This isn't the first time Team USA (Sockeye) and Team Japan (Buzz Bullets) have met on the playing field. In fact, these two teams have become quite good international friends, and the competition between them is always top notch.
They've already met once here at WUGC 2008 back on Day 3 down at the beautiful Jericho Park, and the crowd was plentiful in anticipation of a great game. Team USA came out the victors with a final score of 17-11, but something told us we'd see these two powerhouse teams meet again. And such was the case in one of the semi finals on Day 6.
The Buzz Bullets started the game off on defense pulling into a slight upwind. Sockeye moved the disc with precision, but perhaps it was early game jitters coming into play when Ron Kubalanza (#25) dropped an easy 5 yard pass thrown by Alexander Nord (#5). Buzz quickly shifted into attack mode and progressed the disc to the endzone line, but Alex Nord comes up big with a sweet layout D amid traffic in the endzone. He's shaken up on the play and comes off for a rest. Team USA regroups, including Ron Kubalanza who ends up catching the score. A missed opportunity by Team Japan. Score: USA 1 - 0 Japan
Japan now on offense, they move the disc to and fro before MIZUHO TANAKA (#88) ends up in the mud! Due to some drainage issues of some sort, there was very boggy and muddy 5' circular patch right on the sideline. Mizuho was being chased by Alex Nord and ended up sliding right into the muck. This caused a brief stoppage of play so Mizuho could clean himself up. Perhaps he didn't clean himself up too well, because the very next pass ends up being thrown into traffic and Seth Wiggins (#24) gets the speedy semi-layout D. Japan's YASUNORI FUJII (#2) comes of injured in the play. Team USA, looking for the first break point of the game, get just that when Seth Wiggins tosses a high stall count 10 yard pass to Michael Jaeger (#56). Score: USA 2 - 0 Japan
The Bullets call a timeout to regroup, and then come out in their patented speedy and quick offense. Buzz Bullets : Death by a 1000 paper cuts. The work the disc with deadly accuracy and send the disc to MASAHIRO MATSUNO (#10) in the endzone. Seth Wiggins is there though with a big layout catch D, but Masahiro also caught the disc and the rules state ties go to the offense. Result, Japan's first score. Score: USA 2 - 1 Japan
Sockeye again works the disc on the very next point and Ron Kubalanza ends up with the assist when he throws the score to Moses Rifkin (#10) who toes it in the endzone. Score: USA 3 - 1 Japan
Looking to mix things up, Team USA comes down on defense in a 3-3-1 zone formation. But even the best team in America can't stop the speed that is Buzz Bullets. Team Japan makes Sockeye's zone look like swiss cheese, but USA gets a break when the dump pass by KEI SASAKAWA (#29) to YASUNORI FUJII (#2) goes a bit too deep. USA works the disc towards the scoring endzone, only to have a high stall count by defender Yasunori force a hammer to Alex Nord out the back of the endzone. Japan back on offense, and USA back in the zone. This time, however, Japan is mistake free. Goal! Score: USA 3 - 2 Japan
On the very next point, Team Japan decides to return the favor and puts on a loose 3-3-1 zone. So loose that USA's David Bestock (#21), Benjamin Wiggins (#6) and Timothy Gehret (#1) look surprised at the amount of room they have to work the disc. They continue to penetrate the cup from behind over and over until David Bestock puts up a throw to Ray Illian (#99) that is too high and sails out-of-bounds. The Japanese players on the sideline yell and cheer at the great work by their on-field teammates. Team USA immediately applies pressure and forces Japan's TAKATOSHI SAITO (#22) to throw a high stall count pass into the head of MASATO OKADA (#14). It ricochets to the ground, and Japan quickly switches to defensive mode and back in the 3-3-1 zone. A pass by Team USA's Timothy Gehret (#1) to Sam Chatterton-Kirchmeie (#14) is snaffled by Japan's TETSUYA TATEHORA (#9) layout. The crowd goes nuts and all the Bullet fans cheer. Japan works the disc down when MASATO OKADA (#14) is forced to fire off a blistering high-stall-count, no-look hammer to TAKATOSHI SAITO (#22) for the score. Japan gets the break point back and we're now back on serve. Score: USA 3 - 3 Japan
Point trading continued for a bit until the score was 5-4, Team USA still in the lead. Japan on offense, and KEI SASAKAWA fires off a deep huck to a streaking SATORU SAMESIMA (#17). Alas, the pass is too deep and allows USA back on the offensive attack. Sockeye works the disc to about half-field when Seth Crockford (#8) lets loose a hammer to ... no one. Turnover USA. Japan punishes this mistake with a quick and easy score. Score: USA 5 - 5 Japan
Japan mixes up their defense on the next point coming down in a clammy zone. USA works the disc beautifully. Chase Sparling-Beckley (#7) displays such great fakes that even his defender ends up turning around to see where the (unthrown) disc has gone. Ron Kubalanza (#25) fires a blistering flick down the sideline to a diving Michael Caldwell (#20) who makes the catch look easy. Trust me, it was not easy. One pass later and a score for Team USA. Score: USA 6 - 5 Japan
Japan calls a timeout so that they can figure out how to beat their arch nemesis. MIZUHO TANAKA (#88) yells at his teammates in Japanese, encouraging them to rise to the occasion. This man is amped UP! The point begins and soon after it starts Japan's MASAHIRO MATSUNO (#10) puts too much on the pass to YOHEI KICHIKAWA. Lucky for them though, Team USA gives the disc right back with a throw O/B. Japan scores and keeps the game tied. Score: USA 6 - 6 Japan
On the sideline, Team Japan's supporters cheer and sing. The Buzz Bullets come down in a zone to man transition defense. USA's Moses Rifkin gives Japan the chance for a break lead when he sends a side dump pass into the ground. But thanks to the HUGE layout D by Timothy Gehret (#1) to stop the score, USA gets the disc and marches it straight downfield. Right in the redzone, they call a quick timeout to ensure they score the goal and take the game to halftime. And that's just what they do.
