The ECBU2013 women’s division has begun, with plenty of warm sun, warm sand, and warm greetings between these players from 16 countries, who know each other well. It has also begun with plenty of wind, keeping the games more interesting, and the players and spectators in more clothes than anyone would have preferred. But, wind is the spice of beach ultimate, separating the contenders from the newbies; and the top women’s teams here shook off this gusty wind like it was a light summer breeze.
Pool Play Thursday
With one notable exception, the 1-4 matches were all heavily skewed to the top seeds in the women’s division, with Finland beating Spain, 13-2, Germany beating Belgium, 13-1, and Great Britain beating the multi-national pick-up team, UEI, at 13-1. Things were not quite so predictable in the former Soviet block of the B Pool, as Latvia gave Russia a shakedown worthy of the KGB, before Russia eked out a 10-9 win. Russian captain, Anna Pustovaya, said they came out feeling nervous, showing uncharacteristic handler errors. In one early point alone, they had 5 turns, followed by 5 Ds, but never managed to convert any of those Ds into a score. As the game stayed close, Russia took a time out and changed strategy to focus on their cutters, rather than their handlers. Latvia’s enthusiasm – both on the field and off – made this strategy hard for Russia; but after frustrating turns on both sides, Russia pulled it together and took the universe point.
The 2-3 games were also lopsided, except for a close France – Denmark matchup, where France held their seed with a 7-6 win. Austria upset the Czech Republic, 13-7, and Switzerland burried Poland, 13-3. In front of the cameras on the arena field, Italy demonstrated its well-known beach prowess, dismantling Ukraine’s office with a smotheringly tight person D, smart, quick, sand cuts, and confident throws which taunted the wind to blow harder. Ukraine had no dump options and not much upfield, unable to shake each Italian ragazza planted firmly in her opponent’s pockets. If it wasn’t for the remarkable cutting speed of #2 , Oksana Koziuk, and the Ukrainian height advantage, the point differential would have been much worse than 12-5.
In the second round, Latvia again demonstrated they may be the Cinderella story of the tournament, with an easy win over the higher-seeded Czech Republic. Bringing only 10 players, because they thought that would be the ideal number for the beach, Latvia sports more experience than their tight, young, roster might suggest. Captain Ieva Grabe started playing at age 12, their senior team member is just 31, and a core of the team played in the recent European Youth Championships. With represention from the top 3 club teams in Latvia, the players know each other very well and credit their success to their exceptional team chemistry and enthusiasm. In the other 2-4 games, Switzerland bested its hosts, Spain, 13-5, Italy gave Belgium little hope, coasting to a 13-3 win; and France took care of UEI, 13-1.