Blog / Film Study year in review

The last few weeks have brought me a great deal of joy and made me super thankful for an incredible year in ultimate in 2017.  

Here are 10 memories that came to mind as I was reflecting on the last year:

(1) Starting the Film Study Group

Chambers

Last fall I stared a Facebook group to study ultimate games. The idea for the group came from wanting to look carefully at the 2016 USAU Nationals semis game between Riot and Fury. After looking at that game we moved on to the Ozone vs All-Stars game from 2016 and then on to 5 or 6 more games. As I write this post we are just starting to look at the Riot vs 6ixers game from 2017 USAU Nationals.

I can’t say thank you enough times to everyone involved, and especially to Anna Nazarov and Gwen Ambler who have been incredibly helpful with ideas and comments. We’ve got around 1,500 members now. Can’t wait to see what games we get to study in 2018!

Here’s a link to the group for anyone who would like to join:

The Women’s Ultimate Film Study Group on Facebook

(2) Getting to know and learn more about players from Australia

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I’ve been really happy to learn more and more about Australian ultimate since writing about Michelle Phillips last year:

Australia’s Michelle Philips and Moe Sameshima – I’m speechless

One of the biggest thrills for me this year was **finally** getting to meet Michelle in person at Nationals!

In the film study group, we spent about 6 weeks studying the Australian bronze medal game and got to see some amazing players like Adelaide Dennis, Holly Reeve, and Kerilee Coote.

The Australia women’s bronze medal game is amazing!

The Australian ultimate community also did a great job promoting two exhibition games between their World Games team and Japan’s. Those games were super fun to study and I got to see three former All-Stars – Kim Spragg and Rebecca Brereton playing for Australia and Shiori Ogawa playing for Japan!! I also really enjoyed learning about Alex Prentice and watching Cat Phillips absolutely shine. The throw for the goal in the clip below was one of the best plays I saw all year:

I wrote about Cat Phillip’s here:

I’m a huge fan of Cat Phillips

(3) The World Games

Hui vs Phillips

It wasn’t just the Australian and Japan World Games teams that were fun to watch. Team Canada really impressed me in their exhibition game against Team USA at Potlatch. Laura Mason played out of her mind, and Catherine Hui, well . . .

Is Team Canada’s Catherine Hui the best ultimate player in the world?

And Manuela Cardenas at the end of the Colombia vs Canada game – just wow! Another one of the best plays of the year –

(4) Getting to learn about more international players

There’s so much film around these days that it seems as though you can watch just about any game you want (other than the European women’s final 😦 ). All of that film allowed me to learn about a ton of great international players this year. I loved watching Mantis in the Austrian finals:

Learning from Mantis’s Silke Delafortrie, Julia LIschka, and Trixi Peterstorfer

Learning from Lisa Maria Hanghofer and Paula Haubenwaller

Silke Delafortrie is a great player

There was also an incredible highlight film of the European women’s final which could double as an Essi Inkinen Callahan video! Inkinen was part of the Eurostars tour this summer, but unfortunately I didn’t catch many of their games.

Finally, I loved seeing Revolution play at the US Open. Although this clip is a Molly Brown score, it also highlights the team speed and incredible coordination of the Revolution players – what a team!

(5) Anna and Surge

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The two most emotionally difficult blog posts for me to write this year were about Anna Nazarov and Surge winning gold with team USA at the World Games. It is hard to think of two players who I could cheer for harder than these two. Anna’s journey from not making the final cut for the World Games team 4 years ago to winning gold this year is such a terrific and happy story. Surge’s climb back to the top of the sport after knee surgery is so inspiring. They are both incredible role models.

Why Anna Nazarov matters to me

SURGE!!

My respect for Surge is infinite

(6) Awards

This was the 3rd year for the awards I’ve been giving out in the women’s division. This year I started a 3rd category for coaching. This years True Veteran award winner was Opi Payne, the Michelle Ng Inspiration award went to Anraya Palmer, and the Robin Davis coaching award went to Robyn Wiseman. I’m continuously amazed by how much time and effort the players in the ultimate community dedicate to growing the sport and also by the amazing people the sports attracts. Can’t wait to announce the next set of awards in February!

