Strong Performance by United States Underwater Rugby teams at the 2015 World Championships in Cali, Colombia

New York City — The United States men’s and women’s teams have surpassed all expectations at the 10th CMAS Underwater Rugby (UWR) World Championships that ended on August 1, 2015 in Cali, Colombia. Matched against strong opponents, the US teams were able to showcase the sharp rise of the sport in North America, not only in terms of the number of players and clubs but also the quality of the game. This report focuses on the men’s experiences and a report on the women’s team will follow soon.

 

Growing steadily stronger since the national tryouts:

Since US head coach Jose Luis Echeverry organized the first national tryouts in January 2015 for the Underwater Society of America (USOA), the team has developed into a strong band of players. “We had 42 candidates at the try-outs”, recollects Echeverry, ”and I knew that we’d get a good team together.” Since then, the US team organized five additional clinics to work on their coordination and strategic moves.

US teams had previously participated in two World Championships that are held every four years, namely in 1999 and 2003, when the games took place in Germany and Denmark, respectively. This year, the US men came well prepared and with a strong team spirit to the 10th World Championships. The team won most of their matches, showed skill and heart and convinced the traditional UWR powerhouses that much can be expected from the dynamic US team. Mike Picot, who played in the US selection in 2003 and 2015 said, “we already had good players in 2003. But this time, we really have a strong and versatile team we can be proud of.”

UWRWC_CALI_US Team Photos_2 (1)

2015 Team USA

 

A tough start for Team USA in the preliminary round

The World Championships presented themselves as a continuous improvement of the team’s strength. Due to a random draw in the group phase, the US men first faced two very experienced and strong opponents: Austria and Sweden, the majority of whose players also play in the elite European Underwater Rugby League (EUWR).

Given the structure of the championship the first game of the competition against the Austrian team was the tournament’s single most important match. Head coach Echeverry reminded the team to stick to the rotation system, to provide assistance and to trust in the strong fore-checking skills. But the US players were unable to get into their game and a strong Austrian team was able to score early in the game. To win the game, the US team had to play more offensively and hold the ball close to the Austrian goal. However, this tactic made the team vulnerable for counterstrikes and despite some strong attacks, the experienced Austrian players were able to exploit avoidable mistakes by the US team.

When the Austrian goalie pushed away American attacker Mike Picot who had stolen the goal just before the American received a pass that would have led to the deserved first goal of the team, the referees called a penalty shot against Austria. US defender Daniel Naujoks executed the penalty fast, getting quickly under the Austrian goalie and though the keeper brushed Naujoks’ mask away it took only 15 seconds before the ball was sunk decisively in the net.

When the match finished after 30 minutes, the score card counted 10:1 for Austria. In an interview about the first US goal in this competition, Naujoks highlighted that the team sold itself short. “We can play much better — maybe because it was the first game of the competition but for some reason, today wasn’t our day”, he said. The US team had come to Cali to show that they can exert pressure and score clean goals to win matches. It took only 48 hours before this prediction was proven right.

 

A good fight against Sweden

The next day, the US men were confronted with the Swedish team that had previously won against Austria with 9:0. US Coach Echeverry had made several adjustments to the team to avoid getting a goal through a fast break by the quick Swedes and to strengthen the team’s defense. The US men played strong and were able to control the ball for long stretches of the game, avoiding the aggressive fore-checking by their opponent.

Following several fouls by Sweden, Team USA was able to advance the ball in coordinated free-throws, bringing the Swedes several times in difficulties at the Swedish basket. When the final bell rang, Sweden had won 11:0 but the US team had made the Swedes fight for each goal and inch, showing to the traditional powerhouse that the sport is developing strongly in the United States. Austrian players who had watched the game against Sweden were overheard saying, “we were lucky that the US had not found into their game earlier. This is a very strong team that can be dangerous for any of the other teams here.” Arguably the most experienced player on the Swedish team, Jim Nilsson, who participated in a total of five World Championships, two of which he and his team left as world champions and one with a silver medal, commented on the games of the Swedish team against the US. “The [US] team we met in the qualifying round was really something unexpected to us,” he said. “Team USA kept playing with furious energy throughout the game – something rarely seen for an underdog team. Really impressive. And your tactics paid off. Playing close to each other, with good passes, and intelligently backing out of tough situations, you made it very hard for us to get hold of the ball.” Looking into the future, Nilsson stated that “Of all teams, I expect the US to amaze the world of underwater rugby the most in the years to come.”

