In the Open Masters Final France took the early lead, 1-0, after gtting the D off a forced GB huck from Si Weeks. But, GB would score the next 3, and while France’s time-out focused them for getting the next point, the game remained GB’s until the end . With layout bids on almost every pass, GB’s athletic defense made up for their occasional offensive errors. GB was able to maintain their position as the dominant team of the division, bringing home the gold, with a 12-8 win. In the 3-4 match, Finland medaled with a 13-8 win over the Netherlands.
The Women’s final pitted the Swiss against the Russians in a match that started out tight. The teams traded points systematically until 7-7, with both teams finding open cutters in the endzone in a first half with very few turnovers. Dina Dumanskaya was impressive for Russia during this point-trading phase. She’s one of the tallest players in Russia, and Switzerland was unable to properly defend her as she brought down disc after disc in the endzone. Most impressively, she’s only been playing for three years, and has very refined throws for a player of her height.
after the teams switched at halftime, though, Russia started to turn on the gas. They suddenly converted four breaks in a row with the help of Sasha Pustovaya’s big handles and Natalia Mashianova’s great under cuts. Switzerland was able to trade to 12-9, but Russia used the Pustovaya-Olga Kochenova to put the game away 13-9.
There was no doubt throughout the entire tournament that Russia would be able to make it to, and even win, the final. Made up mostly of women from the Russian champion Cosmic Girls, with a few strong additions from other teams, they showed heart and guts throughout all their games at ECBU, with one small blip where they nearly lost to Latvia on universe point.
Switzerland, on the other hand, was a team that we had seen at various tournaments: EUCF last year in Frankfurt and Paganello earlier this year. At those tournaments, they frequently looked like two different teams: some of their games were riddled with turnovers and dropped, but in their better games, they shared the disc, every girl on the team playing solidly. The final was one of those games. Switzerland showed one of their best games in the final, but ultimately had no answer for the hucks of Sasha Pustovaya and the height of Dina Dumanskaya.
In the third place game, Germany dispatched GB 10-7 for the bronze.
The Open Final pitted undefeated Switzerland against a Great Britain team than had rolled through bracket play.
Both teams played efficiently early, trading to 2-2 without a single turnover. Finally, Switzerland’s defense was able to force a couple of turnovers, and Michael Martinec found Ste Thiébaud who laid out, toeing the front endzone line, to give Switzerland the game’s first break and the 3-2 lead.
After Great Britain held their O point, Switzerland’s defensive pressure started to force turnovers. A Mario Jacomet layout block led to Basil Furrer bombing a backhand huck to Harald Ohla for the break, 5-3. Helped by some unforced GB turnovers, Switzerland broke twice more to take half 7-3 on a Mario Baumann flick flick huck that Harald Ohla caught with a full extension layout.
Switzerland broke again to stretch their lead to 10-4, but their normally efficient offense started to falter. Great Britain took advantage of a Swiss redzone turnover, and Jaimie Cross sent a full-field huck to Stuart Greer for GB’s first break of the game, closing the gap to 10-6. Switzerland gave the disc away again the next point, with star handler Lorenz Stauffer putting up a floaty hammer that was D’d in a crowd of players. Switzerland almost got the disc back on a great bid from Jan Tenger in the endzone, but David Salisbury laid out for the second chance score, making it 10-7.
GB would convert their third straight break after a perfect inside-out forehand huck from Stauffer was dropped by his uncovered receiver in the endzone. GB’s James Baron quickly put up a huck to Alex Cragg who got way up over his defender, then dished to Harry Geller, bringing the score to 10-8, game to 11.
Switzerland didn’t take any chances on the ensuing O point, patiently working the disc down the field. Trapped on the sideline just outside the endzone, Stauffer looked off a crossfield hammer, then threw an off-hand righty backhand to Mario Baumann cutting upline, claiming the championship for the Swiss 11-8.
In the third place game, Germany claimed the bronze, beating Ukraine 13-9.
The last teams to enter the arena under the burning sun were Ireland and Sweden. The crowd roared when a few Irish fans ran around the field dressed in green,white and orange, setting the mood for a big matchup. The first pull by Sweden went up and as Ireland received the disc, the Swedes immediately forced a near-Callahan on the second throw. Not the best way to start a final for the receiving team, but a strong mental boost for the Irish. Sweden quickly converted another break to go up 2-0. Immediately, Ireland felt a little pressured as they urgently needed a big score to get themselves in the game. A great grab by Ireland’s Rory Kavanagh put them on the scoreboard making it 2-1. Sweden got off to a rocket start and didn’t stop rolling with a nice sky catch by Martin Filipovski going up 3-1. The Swedes kept on coming out strong in defense and a pressured throw by the Irish unfortunately went too far for an Irish hand to claim it. Laura Mc Grath got the disc back with a poachy layout defense and hit Donal Murray for the score, coming back 3-2. Sweden immediately replied with some very efficient and patient disc movement, taking an important 5-2 lead. Ireland showed some grit working the disc upfield, finding a small gap in the Swedish junk defense and punching in the 5-3 score.
However, momentum never changed sides as Sweden played like they had wings, pulling out the big guns for some monstrous upwind hucks, taking a convincing 8-3 lead. Ireland seemed to be struggling to get the disc moving and this may have been a direct result of their difficult start. Sweden was impressive, showing nothing but great skills, athleticism and lots of patience to punch in more scores for the win. Ireland kept on fighting but couldn’t keep up with the level of play the Swedes were demonstrating. A questionable toe-in catch by Sweden got called in by Ireland’s Liam Grant displaying great spirit, which both teams held high throughout the entire final. After two time-outs in one point, the Swedes went up 10-4 and the final looked like it was already over. A somewhat desperate Irish huck went up and out of bounds and this may have been the best example of what the final was all about on the Irish side: a talented team with good skills and experience, but not able to bring their A-game as they were overpowered by the impressive Swedes.
A combination of feeling mentally obliged to rack up important scores, as well as a lot of Swedish pressure caused the Irish to crumble in this final. They had shown an amazing performance all season, winning both Calafell Arena and the Monte Gordo Invitational but finally had to settle with coming in second after the mighty Swedes. Ireland had a rough start to the tournament losing their first game to Poland giving them a bit of a scare. However, they focused on getting in point after point and game after game game, and gradually found their offensive flow.
On the other side of the field was an opponent that made the final a pure display of power, showing great field awareness and incredibly athletic play from their women. Patiently working the disc down the line, they went up 11-4 and scored the winning point 12-4 as Stefan Johansson caught a trashed disc that been D’d by Ireland. Bringing home a gold medal, this team filled with superstars from (the now defunct) Skogs, Viksjöfors and Swedish Fish (amongst other teams) and previous national open and womens teams, they are a more than well deserved European champion. Congratulations to both teams for their great performances throughout ECBU, and they’ll bring home the medals to show for it.
In an exciting bronze game, Portugal stayed up on Germany all match before Germany finally pulled ahead in the final points of the match, winning 11-10.
Feature photo by Ruggero Maio: Russia celebrates their finals victory amid cheering fans