Stingrays make a splash to claim Ultimate Gold

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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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