than Vancouver has appeared in tournaments (two). Mixtape has been a fixture on the national scene since 2014, competing in elite tournaments across the country since their inception. They have won a USAU National Championship and are the only mixed division team to have won the three-set U.S. Triple Crown. They established a strong albeit polarizing team culture and consistently proved to be one of the strongest programs in the division.

“We are a team that will have more fun than anyone else when we are well and when we are together and when we are able to play our style of Frisbee, and I think that is contagious and brings people on the program every year,” said Evan Klein, a longtime Mixtaper who returned to the team this season after a year’s absence to compete at the WUCC. “We still have nine, ten players who have been here for the beginning of the program so you have continuity through it and then you bring in players every year and they just embrace that culture and you keep it there long enough and it just becomes a thing I think everyone knows that When joining the team, we are expected to have a good time.

In this tournament, the Seattle team was having both a good time and a force to be reckoned with. They easily won all of their pool matches as well as their first bracket game matches. They were tested in their semi-final match against Melbourne Lunch Box (AUS), where they trailed by two points on several occasions. However, they took what they learned from that game, especially about using all seven players on the court, as well as valuing the disc as much as possible, and used it to bring them success in final.

Mixtape considered their main challenger for this tournament to be COVID. Having seen several Seattle teams deal with outbreaks during the recently completed WMUCC which prevented teammates from participating late in the tournament, the team was very aware of the risk throughout the tournament, ensuring that they would not lose any player because of the virus. or containment protocols.

“We just came out and made a game plan for every game. One at a time and executed that game plan. And I’m just super grateful for everyone’s buy-in to this and buy-in to the team’s success,” said Bert Cherry. “It’s really hard when COVID is still a thing to be so insular and like, in a bubble when all these amazing things are happening and so many people you could meet and talk to, and it’s 90 degrees and super wet, go put on a mask if you want to do that, don’t enter the beer tent. All these rules, to make sure we stay safe and don’t have the distractions of like, ‘is that my voice after I scream? Or is it a disease? So a weird year to compete, but I’m glad we committed to it.”

Meanwhile, Red Flag continues to build its culture and history. Comprised of players who have played with Traffic and Furious George and Canadian youth national teams, this crew has only been together for a few years and, thanks to COVID, had only really participated in Ultimate Canadian Invite before this week. Despite their lack of team experience, they did very well in this tournament. Like Mixtape, they passed their pool play test with flying colors. The Vancouverites were tested in the bracket game – winning by two in the round of 16 on Grenoble monkeys (FRA) and on double game ball in the quarter-finals against Madison NOISE (USA) – but they still proved strong enough to emerge victorious over their opponents.

The final itself started with a bang. A pair of clean takes from each O-line made it look like we could be in for a close battle, but on their next opportunity, Mixtape broke and kept their foot on the gas all game. Playing the same aggressive style that earned them a trip to the Finals, Red Flag made several mistakes launching into double coverage or trying to press ambitious passes into tight spaces that gave Mixtape several opportunities to break through early. Seattle converted one, then another, and another, coming up 4-1, then 6-2. Their star players, including Khalif El-Salaam, Kelly Johnson,1 Bert Cherry and Jen Cogburn stood out from the jump, playing key roles in building Seattle’s first lead. Red Flag fought to stay in the game but seemed reeling from the intense defensive pressure from Mixtape.

The offensive strategy that made Vancouver successful in the past was beginning to fail them. They tried to get the disc to Gagan Chatha, who all week had been leaning on the hands of Mika Kurahashi or Sam Creed for quick and easy scores. However, after mingling Team Canada in the spring and watching some of Red Flag’s games earlier in the week, Mixtape knew that was their strategy. Strategic matchups helped dampen Vancouver’s deep play, with Cogburn frequently providing extra cover in deep space. It was clear Chatha wanted to play and Mixtape communicated when he had the drive so the defense could enact his game plan. Red Flag still attempted to challenge its defenders from deep and the pitchers continued to pitch the hucks, to no avail.

“It was a team defense. We knew they wanted to go after their men and one of their players deep, we knew that was their game plan,” Mixtape defensive leader Jen Cogburn said in the game. “So we relied on our dog handlers, just working on their markings – hard, hard markings – stopping the subs and then blowing them up into space and having two people there -down every time.”

Trailing 8-4 at the end of halftime, the Canadians decided to mix things up. They tried to work more patiently on the field and mirror Mixtape’s success by using all seven players on the line. They attempted to throw more to their corresponding players and attack with more undercuts, but still found themselves spinning the disc on inadvisable shots.

“Old habits die hard,” said Red Flag coach Alex Lam. “They played the kind of defense that we like to play in other teams and how we usually frustrate other teams. We ended up getting frustrated ourselves, so that was a tough lesson to learn in a tough game.

By the time Red Flag learned to steadily hone the disc to score, it was miles too late. The Americans pulled off a five-point breakout streak late in the half and showed no mercy to their regional opponents. This comfortable lead allowed new players to get on Mixtape, who hadn’t had much playing time in some of their other tournament games.

“There are a lot of players in the team who sacrificed themselves in a week. It’s tough when you have a one-game format for everyone to participate,” Klein said. “We had the opportunity to play them in the final in the biggest moment – all these players stepped up, like Jordan Smith, Gabe Ryan, [Alexa Romersa], and Denise Blohowiak, and it’s so much the fruit of our program; when your number is called, you are ready to go, you have energy because you put it on the sidelines.

As for the keys to Mixtape’s success, they declined to divulge their specific strategies, saying they wanted Red Flag to learn to recognize their mistakes and work through them. Seattle’s offense did not give up a single break in the final, an impressive feat at this level on this stage. Of course, no Mixtape game would succeed without their classic relentless positivity and trust in each other and their systems.

“Fundamentals all the way,” coach Bryson Fox said.2 “We believe in this team, our system is great, we think we can hang on to anyone and at the end of the day we just looked at the fundamentals.”

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