Photo by Scott Roeder – UltiPhotos.com
Alan Kolick, David Cranston and Markham Shofner represented the United States at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate (WCBU) held in Dubai during the second week of March.
Kolick and Cranston captured gold as teammates on the United States Open roster, one of the six Team USA squads to finish first at the tournament. The Open team featuring the pair of Current stars swept through the competition, winning all 11 of their games to take home the championship. Their closest match came in the semifinals against the Philippines as the two sides engaged in an extended universe point before the United States was able to secure the win.
That semifinal victory was the only contest that the United States didn’t win by more than four scores.
“Many of the teams that we played gave us great challenges throughout the tournament,” said Kolick. “The teams brought a unique culture and experience to our games.”
While the United States squads dominated the tournament in many of the divisions, the number of teams traveling and competing in WCBU shows the growth of the sport throughout the world. Countries that many wouldn’t expect to even have a squad were represented at the tournament.
“With teams like Qatar, UAE and Kenya, it was evident that people are excited to bring this sport to their country and to improve as a nation,” said Kolick. “It’s great to see how ultimate has been developing around the world.”
While the tournament featured a diverse set of nations, the USA Open team also featured an assorted group of players cultivated from all across the country. Along with Kolick and Cranston there were several other MLU standouts who took part in the tournament including Boston Whitecaps star Jack Hatchett along with Sean Murray and Chris Gwinner from the New York Rumble. While the athletes on team USA had limited experience playing with one another, they were able to connect and combine their talent to capture a championship.
“We weren’t a team that relied on any one guy,” said Cranston. The team came together through “a combination of everyone playing within themselves and utilizing each other’s strengths as players.”
Kolick, MLU’s 2014 Eastern Conference MVP, was one of the top performers for the Open team recording 13 assists and 13 goals, and was one of only four players on the roster to achieve double digits in both categories. Kolick made a standout grab in Team USA’s win over Canada that was named one of the top plays of the entire tournament.
(Skip to 1:47 of the video to see the play.)
Cranston, who took his first trip outside of North America for the competition, was able to contribute to the squad’s success as well, tallying two assists and two goals. After claiming the championship, Cranston was even interviewed by Dubai Sports who were there covering the event.
“The community was extremely supportive. The ultimate scene was as supportive as any other country,” said Cranston. “Having the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world, in addition to competing against other countries is something I’ll never forget.”
Shofner, playing for the Mixed Team, helped to lead Team USA to a Bronze finish behind Germany and Canada. “It was a privilege to suit up with some of the best players in the world and represent our country on the world stage,” said Shofner. “Wearing the red, white and blue was an honor, one I won’t soon forget.”
Over the 11 tournament contests Shofner recorded 11 assists and 12 goals, including a performance against Portugal where he scored three of the squad’s first five goals en route to a 12-7 pool play victory. The Mixed team was able to go undefeated in pool play but fell in the championship bracket to second place Canada by the score of 6-5. This set up a rematch against Portugal in the Bronze medal game that the USA would go on to win.
Another member of the Current family was also in Dubai to compete, as new assistant coach Tim Eubanks played for Currier Islands in the Grand Masters division. Eubanks, who played in every game for the team, was able to notch seven assists during the tournament. The team finished 4-4 in pool play and finished 1-1 in a playoff pool that resulted in a sixth place finish.
While playing in the sand of the WCBU is quite different than the field turf MLU games are contested on, going up against elite competition should help to prepare the Current players for the upcoming season.
“I learned a lot about different playing styles, different ways to approach various physical and mental aspects of the game,” said Cranston. “Additionally, having the opportunity to play with Alan and support Markham will hopefully increase our chemistry on and off the field.”
Shofner said that getting to test himself against other top players from around the world only served to make him hungrier for the start of the MLU regular season. “Beach worlds gave me a bit of extra juice and motivation to work out and get ready for the grind,” said Shofner. “My goal in the offseason was to get stronger and build up a solid base to work on throughout the long season.”
However the players prepare for the upcoming MLU season, they all agree that they cannot wait to get back together and cleat up with their DC teammates. According to Current General Manager Matt Dewhurst, having three players from the Current participate at the WCBU puts the team at an advantage, weeks before the opening pull. “It just shows how high the level of play is in the MLU and in the U.S.,” said Dewhurst. “We literally have world class players on our team and staff. I could not be more proud to have D.C. represented so strongly for the U.S. at the WCBU.”