Here’s a clip of Anraya Palmer playing against the All-Stars that just blew me away:

Here’s the full blog post about the awards.

Announcing the 2017 True Veteran, Michelle Ng Inspiration, and Robin Davis coaching awards


(7) Molly Brown’s season

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I was lucky to be able to watch lots of Molly Brown games this year. They are an easy team to like, and my office is starting to have quite of lot of Molly Brown mementos!

It broke my heart to have Megan Cousins and Hannah Leathers on the sideline with injuries this year. I’m cheering for their return to the field as hard as I was cheering for Surge an Anna’s World Games journeys.

I wrote three blog posts about Molly Brown players this year – can’t wait to learn more about them and from them next year:

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Lisa Pitcaithley is a total badass

Paige Applegate’s game is for real

My biggest wow of the US Open was Molly Brow’s Claire McKeever


(8) The incredible young players in club ultimate right now

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If ever there was a time to say “where to start . . .” this is it. I struggle to remember a time where there were this many young and insanely talented players in club ultimate. U24 Worlds in Perth is going to be completely bananas.

I’m super excited to see Julia Schmalz and Jaclyn Verzuh on the field together for team USA.

I’m also excited to see Carolyn Normile get more publicity with the U24 team. She was a fantastic player (and maybe the 2nd youngest) with the All-Stars back in 2015. Oh can she play!

Another incredible Team USA U24 player I learned about this year was Maddie Gilbert of Riot – holy cow is she good:

In addition to the Cardenas sisters for Colombia, and Prentice, Reeve and Spragg mentioned above, I was so excited to learn about Canada’s Anouchka Beaudry this year. She had an unbelievable game to help the 6ixers win their first Canadian championship – already at 19 she’s one of the best throwers I’ve ever seen. Here’s a peek at a scoring play we were were looking at in the film study group today:


(9) Seeing the sport’s super stars shine on the field

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Learning more about Carolyn Finney’s game from the world games and from watching Fury this season was a treat. There aren’t many players that make me feel genuinely bad for their defenders. I want to send Finney’s defenders sympathy cards.

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Riot’s Julia Snyder is another super star player that I loved watching this year. Her field sense and positioning are both off the charts, and her movement away from the disc to create space for her teammates might be as good as it gets. I’m so excited to see more of her next year.

I really like the way Julia Snyder plays

Cree

The blog post I’ve used the most with own kids was about Cree Howard. She came back from an injury this year and caught the winning goal in the national championship game. I wanted to share the story of her season this year with my boys to help them understand the highs and lows of sports:

Cree Howard and the lessons that sports teach us

Kaylopr

Finally, for this section at least, I wanted to give a shout out to Beth Kaylor who had an amazing season with Fury. Her play with the All-Stars left me completely amazed. Her game in college and with the All-Stars was so wide open and free and I think the transition to playing in Fury’s system was probably not as easy as she made it look. It is so satisfying to see incredible players climb to even higher heights – what an amazing season for Kaylor!

(10) Rage Blogging

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Lastly, my two most popular posts of the year weren’t about film study or great play, but rather they were reactions to obstacles that players face.

“Expect less” was written in response to comments about women in ultimate that Anna Nazarov saw on line:

Expect Less

“But . . . her mustache” was written after learning about the Molly Brown situation at US Club nationals and is the mostly widely read blog post (math or ultimate) that I’ve ever written:

But . . . her mustache

And, though not a blog post, this rant about the commentating at the World Games was also widely shared:

World Games rant

I don’t mean to end on a down note because it was a great year in ultimate overall. The players I got to see this year – from players I knew well to players I didn’t know at all before 2017 – were so phenomenal. I know how hard the work, I know how hard they train, and I know how much effort they put in to making the ultimate community better. The negativity directed towards them – from seemingly small phrases in commentating, to outright hostility on line – drives me insane.

