From July 31st until August 6th, the World Junior Ultimate Championships (WJUC) 2016 took place in the beautiful city of Wroclaw in Poland. The city is often called the « Venice of the North » because of it’s rivers, many bridges and nice historical buildings.
The 23 players on the Belgian National U20 team, selected from 8 different clubs by the coach Quentin Walsh and his brother Kilian (assistant coach), counted 5 of the Mooncatchers junior players :
Simon Gullentops #17
Andrew Delhaisse #25
Réphaël Jonkers #88
Arthur Feller #58
Ian Vanden Bemden #10 (Xlr8rs, Mooncatchers)
The team finished 9th of the world at WJUC 2016, an amazing record and improvement for the Belgian youth !
The beginning of the competition was very hard, the Belgian U20 team was in a very difficult pool of 3 with Canada and Australia. If the team wanted to avoid being pushed straight towards the lower pool, the game vs Australia had to be won. Both teams knew it from day 1 and the coaches were nervous about it…
The Belgian team proudly won that first game (15-12) under a very hot sun, on a synthetic field. What a crazy good game, and even if both teams knew the implications of the outcome, the Spirit was great ! The cover picture of this article clearly reflects the intensity of that victorious 15th point. Sadly, one of our Mooncatchers players (Ian Vanden Bemden #10) was injured during that game. Landing after having jumped high to get the defence, he fell back onto his wrist and broke it. He certainly helped the team to win that first game, and they missed him very much for the rest of the competition.
The next game of the pool on the same day was against Canada, the team decided to play it relaxed and not risk any injuries. The game was lost (5-15).
The 3 following new pool games were all lost, against Germany (11-15), Colombia (12-13) and Austria (6-15). Germany won the game but the team came to the conclusion that it could have gone either way. The game vs Colombia was amazing and very intense, and finished at universe point. The team gave it’s best and learned a lot in that game. "Belgium can be proud of that result", said the coach after the game, "we’re not an unknown nation anymore in the Ultimate Frisbee world!".
After that loss, the team had a hard time focusing and playing well vs Austria. Winning or losing that game had no effect on the next games and everyone knew it. The coaches of both teams decided to end the game early, at 12-6, and surrender the victory to Austria. That’s when the team had to hear some strong coaching words from both coaches, a good maturity step ! After that speech, the team finished the day at a cool Lounge Bar to forget the past and focus on the next games. The WFDF then surprised everybody by adjusting the format of the competition a bit, so all teams still had a chance to fight for the upper places in the ranking. It was good news for many teams after the disagreements related to the pools of 3 and 4 at the beginning, and the unnecessary tensions that resulted from it.
So the Belgian U20 team then had the opportunity to fight for the 9th place, but had to win every game from then on…
That’s exactly what was done one step at a time ! The team was proud of every game and showed good things together.
The next 4 games and victories were against Israel (15-8), The Netherlands (15-8), Sweden (15-10) and finally Germany (15-11) to finish 9th of the world !
That very last game was an intense revenge under a dark grey sky and cold strong wind. Both teams made mistakes but the Belgian U20 team was really stronger that time. Germany could not follow them anymore and the score difference speaks for itself. At a certain point the Belgian team was even 6 points ahead. The victory over the German team was clear, and also amazed other nations (like the USA) who were impressed with the Belgian's squad progression !
Final ranking : 9th out of 29th
What a great adventure as team manager for the Belgium U20 and U17 teams with my friend Stijn Van Wijnendael.
The coaches (as well as the Mooncatchers players) did a very good job with the team, they gave 100% of themselves for these 23 guys. Good job Quentin and Kilian !
The expected level is high for the future Belgian Youth selection !
Report and pictures by Olivier Jonkers (Ultimate Spirit).