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Flyers in France

Brett Matzuka, Casey Degnan, Jonathan Nethercutt, and Jonathan Helton  take some time to relax and spectate the women’s semis Friday at Beach Worlds.

While the Raleigh Flyers were on the road and at home finishing up the regular season, five Flyers were competing across the Atlantic for a gold medal at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate. WCBU was hosted this year in Royan France bringing in teams from over thirty countries to compete in Mens, Womens, Mixed and Masters. Set against the backdrop of a small French resort town on the Atlantic north of Bordeaux, the week long tournament was not without it’s share of excitement as the US teams fought their way to gold.

 

“Our selection process was about finding players who were in this for more than just the medal” said Brett Matzuka.

 

Matzuka served as one of the US men’s managers, and helped construct a team that meshed together quite well on the beach in Royan. Given the conditions, they needed to. Early in the tournament the heat coming off the sand made sand socks a necessity and breaking in the pairs that were available led to pretty debilitating blisters early in the tournament. Jonathan Helton and Jonathan Nethercutt had to take some time off the team to heal up. Nethercutt got the worst of it with an infection to his blood stream. Thanks to the trainers on site and some antibiotics, Nethercutt’s fever broke on Wednesday and both he and Goose returned to field to help their teams to a gold.

 

Team USA huddles up after the men’s final against Great Britain.

It was a week of exciting plays in every division. Beach ultimate is an extremely popular form of the sport on the international level and, according to Tom Crawford (CEO at USA Ultimate), will likely be the variation that the International Olympic Committee will consider if ultimate is added to the Olympic Games. It is a different kind of game; five on five with no long half time and games to 13. The rounds are very short and the demands of playing on sand and in windy conditions require a balance of skill and athleticism that can sometimes be lacking from a traditional ultimate game on grass. Balance is everything; a skilled offense can work the disc down to the end zone in only a handful of passes. One of the reasons why the US men had so much success was that their defense was able to slow the game to a crawl.

 

The men’s final against Great Britain showcased a great look by the US men as they forced GB to move the disc laterally and constricted the downfield lanes. The conditions of beach games introduced a greater amount of parity; beach games are very much possession based games that require teams to score and convert with spot on efficiency. There’s so little room for error in the small spaces on the field. You can’t rely on the momentum of a two or three point run; you have to fight all the way to the end of the game (similar to the AUDL).

 

Sometimes you just gotta feed AJ the rock #WCBU2017 #gethorizontal #WednesdayWisdom #humanhighlightreel

Posted by Seven on the Line Productions, LLC on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nethercutt finds A.J. Nelson for the goal against France.

In the master’s division, Casey Degnan and Ben Dieter competed together with the men’s masters squad. Degnan, who was an alternate for the team, didn’t know whether he’d even be competing in France until he got the call Wednesday before the tournament. Not wasting any time, Degnan booked his flights, hopped on the plane, and was Royan by Saturday before the tournament began. Degnan and Dieter, who are teammates on North Carolina’s masters squad Boneyard, soon had their work cut out for them on the D line.

 

 

Boneyard all united in France. Left to right: Casey Degnan, Ben Dieter, Sandy Hartwiger

“Once we had all arrived  in France, our captains helped set the stage by gathering us together and having us each share something we were excited about for the tournament” said Dieter. “Our captains were awesome at creating a team environment despite our geographic separation.”

 

 

The masters squad dominated their competition with a combination of very smooth fast paced offense and tight man defense. Their most exciting match ups came in crossovers against Great Britain Tuesday evening and the championship game against France. Casey Degnan helped set the tone against great Britain with a callahan that got the US fired up and ready to pull away from the brits. The spirit of camaraderie felt by every team at the tournament was always extended to opponents. There was a feeling of genuine respect in every postgame huddle and a sense of unity that is sometimes absent from the court or the pitch in other sports.

 

USA vs GB Mens Masters stream. Check out fanseat.com for more (better quality) streams

Posted by The Show Game on Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The crossover matchup between the US and Great Britain Men’s Masters squads.

The proximity of the teams to the ocean meant that once a round was wrapped up they could go cool off in the the refreshing waters of the Atlantic. It was a fun and unique way for players to bond and further solidify the team’s performance. With the sun staying out late into the night, every day was capped off with a relaxing evening on the beach. 

 

 

You couldn’t have asked for a better week of beach ultimate. Royan was an unlikely spot to host such a tournament but it was the perfect location, close to the Atlantic and quiet without the big tourist bustle you get in the south of France. Throughout the entire trip there was something distinctly  unique about traveling around France and randomly running into players heading to and from the tournament.

 

 

The last day I was in Paris, I was hanging out in a small cafe with my sister in the 11th arrondissement when four USA players randomly walked in for brunch. Encounters like that happened throughout the trip. Ultimate players continuously cite the community of players as the Raison d’être for picking up the sport. What makes international tournaments so unique are how they reveal the real unifying aspects of the game. The world may seem like a large foreign place, but it is truly smaller than we think.

 

 

Stay tuned for part II of A Tale of Two Buzzer Beaters as we wrap up the regular season in Nashville this weekend (catch part I if you haven’t already!). If you’re interested in more tales from the beach in Royan including full recaps of the mixed and women’s division, head on over to Ultiworld.com.

 

Hugo Sowder, Flyers Media & Author @ Ultiworld.

July 5, 2017 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Flyers in France

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