30 years after I started playing the ultimate community remains a source of great joy to me. What the players I saw, learned about, and wrote about are doing to make every aspect of ultimate better makes me super happy. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!

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5 players I can’t wait to see more of in 2018

I love learning about new (to me!) players. With so many games filmed now it feels as though I’m learning about 100’s of new players every year who are completely amazing. Here are 5 that I just had brief glimpses of in 2017 who I can’t wait to see more of in 2018:


(1) Cate Woodhurst of Ozone

Learning more about Woodhurst’s game from studying the Fury vs. Ozone game is what really inspired this post. I love how she plays, and I loved that she was taking on really difficult match up and having lots of success. Tino Tran captured this nice pic of Woodhurst’s match up with Anna Nazarov which now hangs just to the left of my desk:

Definitely excited to see more of her in 2018.

(2) Alex Prentice from Australia’s National team

Prentice was part of the Australian World Games team and really caught my eye. This grab in one of the exhibition games against Japan was amazing:

Prentice has a Facebook Athlete page. Reading about her experience at the opening ceremonies on her July 21st post really made me happy. I wish more frisbee players would start athlete pages:

Alex Prentice’s athlete page on Facebook

(3) Essi Inkinen of Atletico in Finland

I didn’t get to see as much of the Eurostars tour as I would have liked, but I did get to see some fantastic highlights of Inkinen’s play in the video summary of the European finals. I’m actually desperately trying to find the game fil to use in the study group, but for now just enjoy the highlights and admire Inkinen’s absolutely incredible talent:

(4) Clea Poklemba of Schwa

The only time I saw Schwa play this season was their game against Ozone in the quarterfinals of US nationals. Poklemba was making plays all over the field. I’d never heard of her or seen her play before. This video from when she was in high school was the only one I could find!

I’m definitely excited to learn more about her next season.


(5) Anna Thompson of AMP

Here she is on double game point of the Mixed finals at US Nationals:

Just wow! Will definitely be looking out for some of AMP’s games next season!

But . . . her mustache

Long couple of days for me, but I need to get something out of my head. So – warning – rage blogging to follow . . . .

On Sunday morning of nationals last week I saw a series of tweets from Jesse Shofner that began here:

If you don’t know the story probably better to check out the twitter thread before reading any more. This tweet from the thread has especially stuck with me:

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I just can’t even begin to process that idea – and believe me, I’ve been trying all week.

I cannot fucking believe that I have to write this post, but for all the future broadcasters, national governing body-types, tournament organizers, spectators, announcers, and anyone else who – try as they might – can’t find a single good story line with Molly Brown, here are some places to look.  It is such a shame that Molly Brown kept all of these secrets . . . .
(1) Sally Lambert

One of the great deep cutting and defensive threats of the last 10 years. Also won worlds with the 2016 USA Masters team.

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And, oh yeah, she got an MBA from MIT in her spare time between tournaments.

But . . . her mustache.

(2) Claire McKeever

One of the best defensive players in ultimate and a fantastic success story as a Molly Brown rookie this year. I was so impressed watching her guard World Games player after World Games player after World Games player during the season.  She never backed down once:

My biggest wow of the US Open was Molly Brow’s Claire McKeever

Here’s a clip  from that post of her guarding Opi Payne and also poaching in the lane when Alex Snyder has the disc.

If you want a story for a Molly Brown game, ask Anna Nazarov, or Opi Payne, or Carolyn Finney about McKeever as a defender.

But . . . her mustache

(3) Megan Cousins

The way games are filmed from the middle of the field with the camera following the disc doesn’t highlight Megan Cousins’s game very well, unfortunately. All you end up seeing is her catching the disc – seemingly unguarded – again and again and again. No one – and I mean no one – understands downfield spacing better than Cousins. It is pure joy watching her play.

