Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: The USWNT claims their third star in resounding fashion

I'm off on vacation this week, so there's little time left to dally on ephemera.  Straight to the action!

Today in the bag, I'm talking the Women's World Cup final, The Basketball Tournament, and some baseball thoughts.

Click below for the bag...

USWNT Wins World Cup - 

Well, I certainly had this team read wrong.  After a series of sputters in the opening rounds of the 2015 World Cup, the US Women's National Team flipped the switch when they needed it most, successfully getting better as the quarters rolled into the semis and eventually the final.  Saving their best for last, the ladies steamrolled Japan in Vancouver on Sunday, racing out to a remarkable 4-0 lead after only the first quarter of an hour. Leaving no way back for the defending champs, the US waltzed home with a 5-2 win to claim their elusive third star and first world crown in 16 years.
Lloyd was unstoppable on the game's greatest stage.
The star of the show, and indeed the tournament, was midfielder Carli Lloyd.  Captain Carli was, for 16 minutes, the best soccer player in the world - man or woman.  She scored the first two goals of the match off of early set pieces, knocking Japan to the canvas before they ever really got into the flow of the game, and was seemingly everywhere.  Behind her example, the US pushed again and again, collecting a third goal only a few minutes later (a divine strike, off a high volley).  At that point, already up 3-0 in the 15th minute, all that was left was a moment of pure madness.  Carli delivered, abusing the flung forward Japanese defense with a 50-yard howitzer strike that left Telemundo announcer Andres Cantor screaming 'GOOOOOOOOOL' for a full 38 seconds.  A hat trick and world title wrapped up in barely more than 15 minutes; pretty damn impressive. Deservedly, both for her efforts in Vancouver and tournament as a whole, Lloyd was awarded the golden ball for being the Cup's most outstanding player.

What made the performance this weekend all the more astonishing is that it came on the heels of what I thought for sure would go down as the team's best game of the tournament - a near perfect 2-0 take down of the favored Germans last Tuesday.  It was Carli Lloyd here as well, scoring the game's first goal from the spot, and assisting on the other.  Beyond simply her efforts, however, the US stifled the normally effusive German team, constantly pressuring while playing fast and loose with the ball.   Creativity abounded, and the team had never looked better this summer.  That the Americans were able to one-up that performance in the final boggles the mind.
The old adage - 'talent will out' - certainly applies here.  The US proved they're the best team on the planet.
All credit to head coach Jill Ellis here.  The audible grumbles from those, like myself, who don't make the women's game a permanent fixture in their sporting landscape didn't seem to phase her, and she quietly made the adjustments necessary as the tournament wound down to put the US in the best position possible.  The results are magnificent - the statement title, glowing praise from around the country, and a new ratings record for the sport.  Can't do much better than that.

Congrats to the team on bringing back the trophy to home soil, and, if not supplanting the famous '99ers, at least joining them on the face of the sport's Mt Rushmore.

The Basketball Tournament tips off this week - 

Catching up on a story that has been sorely under-reported on these pages, The Basketball Tournament finally gets underway this week. For those who don't know, TBT is your basic open application pro-am 5-on-5 tournament.  There's a cash prize for the winners ($1 million), and the final is shown on ESPN.  For BasketBuffs, there is even a CU-centric entrant, helpfully called Colorado, who stand in good position to make a push.
Finally, some hoops to break up the monotony of summer.
Colorado is in this, primarily, due to the efforts of walk-on legend Beau Gamble, who has spent the first half of this year drumming up support and recruiting a chock-full roster.  The bracket is mostly filled out by social media juice, and he's been successful in not only getting his team a spot in the mini-dance, but a first round bye, as well.

Gamble has managed to assemble a team based on some of the best that recent CU Basketball history has to offer: Jeremy Adams, Julius Ashby, Sabatino Chen, Dominique Coleman, Austin Dufault, Marcus King-Stockton, Jayson Obazuaye, Marcus Relphorde, and Dwight Thorne II... oh, and don't forget the program's all-time leading scorer, the great Richard Roby! Just having the greats back in the area and playing together has been a cool story to follow, particularly through the lens of @RyanKoenigsberg's interview series; here, here, here, and here. Unlike many of the teams they'll be playing against, this group of former CU All-Stars can boast a close familiarity and cohesive playing style.  They fill out all the intangibles, and, by my estimation, have a decent shot at going far.
Roby, back in Black and Gold.
Colorado will start their run on Saturday against the winner of Team 23 and the West Coast Ronin.  Should they win their first game, the psuedo-Buffs could face familiar nemesis Michael Lyons and the Air Force Bomb Squad for the right to advance to the Super 17 regional in Chicago.  Looking at the rosters, and factoring in bias, I think these former Buffs have a great chance to do just that.

The opening games are all played at the Eagle's Nest Gymnasium at Cal State Los Angeles.  If you're in the area, you can check them out, with good seats still available.  Short of that, you can also support the team by 'becoming a fan' on their team page and popping for some merch here.

Sale vs Buehrle, exactly as advertised - 

I leave you today with a personal note.  You may have missed - and I wouldn't be surprised if you did - the Monday night pitcher's duel taking place last night on the SouthSide of Chicago.  White Sox legend Mark Buehrle was back in town wearing Toronto colors, facing off against new hotness Chris Sale.  Sale, for his part, was on the verge of major league history, attempting to strike out double-digit batters in a game for the 9th consecutive start.  What ensued was a throwback affair, one of those beautiful moments of old school baseball that you rarely see anymore.
Blink and you'll miss it - Buehrle and Sale going head-to-head. From: ESPNChicago
With rain threatening to spoil the whole thing, My Sox eked out a 4-2 win, buoyed by a startling three-run eighth inning (all unearned). The story, however, was the pitchers.  Sale and Buehrle threw every single one of the game's 212 pitches thrown, seemingly making every toss as a direct shot across the bow of the other. This was as intimate as a pitching matchup gets, with the former apprentice Sale looking to upstage his mentor. And, true to form, the two wasted nary a second getting in their work. Total game time: a brisk 1:54 (including about five to ten minutes for replay reviews).  That's hardly enough time to finish the ubiquitous Miller and Polish that makes White Sox baseball what it is! You just don't see that kind of thing anymore - both pitchers finishing what they started despite giving up some runs, and blazing through the game with reckless abandon.

No, a record wasn't set, with Chris only netting six of the required ten punch-outs, but two local heroes going to head-to-head in front of a feisty crowd, with each ace going the distance, has to rank up there as some of the most exciting fare the SouthSide has seen in recent years.  Even if you were just a casual baseball fan tuning in, you couldn't have asked much more from a random Monday night.  Certainly better than any 4-5 hour affair the Yankees and Red Sox have penned in recent years. If only every game could be as tasty...

Happy Tuesday!

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