 

Strong US triumphs with a clear 20:0 win over South Africa

As only the first two teams of each group advanced to the play for the top 8 ranks, the US men joined the group playing for places 9-12. “With different opponents in the group phase, we would have played in the best-8 group”, said head coach Echeverry, “but there’s always an element of luck in competitions. That’s just part of the game.” But the US team was eager to show that each match mattered, starting with the first team they faced in the final round: South Africa. The South African team had already played the 2011 World Championships in Finland with strongly spirited players who were eager to represent African rugby.

11796221_10204643931247629_7993588684184386100_n

Teams USA and South Africa together after their WC match

By this third game of the competition, the US men had fully found into their game. Hungry to win, it took the US only a little more than a minute to score the first goal. The team rotated the ball well, and came in strong with several attackers to score a total of 20 goals, while keeping their net clean. Two of the goals were penalty shots as the South African keeper had the shoulder in the goal. The first penalty shot was executed once again by Daniel Naujoks who delivered quickly and in a similar way as against Austria. US forward Mateo Galeano took the second penalty shot. He came in vertically from on top of the basket and while almost scoring through a hole the keeper had presented, the goalkeeper was able to lay his hands on the ball. With determination, Galeano went after the keeper and before the goalie could reach surface—and thus successfully save the penalty—the attacker had again gained possession of the ball. Both players turning around, the goalkeeper was able to strip the ball again from Galeano just before he could sink the ball in the net. In a remarkable attempt, the US striker once more went for the goalie, got hold of the ball, stayed down and was able to score in a penalty that had kept the audience on their toes. In honor of the team’s first victory during this World Championship, the players proudly lined up on the ‘dimly seen shore’ of the Alberto Galindo pool when the US national anthem sounded loudly, amplified by the players’ voices after ‘the perilous fight.’

 

3 more points for Team USA after a win over a strong Australian team

On the fourth day of the World Championships, Team USA faced Australia. The Australian men were well conditioned and physically strong. Many of them had come to Colombia a month ahead of the championship to train with the best Colombian teams. Australia had played well against Spain the previous day, almost defeating the Spanish players.

In the match against Australia, the US men presented an organized game, controlling the ball, defending strongly, and going aggressively after the ball. But this sport teaches us that a brief slip in a team’s attention can be punished. Thus, in the middle of the first half, Australian forward Justin Bees managed to break-away with the ball from mid-field and lay the ball in the open net just before the US keeper reached the goal. Thus, Bees, who lives in Colorado and regularly plays with US teams, put Australia with 1:0 in the lead.

1large

Men’s team USA celebrate after hearing the National Anthem for the second time.

Now the US was under pressure to show that they can score when needed. A goal can always change the dynamics of the game. But the experienced US team kept their calm, believing in the team’s strength. Defender Daniel Lopez said after the game, “we knew that we just had to focus, pull together, and play our game. And that’s exactly what we did.”

Shortly afterwards, the US offense went in strong. US goalie Giancarlo Castro brought the ball in from the safe corner, keeper and coach Jose Echeverry made the first attempt to score and passed to Daniel Lopez who equalized the score to 1:1. US Capitan Giancarlo Castro recalls, “that was an important goal, but we wanted to score more, and we knew we could.” In the second half of the match, the US team dominated and had several chances to score without converting them. It was then that Daniel Naujoks was able to shove the ball from above the goal passing the Australian keeper’s head, leading to the winning score of 2:1.

Thus, after the fourth match of the United States Underwater Rugby team, the players joined in as the US anthem sounded over the competition pool for the second time.

 

Third victory in a row after Team USA overcomes Spain

The last match for team USA would decide whether US or their Spanish opponent would be in the 9th place. As had the US, Spain had also won against South Africa and Australia. Given the better goal difference, the US would have prevailed in the overall ranking if the teams had tied. But team USA was not keen on a draw. “Many of us have played the Spanish players at the Champions Cup last year”, said head coach Echeverry before the match. “Then, we drew and won in the penalty shoot out. Now we want to win by making goals in the regular time. If we play our game, I know we can do it.”