She’s can also fly:

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But . . . her mustache

(4) Lisa Pitcaithley

One of the most exciting play makers in the sport:

You can’t find a story line about her? Really???  . . . . Wait, what did I write about her this year . . . oh yeah:

Lisa Pitcaithley is a total badass

But . . . her mustache

(5) Paige Applegate

I’ve really enjoyed watching Applegate play over the last several years. This year I think she found a terrific balance between moving the disc and taking some aggressive shots. I love her attacking style of play:

Paige Applegate’s game is for real

But . . . her mustache.

(6) Carolyn Matthews

She’s coached Team USA in the past and returned to coach and play for Molly Brown this year. She also won a gold medal with the Team USA masters team last year and pulled out this block on the final point:

I also gave her the 2016 “True Veteran” award last year – it was a really great to meet her in Sarasota this year:

Announcing the 2016 True Veteran and the Michelle Ng Inspiration awards

But . . . her mustache.

(7) Kirstin Johnson

I first saw Johnson play with Molly Brown two years ago. I was so excited about Johnson’s play that I wrote to Opi to find out who she was!

Molly Brown vs Capitals part 5: Rebecca Miller and Kirstin Johnson

Since then she’s gone on to become an elite club handler . . . and she’s just out of college!

But . . . her mustache.

(8) Liza Minor

Liza

I was discussing Minor’s amazing play in the film study group earlier in the year and finally got to see her play in person at nationals. She an incredible downfield cutter and seeing her run free down the field was phenomenal.

Robyn Wiseman weighed in with this comment about Minor’s play in our film study group:

Minor

But . . . her mustache.

(9) Hannah Leathers

After the 2015 All-Star tour I was watching an Ozone game and hoping to write a blog post about Leathers’s outstanding defense. The problem I had was that it was a hard to find good examples from the film because the various players she was guarding didn’t touch the disc the entire game!

Instead of a blog post, take a listen to what Miranda Roth Knowles and Qxhna Titcomb think of her:

But . . . her mustache.

(10) Claire Chastain

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Team USA gold at Worlds in 2016. Gold at U23 worlds in 2012 completely controlling the game. Plus a Callahan award, plus coaching the University of Colorado team and also a coach at CUT Camp.

Also probably the most fundamentally sound player in the game.

And Athleticism. For. Days:

But . . . her mustache.

(11) Jesse Shofner

College national champion, endless promoter of ultimate, an absolute game changer on the field, and a heart that doesn’t quit:

But . . . her mustache.

(12) Manuela Cardenas

Instead of trying to understand how someone who is part of the ultimate community could walk over to a field where Manuela Cardenas is playing and wonder, even for a second, what the story might be, I’ll just suggest going to support the Cardenas sisters in their quest to get to Perth next year:

Please support the Cardenas sisters

Because if you watch this could even theoretically be distracted by a mustache I will never understand . . . .

So, that’s almost enough of rage blogging. I’ve only written about half of the team, but there are as many amazing stories from the players I’ve not written about as there are from the ones that I have. Also. their coach rescued a toad at regionals.

The last thing I’d say, though, is that I have no connection to Molly Brown. Never coached them, never lived in Denver, never played for them. I know the players from being around ultimate and know how hard they work for themselves and for the game. I hate that someone with power in ultimate can dictate to anyone what an ultimate player should look like, and I hate it 10x more for happening before the start of the semis of club nationals. The players on Molly Brown are incredible role models in ultimate and anyone watching them play or learning their stories will be drawn to the sport at light speed.

They are what makes ultimate great.

They are the story.

Congrats to All-Stars Beth Kaylor and Claire Revere on club championships

My head is still swimming from this weekend. Maybe it was getting to spend a little time with Qxhna, or maybe it was running into bunches of former All-Star players at the fields, but tonight my happy thoughts turned to Beth Kaylor and Claire Revere winning championships with Fury and Mixtape.

