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Stingrays make a splash to claim Ultimate Gold

by | July 28, 2010
Stingrays make a splash to claim Ultimate Gold
By Ashley Symons

The Aussie Stingrays, Australia's Under 23 Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team, are flying high after defeating Japan 16-15 in the final of the inaugural Under 23 Ultimate Frisbee Championships in Florence, Italy, early Monday morning AEST. It is Australia's first Ultimate Frisbee World Title in the short history of the sport.

Australia's campaign got off to a perfect start following two 17-0 wins over Germany and Ireland in the round robin stage, with 22 year-old Team Captain Michelle Phillips, from Melbourne, leading the way in the early games with Sydneysiders Silin Garfield and Liesl Cornell, as well as Brisbane's Blair Sheard playing key supporting roles.

The Stingrays then lost two close matches in a row, going down 17-15 to Japan and 13-8 to Canada in a scoreline that didn't represent the closeness of the game on the field. Again Phillips was in the thick of things scoring two and setting up four goals in the Japan game alone, supported by her younger sister Cat (two assists, three goals), fellow Victorian Stephanie Malcher (five goals) and NSW representative Nikki Cotton (five assists).

From then on, the Stingrays didn't lose another half of play for the rest of the tournament. Cat Phillips, 18, who will be captaining the Aussie Terra, Australia's Under 19 Womens team, in Germany for the World Junior Championships in August this year, showed that she will be a force to be reckoned with in the future, scoring another three goals and setting up Sydney player Carol Seeto for a goal of her own in Australia's 17-11 win over Colombia. Prior to that match, Australia also defeated rivals Great Britain 14-10 and in their last pool match, ran all over Finland to win 17-3 and secure a spot in the semi-finals.

They came up against Canada once again, who had beaten them earlier in the tournament, however there was no repeat of that result, with Australia running into the final after a 14-11 win. In the other semi, Japan convincingly beat Great Britain 17-7 to book their spot in the Gold Medal match.

There was a lot of hype going into the final, as many players on both teams had met two years earlier in the World Junior Ultimate Championships Women's final in Vancouver, Canada, where on that occasion Japan defeated Australia to claim Gold. However, history was exactly that, as at 10.30pm AEST last night, the final got underway. Australia got off to a bad start, with Japan opening up a quick 2-0 buffer before Michelle Phillips hit Seeto to get the Aussie's on the board. Japan scored another two in a row to be 4-1 up inside 15 minutes. Australia were struggling to deal with the pace and skill of the Japanese players, particularly Yuka Kobori (six assists), Nozomi Onohata (four goals) and Yuko Matsumura (one assist, three goals). However, after trading points with the Japanese, Australia fought back from 8-5 down to level the scores at 8 apiece. The Phillips sisters had stepped up the intensity, with one or the other either throwing the scoring pass, catching the goal or both on seven of their first eight points. At the restart, Australia ran down on defence and got a quick block to force a chance to take half time. The Aussies called a timeout to set up a play, however shortly after play resumed, they were denied by some brilliant Japanese defence. Just under ten minutes later, Japan scored to take half time with a slender one point lead (9-8).

After the half time break however, Australia came out firing, scoring three points in less time than it did to complete the last point before half time, to take a commanding 11-9 lead. The next point was the longest of the match, taking just under eleven and a half minutes to complete before Japan scored through Saki Yugawa. The teams then traded points again, before Japan scored back to back points through Yuko Suzuki and Onohata to draw level at 13-13.

Both teams were scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to pull out everything they could to get ahead. The next four points, two each to Australia and Japan, were scored in quick succession as both teams struggled to keep up with each other. At 15-15, Cat Phillips was showing maturity beyond her 18 years, having completed three assists and scored five goals to that point. Her sister wasn't far behind, with Michelle also throwing three assists and scoring another three goals for the match.

With two and a half minutes to go before time cap, this was surely going to be the final point of the match, and Australia needed to dig deep, and dig deep they did. The ensuing point lasted for eight and a half minutes, and all the players on the field, despite the encouragement of the crowd and their teammates, were spent. However, after eight and a half minutes of some of the most desperate and intense action seen in the tournament, the deadlock was finally broken after Cat Phillips through a high floaty throw into the middle of the end-zone where her sister Michelle, after controversially falling to the ground seconds earlier after what looked like a trip from a Japanese player, flew above the pack to take a spectacular catch and seal the result for the Australians. The crowd went into hysterics as the rest of the Stingrays ran to their triumphant captain to celebrate a historic day in Australian Ultimate Frisbee. Cat Phillips was a deserved Most Valuable Player in the final, finishing with four assists and a game-high five goals.

The Australian Stingrays

Anna Rogacki (Coach, VIC)

Megan Gamble (Asst. Coach, NSW)

Julia Birchall (NSW)
Tara Carraro (NSW)
Lauren Castillo (VIC)
Liesl Cornell (NSW)
Nikki Cotton (NSW)
Lara Dyus (SA)
Amanda Eastwood (VIC)
Bree Edgar (QLD)
Grace Gard (VIC)
Silin Garfield (NSW)
Stephanie Malcher (VIC)
Fiona McDonald (NSW)
Terri Morgan (QLD)
Cat Phillips (VIC)
Michelle Phillips (VIC)
Lucy Ross (VIC)
Simone Ryan (QLD)
Carol Seeto (NSW)
Blair Sheard (QLD)
Ellie Sparke (NSW)
Loren Viswalingam (NSW)
Rebecca Wallbridge (VIC)

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