IMG_9894

Spain join team USA after the final match for the 9th place.

But the Spanish would not grant an easy victory. In an evenly matched game, both teams played strong rugby and made no mistakes. After an intense press play by the US players around the Spanish basket it was forward Mateo Galeano to score the winning goal. While the US team had a few additional chances to strike again and also the Spanish team came once close to the American net, the match ended with a deserved 1:0 victory for the US men.

The third time in a row, the US players lined up arm in arm to the tune of the Star-Spangled Banner. Deviating from the normal protocol, and in a display of mutual respect for a good last game for the 9th place of this World Championship the Spanish players joined the US team on their side of the pool for the US national anthem.

 

US players keep their head high: We’re coming back even stronger in 2019

Carol Rose, president of the Underwater Society of America (USOA), the governing federation for underwater sports in the US, including underwater rugby, and a charter member of the US Olympic Committee, congratulated the performance of both US teams at the World Championship. “Underwater rugby has had a great growth spurt”, she stated, “Teams are now active in Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and California.” Optimistically, she concluded “I can see only upward and forward action for underwater rugby.”

Rüdiger Hüls, president of World Underwater Federation CMAS’ UWR Commission that organized the World Championships, praised the strong US participation and the team’s quality play. Several team captains and coaches expressed that they look forward to competing against Team USA. Overall, the American rugby players were considered a strong international team that has the technique and strength to play at the highest level.

Many players voiced that they were looking forward to playing US teams at the annual Champions Cup and several teams suggested that the US team would be predestined to organize a high-level competition, such as open Pan-American championships.

oficial-2

For the time being, the US men’s team leaves the World Championship with their heads held high. They have played strong opponents, won more matches than they lost, scored more goals than they received and demonstrated the increasing sophistication and quality of the game in the US. “This experience was invaluable for the development of UWR in the US”, said team manager and defender Rolexi Pinzon, who also serves as USOA’s assistant director for underwater rugby. “We also enjoyed the press coverage, both here in Colombia where we participated in a live TV show and gave many interviews, but also in the US media. Several groups of fans also watched the games live in California, Texas, New York and Boston. This is an important moment for us”, Pinzon clarified and added, “we are also very grateful to the US women’s team whose support during our matches was amazing; as we tried our best to support them during theirs.”

But the players were certain that the team would come back much stronger for the next world championships in 2019 that will be organized in Italy. “We’ll be even faster, stronger, and more organized by then — you just wait and see”, said coach Echeverry. “But for now, it’s time to celebrate today’s success. We can be proud of what we achieved here in Cali”, he added and smiled.

Daniel Naujoks

USA UWR Press Officer

 

Stats men’s Team USA

Game States (* = win)

US – Austria: 1:10

US – Sweden 0:11

US – South Africa: 20 :0*

US – Australia: 2:1*

US – Spain: 1:0*

 

Goal Stats

Goals scored: 24

Goals received: 22

Final rank: 9th

Team USA in The Guardian: ‘Breathing is overrated’ for those immersed in underwater rugby

USA_UWR_2015_5
The Guardian sports reporter David Lengel visited the New Jersey Hammerheads to interview many of the players of the US National Team about the preparation for the World Championships in Cali, Colombia.
The article looks at UW rugby from the viewpoint of mainstream sports journalism and introduces it to the wider sports audiences in the US.
You can read and share the article “’Breathing is overrated’ for those immersed in underwater rugby” at www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/jul/25/underwater-rugby-us-breathing-overrated

Watch Team USA compete at 10th CMAS Underwater Rugby World Championships

From 26 Jul – 1 Aug 2015, Team USA will participate in the 10th CMAS Underwater Rugby World Championships in Cali, Colombia. 15 men and 15 women representing the sport in the United States have been training hard to compete with the world’s best teams.