Halftime Score: USA 7 - 6 Japan
Fresh from the halftime break, Japan's offense works the disc before scoring with a big huck strike score (despite the diving defensive bid by USA's Sam Harkness (#9)). Score: USA 7 - 7 Japan
USA gets a nice head start on the next point when Japan pulls the disc out-of-bounds close to their own endzone. Ben Wiggins starts the point and fortunately gets the disc across field despite a high stall count to 9. Two passes later and USA scores. Score: USA 8 - 7 Japan
You might be wondering how the Buzz Bullets can compete with the likes of Sockeye and the other much taller North American teams. Well, they compensate their shorter average height with rigorous training and expert play, as displayed on the very next point. Team Japan sends a big huck deep to YOHEI ABE (#13) who despite being much shorter than his defender Matt Rehder (#31) expertly maneuvers himself and boxes out his defender for the score. Score: USA 8 - 8 Japan
Fast forward to a score of 9-8 and Team USA gets a chance at a break point when Japan's huck to YOHEI ABE in just off his finger tips and results in a turnover. But they turn it back over to Japan, who does the same again in kind. The Wiggins brothers work the disc back and forth, and at one point Seth is forced to layout BIG to save the disc thrown by his brother Ben. Seth gets up and looks down field to open empty space. "NO ONE IS CUTTING BREAK SIDE!", he yells. Finally, his teammates comply and USA earns the golden break point. Score: USA 10 - 8 Japan
The Bullets and their supporters must realize the consequences of the break point, because all of them are quiet. No more yelling and no more cheering. The Japanese songs have been silenced. This might be a cause for loss of focus, because Team Japan turns the disc over right near their own endzone. USA works it expertly and scores another back-to-back break point. Score: USA 11 - 8 Japan
Japan calls a timeout to stop the bleeding, and score the next point with ease. With the score sitting at 11 - 9, the Japanese supporters are back on their feet and back to cheering and singing. New life for the Bullets it seems. But the next point would see both teams with multiple turnovers and losing their heads, and would end with a game changing call.
USA started the clown show when Chase Sparling-Beckley's (#7) hammer hits the upwardly stretched hand of Ron Kubalanza (#25) who can't quite hold onto it. Perhaps he might play a game or two of GUTS in the future. Japan's HIDETOSHI MIYABE picks up the disc and fires off a deep endzone huck to MASAHIRO SASANABE (#8). Streaking hard from behind, Chase Sparling-Beckley catches up and both players layout to the pass that is too deep for both. Chase ends up coming off injured with the wind knocked out of him. USA gives the disc right back when Ron Kubalanza drops a relatively easy pass by Sam Chatterton-Kirchmeie. But Timothy Gehret saves the day with a big leaping D over Japan's HIDETOSHI MIYABE (#19) right on the sideline. USA, however, would again give the disc back to Japan when Ben Wiggins' throw to Moses Rifkin results in a turnover despite Moses getting one hand on the disc. Japan works the disc to midfield and wisely calls a timeout in hopes of ending the clown parade. With the game back in action, Japan works the disc and throws a high blady flick for the score! But what's this? In a BIG game changing moment, Ben Wiggins calls travel on the throw. The disc comes back and Japan eventually turns it over. USA works the disc for the score. Instead of a one point game, Team USA maintains their three point lead. Score: USA 13 - 9 Japan
With the time cap quickly approaching, the Bullets would manage to score the next two points. Alas, it was too little too late and USA would put the nail in the coffin on the last point of the game.
Final Score: USA 14 - 10 Japan
Blog courtesy of UltiTalk.Com : The Place To Talk Ultimate.