I haven’t had time to get through video clips from nationals, but I do have plenty of All-Star clips with Kaylor and Revere:

Check out the scoring pass from Revere to Shofner in this possession against Scandal (though sorry the video quality is a little cruddy):

This highlight film from the 2017 game against Traffic has a great catch from Revere around 0:24 and a jaw dropping grab from Kaylor at 1:56 with a nice replay that follows, too!

and here’s a sensational game winner that Revere had for Mixtape in 2015

An amazing idea form Qxhna led to two years of fantastic exhibition games and it is so great to see the players from the Tour having success in club ultimate now. I’m hesitant to write the next bit because I’m sitting at my son’s archery class and I know I’m going to forget a few, but off top of my head this year I got to see . . .

Qxhna, Jaclyn, Steph Lim and Alex Ode with Riot,
Stevie Miler with Rival,
Dori Franklin with Nemesis (and publishing a coloring book!)
Hannah Leathers, Megan Cousins, Lisa Pitcaithley, Jesse Shofner with Molly Brown
Rebecca Brereton and Kim Spragg with the Australian National Team,
Shiori Ogawa with the Japan National Team,
Margot Stert with the San Francisco Flame Throwers,
Carolyn Normile with Amp,
Caitlin Fitzgerald with Slow White, and
Kaylor and Revere winning championships with Fury and Mixtape.

Who would have believed that years following the All-Star tours would be as exciting Tours themselves! Thank you for putting together this incredible group, Qxhna, and congrats again to Kaylor and Revere. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Cree Howard and the lessons sports teach us

I don’t know Cree Howard personally – pretty sure we’ve never even spoken. I do know her play and I do know at least some of the big and small things she’s done for the sport. It makes me happy to see her walk off the field on a high note one more time.

This tweet from Andy Lovseth after the women’s final reminded me of her journey back to health after an injury in 2016:

Players like Megan Cousins, Hannah Leathers, Margot Stert and way too many others are on similar journeys now. I hope Howard’s success gives them a truck load of inspiration. Physical therapy is hours and hours of not-super-exciting hard work – it is a nice reminder that you can back to the top of the sport after going through it.

But that’s not really what I was thinking about when Howard caught the winning goal on Sunday. Sports give us some super high highs and also some terrible, soul crushing low lows. The lesson to learn from Howard – and one of the most important lessons from sports, I think – is how you bounce back from those lows.

Here’s the final point from beach worlds this summer:

/

Here’s the final play from Nationals:

The next time you have a low moment on the field (or off for goodness sake) think of Howard and stand tall (and having watched the beach world clip again, I’d add that when your teammate has a low moment think of Maggie Ruden coming over to hug her). Then let it make you better and stronger. Because those high highs when you bounce back will be higher than you can possibly imagine.

5 happy memories from Day 1 at Nationals

I knew that today was going to be a good day when the first person I ran into at the field site was former All-Star Dori Franklin who now plays for Nemesis. As play got started, here are 5 things that really made me smile today.

(1) The excellent play of Riot’s Lucy Williams

Williams had an amazing day as one of the main cogs in Riot’s O. I remember first getting to know her when she played for Seattle Mixtape several years ago, but today was the first time I saw her in person in the women’s division. She was sensational. Riot recognized her earlier in the season for work at the Pro Flight Finale:

Seeing Williams having all kinds of success today was a big bright spot in my day and even hours later as I’m writing up this post, thinking about her play today brings a big smile to my face.


(2) Seeing Anouchka Beaudry play

I wrote about Beaudry after watching the finals of Canadian nationals:

Take some time to learn from Anouchka Beaudry

and Upwind Ultimate wrote about her here:

It was a thrill to see her play in person. Her throws are absolutely stunning. From the beautiful hucks to soft, shorter touch throws she makes throwing look effortless. I’m almost at a loss for who to compare her to – she’s got the silky smooth touch of Claire Chastain, the range of Rohre Titcomb, and the variety of throws that Jenny Fey has. The combination is truly incredible to see. I cannot wait to follow her career in club and international ultimate.

I also loved the matchup she had with Riot’s Kirstin Gruver today. They both made each other work really hard. It is also a fun coincidence that they both wear #13.

(3) Showdown’s Julia Schmaltz

If you followed the college championships in the US you probably know about Schmaltz’s amazing play already. If not, try this on for size . . .