Please join this facebook event for news around the US game schedule and updates on the men’s and women’s teams
Live streaming of all games will be available at www.uwrworldchampionship.com/streaming
unnamed
And please take a moment to LIKE our Facebook pages and ask your friends, family and colleagues, fellow divers, swimmers, UW hockey players, and sports enthusiasts to share this information too.
THANK YOU!
Follow us @USAuwr

Fifth Training of UWR Team USA concludes in Newark

On 27 June 2015, exactly one month before the kick-off of the 10th CMAS Underwater Rugby Championship in Cali, Colombia, the U.S. men’s and women’s teams had their fifth joint practice.
Under the supervision of national coaches José Luis Echeverry (men) and Juan Sevillano (women), the thirty male and female players engaged in a full day of swimming drills, strategic maneuvers, and test matches.
“I feel, the work we did with the team over the last six months is paying off”, says coach Echeverry, “we’re rotating well, getting stronger, faster and more coordinated.  We’re getting ready for Cali.”
Coach Sevillano adds “the women’s team has made excellent progress in a short period of time. The players live in all corners of the country and had limited time to getting used to playing as a team. We’re not expecting miracles at the World Championships, but we’re there to play some good games.”
womens team

2015 USA Women’s Team

At the end of a long day at the Ironbound Aquatic Center in Newark, New Jersey, Adrian Breitenbach, the women’s team coordinator from the hosting New Jersey Hammerheads concludes, “we’ve had an intense day, great matches between the women’s and men’s teams and look forward to our last month before it’s showtime.”
The last national practice for the US selection will be held on July 11, 2015 in East Haven, Connecticut. And two weeks later, the teams will join the world’s best teams to play for the gold medal. One can already feel the excitement.

The Newark Hammerheads win the 10th. North American UW Rugby Tournament

For the third time in a row The NJ Hammerheads from Newark NJ won the North American Underwater Rugby Tournament this time in Montreal Canada, hosted by Club Camo during the weekend of May 30-31.

The tournament had the participation of 5 teams from the US and Canada. Club Camo as the host club from Montreal, and for the first time Toronto UWR participated with two teams giving the oportunity to experienced players in one team as well as recretional and new players on their second team. From the US the NJ Hammerheads came to Montreal to defend their recent title obtained during the past NA UWR tournament in Newark, NJ. and last but not least the Orphan team or ROW team (Rest of the World) the mixed team with participants from Boston, Connecticut, Florida and NJ.

The tournament began with a round robin on Saturday on  which the Hammerheads got first place of the group undefeated, Club Camo ended in second place and Toronto Raccoons came on third place. The Saturday schedule also allowed for a last training between team Canada and team USA before their participation on the World Championship in Cali Colombia this summer.

Sunday games began with a triangular to decide 3rd, 4th and 5th place between the Orphan team, Toronto Raccoons and Toronto Seals.

The 3rd place was decided in a very closed and strong game between the Orphan team and Toronto Raccoons, on which Toronto beat Orphans by 4-3, same score than on their previous group game.

The final game between Club Camo an the NJ Hammerheads was a very exciting and strong game. During the group round the NJ Hammerheads defeated Camo by a clear 4-0, but Camo got organized to play the final in a different way and try to win the title on which Camo has been runner ups for the last two NA Championships.

The final game was very extremely intense and even during the first half on which the Hammerheads got a lead for 2-1. After half time Club Camo tried to tie the game but the Hammerheads kept their strong defense until two penalties were awarded to Camo. At the end the Hammerheads defeated Camo by 5-3 retaining the North American Championship title.

1st Place - Newark NJ Hammerheads

1st Place – Newark NJ Hammerheads

The award for the best team defense was given to the NJ Hammerheads as well as the top scorer team.

The top scorer player was Justin Bees from the Orphans team with 12 goals, followed by Daniel Naujoks from NJ Hammerheads and Marco Cardona from Camo with 9 goals. Mike Picot from the Orphan team goth 4th place with 8 goals and Gord Lemon 5th place.

All the 10th NA UWR results and standings here!

2nd Place - Club Camo

2nd Place – Club Camo

3rd Place - Toronto UWR Raccoons

3rd Place – Toronto UWR Raccoons

The North American UW Rugby tournament was established by Canadian and US teams four years ago as a way to promote and develop the sport between US and Canadian Clubs, after the failed attempt to participate in the 9th World Championships in Finland. Now happily after the 10th edition of the North American UW Rugby Tournament, participation on the Word Championship will be a reality for the US men’s and women’s team since their last appearance in 2003, and for team Canada this will be their first international participation.

The 11th edition of the North American Underwater Rugby tournament is scheduled for October 17-18, 2015, to be held in Brantford, Ontario. The organizers hope to have many more teams with the East Haven Makos (Connecticut), Quincy Narwhals (Massachusetts) and newly formed teams as the San Francisco Giant Sea Basses and  the Santa Barbara Chachalots (California).

10th North American UW Rugby Tournament – Montreal 2015

Teams are ready to participate on the 10th edition of the North American Underwater Rugby Tournament, the weekend of May 30, 31st in Montreal, Canada, hosted by Club Camo.

Five teams from Canada and the US will participate on this tournament. Club Camo from Montreal as the host team, Toronto UWR and Club Liberation from Ontario, a mixed team from Quincy (MA) and the East Haven Makos (CT) and the NJ Hammerheads from Newark, New Jersey as current and defending champions.

This is the first time two teams from Ontario will participate on the North American tournament  outside of their hometown as a good sign of growth. The host team Camo will be a trong contender and candidate to win the championship as most of his players are part of team Canada that will participate this summer on the World Championships in Colombia. Club Camo will try to regain the championship after two runner up places after the NJ Hammerheads on the last tournaments. Players from Quincy UWR and the East Haven Makos are participating as a mixed team just as the past tournament on which they got the third place. The NJ Hammerheads will try to maintain their championship title that they got during the last two NA UWR  tournaments in Toronto and Newark.

This tournament will also serve as the last competition and preparation event for teams Canada (men) and USA (men and women) before the World Championships. The following North American UW Rugby tournament is scheduled on October 17-18, 2015 in Brantford, Ontario.

 

The Newark Hammerheads win the 1st Newark UW Rugby Tournament

Hosted by Newark Underwater Recreation and thanks to the City of Newark, the first ever Underwater Rugby tournament in Newark, New Jersey was a complete success. The two day tournament had the participation of teams from the US and Canada, and UW Rugby players from as far as Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, South Carolina and Norway. Five teams played a round robin during Saturday and final games on Sunday. The host club participated with two teams Newark Hammerheads A, and Newark Hammerheads B, The East Haven Makos from Connecticut, Club CAMO from Montreal and for the first time the Women’s Team USA.

The Host club teams Hammerheads A and B  played the inaugural game with a clear victory of team Hammerheads A  10-0. The round robin ended on saturday evening with The Newark Hammerheads A undefeated with 12 points, followed by Club Camo from Montreal, Hammerheads B in third place, the East Haven Makos in fourth and the final spot for the Women’s team USA on their first tournament as a team.

Sunday pool time served as the third and final round for the Men’s team USA and the first official practice for the women’s team. Right after this, the final games of the tournament were played.

The game of third place was between the local Hammerheads B and the East Haven Makos. The Hammerheads B who played a very strong game the day before during the group round, defeating the Makos by 7-6, lost the final game 3-6 giving the third place to the East Haven Makos.

The final game was between Hammerheads A and Club Camo. As great rivals the game was very close and strong 0-0 during all the first half and most of the second half until about  the 8th of 9th minute when the Hammerheads took advantage of a few mistakes that turned into a very quick 3-0 lead and final win for the Hammerheads A.

 

Champions: Newark Hammerheads A - New Jersey

1st Place: Newark Hammerheads A – New Jersey

2nd Place: Club Camo - Montreal

2nd Place: Club Camo – Montreal

3rd. Place East Haven Makos - Connecticut

3rd. Place East Haven Makos – Connecticut

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Newark tournament showcased several milestones for underwater Rugby in the US. The first Underwater Rugby tournament in the NY/NJ area, first UW rugby tournament to have electronic referee signal system , cameras, large screen and livestream.

The Newark Hammerheads will defend their title on the 10th North American Underwater Rugby Tournament – Montreal 2015 on May 30th-31st.