Schmaltz

Today was the first time that I’d see Schmaltz play in person and she blew me away. I loved her throws, I loved how she saw the field, I loved how she moved to create space, and, obviously, her athleticism is completely out of this world.

And . . . let me just say that the idea of Schmaltz and Jaclyn Verzuh being on the field together representing the US at the U24 world championships next year is mind boggling.

(4) The speed at which Carolyn Finney plays the game is beyond description

I used this video of Finney’s play at regionals against Nightlock in a prior blog post and I think it highlights my point:

Finney’s speed and quickness is clear enough on film, but seeing her play in person gave me a much better understanding of the problems that she creates for the other team. Watching her is like watching the quickest person you’ve ever seen cutting, faking, and defending in fast forward. The most impressive thing to me was her decision making which was flawless.

When college players move up to club you’ll often hear them talk about the speed of the game. I don’t know what they say when they have to deal with Finney!


(5) I **finally** saw Manuela Cardenas play in person

I don’t even know what highlight video to share – but here a short and famous (and old!) one.

I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to see her play today – it is a moment that I’ll remember forever. Players like her can change the course of the sport. It is going to be an absolute privilege to be able to follow her career.

(6) A few other bonuses . . . .

It made me extremely happy to be able to meet players that I’ve come to respect both this year and over the last few years. Getting to meet Riot’s Maddie Gilbert and Molly Brown’s player / coach Carolyn Matthews were very special moments for me today.

The chance encounters with the old All-Star players was another source of happiness. I love watching the success that all of them are having in club ultimate and can’t wait to see Hannah Leathers, Megan Cousins, and Margot Stert back on the field at full strength next year.

Finally, some brief chats with Anna Nazarov, Hannah Krielkamp, Drew Johnson, and Robyn Wiseman makes me remember how lucky I’ve been to meet so many amazing players over the years – and how many people around ultimate are so easy to cheer for!

What a day 🙂

10 things I’m excited to see at Nationals

I had a super stressful day of work today.  One nice thing about working from home, though, is that I’m surrounded by a lot of things that make me happy.    Sorry that not all of the pictures from my office wall came out so well, but I was going for happiness rather than picture quality 🙂

(1) I’m excited to see players in person who have been impressing me for years

Players like Claire Chastain

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and Julia Snyder:

(2) I’m excited to see the All-Stars shine

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The All-Stars are a never ending source of happiness for me:

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and have you seen how Lisa Pitcaithley is playing this year!!

(3) I’m excited to see players who excelled with their national teams shine with their club teams

Like Calise Cardenas

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and Catherine Hui

(4) I’m excited to see amazing athletes shining in big moments on a big big stage

Like Qxhna Titcomb

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Opi Payne

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and Shannon Bubb

(5) and even if they are playing against the team I happen to be rooting for, I’ll cheer for greatness

Like when Megan Cousins did this against Riot:

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or when Anraya Palmer did this at 14-14 vs the All-Stars:

(6) I’m really excited to see all of the great leaders in ultimate

like Rachel Habbert

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Rohre Titcomb

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and Nancy Sun

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(7) I’m excited to see the amazing young players emerging in club ultimate this year

A great memory for me was watching Shira Stern emerge as a star for Riot

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I can’t wait to see players like Maddie Gilbert:

and Anouchka Beaudry:

And Beaudry is trying to raise money to get to Perth for U24’s next year – if you are looking for a good cause to support, here’s her page:

Anouchka Beaudry’s Go Fund Me page

(8) I’m excited to see all of the players who had great years coaching college and youth get their chance to compete

Like Robyn Wiseman
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and Jenny Fey

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(9) Oh, and those club coaches can play just a bit, too

Like Gwen Ambler

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and Carolyn Matthews:

(10) and I hope to see today’s stars inspire future players, too.

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Watch the girl in blue when Jenny Fey scores around 2:42 to see more of what I mean.

 

Can’t wait for next week 🙂