FInal Standings

1st – Newak Hammerheads  A

2nd – Club Camo

3rd – East Haven Makos

4th – Newark Hammerheads B

5th – Women’s team USA

Great pool 13'-10"

Great pool 13′-10″

IMG_0403

Cameras and large screen

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Team USA try-outs in Connecticut

The past Saturday March 7th the East Haven Makos UW Rugby club hosted the 2nd try-outs for the men and women National teams. Candidates from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and DC met with coach Jose Echeverry (US men’s coach) and Juan Sevillano (US women’s coach) to review exercises, tactics and play several friendly matches with the East Haven Makos.

This was the first meetong for the women’s team under the direction of coach Juan Sevillano.

The next team USA tryouts will held on April 11th-12th during the Newark Underwater Rugby Tournament in Newark, New Jersey

IMAG1466

2015 CanAm UW Rugby Tournament Results and Team USA tryouts

The second edition of the CanAm UW Rugby Championships ended with the victory of the Quincy Narwhals from Boston during an undefeated weekend. The team from Boston came back strong after their absence from a couple of tournaments of the North American league.

After the successful first edition that had as one of the highlights the participation of Club Orcas from Colombia with three teams, this time CanAm was expecting participation of three Colombian teams including Orcas, Quelonios and Pirañas but at the end such teams declined the invitation. However the tournament had the international participation of Team Canada (mixed team from Camo Montreal and Club Liberation from Toronto) as part of their preparation for the 2015 World Championships to be held in Colombia.

10981197_10155167436670137_8876515841236075957_nParticipants on the 2015 US National team tryouts

Four teams participated as representatives from the US. Quincy Narwhals from Boston, New Jersey Hammerheads and NUWR from Newark New Jersey and the ROW team (rest of the world) team with players from different areas of the US without a club including Wisconsin, Illinois, DC and California.

The game for the 3rd place was played by Team Canada and the NJ Hammerheads, with the victory of the Canadians for 7-2 over a weakened NJ Hammerheads who played the same Team Canada earlier that same day defeating the Canadians on the round robin 3-1.

The final game between Quincy Narwhals and  NUWR was a very intense and interesting game which was only decided on the last seconds of the game. Quincy had 11 players between experienced and new players including an experienced Swedish player and took advantage of the number of players to defeat NUWR. The team from Newark had only 7 players but made the size en depth of the pool to play in their favor as well as the speed and fitness of their players.

The game was tied 1-1 by half time and just 2 second before the end of the game one last attempt from the Boston ended on a last second goal for Quincy to win the tournament.

The tournament also served as the first event for the US National team tryouts for the 2015 World Championship to be held in Cali, Colombia. The US men’s team tryout had the participation of 24 players under the direction of US National coach Jose Echeverry.

FInal standings:

1- Quincy Narwhals

2- Newark NUWR

3- Team Canada

4- New Jersey Hammerheads

5- Row Team

Top Scorer:

1- Daniel Lopez – NUWR  12

2- Filip Mundt – Quincy 7

3- Mike Picot- Quincy 6

Mateo Galeano – NJ hammerheads 6

Tim Burke – Quincy 6

The New Jersey Hammerheads are ready for Berlin

The top US Underwater Rugby team, the New Jersey Hammerheads will participate in the 2014 Champions Cup in Berlin, the most important Underwater Rugby Club tournament in the world.

The Champions Cup was originally named the “Masters Cup” in 1987 by the German Club F.S. Duisburg. It is a yearly tournament that invites the champion team from each country. In 1999 the tournament was renamed “Champions Cup” and in 2004 the women’s tournament was held for the first time.

The  New Jersey Hammerheads are already making history being the first team from the US participating in this top level tournament. During 2014 the NJ team finished 3rd. on the Canam UWR Tournament held in Milwaukee early in february. Later on March the Hammerheads got second place at the 7th North American UWR tournament in Montreal on which Club Camo from Montreal got the first place. Recently the NJ team won the first place on the 8th NA UWR tournament held in Toronto last October after winning on a couple of exciting games to their long time rivals Club Camo. The main objective of this participation is to gain expericence with the highest level clubs in UW Rugby today, as Molde from Norway (the current  and 4th consecutive winner of this tournament), Bamberg (Germany), Orcas (Colombia) among others.

2014 will be a record year for the Champions Cup. A total of 14 men’s and 12 women’s teams representing equal number of nations  will participate to fight for the gold.