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2018 College Championships: Women’s Semifinals Recap

By: Sarah Judd

Pittsburgh Danger v. Colorado Kali

In a semifinal for the books, and the second such semifinal of the day, Colorado broke to win over Pittsburgh on double-game point, 13-12. In a tight game dictated by weather delays and close points, Colorado managed to just pull ahead of the Pittsburgh squad.

On the first point, Normile asserted her dominance by skying in the end zone for the score, establishing early on her capacity for greatness against the Colorado defense. Kali returned the favor fairly easily for a 1-1 hold.

Right as the next pull went up to Pittsburgh, horns blew, signaling a weather delay because of lightning in the area. After a 45-minute intermission, the teams came back on the line to restart the game – effectively beginning a game to 14 instead of a game to 15 because each had notched a point pre-delay.

Pitt came back out on offense and put together a single-possession hold that they made look easy against Colorado’s defense. On the next point, Normile had a huge interception, then put out a huck to Lakshmi Ilango who dished it right back to Normile to get a quick under for the game’s first break. Kali responded in a multiple-turnover point full of deep looks; patient offense finally ended up working the disc into the end zone.

Scores were traded after Pittsburgh’s early break, up to 5-4. Normile saved Pitt from getting broken multiple times as the deep defender in their zone, denying the Colorado hucks, but Jessie Chesnut managed to reel in a throw from Katiana Hutchinson after an errant Pitt huck, and Colorado got their break back, tying the game at 5s.

Moments later, at almost exactly 4 p.m., the lightning horn once again sounded, signaling another weather delay. This time, storms did indeed follow, bringing rain, as well as some temperature relief from the oppressive sun and heat. Play did not resume until 5:15 p.m., with an on-serve game.

In the first point out of the delay, Pitt’s deep shot was immediately knocked away. Colorado called a timeout with the disc on the end-zone line to try and break again, but Pitt played stifling person defense, eventually leading to a stall. Normile finally got the hold for Pitt with patient offense.

With offsetting breaks, Danger took half 8-7 over Kali. Out of halftime, the teams continued on serve, although Pitt’s points were textbook offense, and Colorado had a harder time putting the disc in the end zone. On the Colorado offensive point to tie at 10s, there were eight turnovers alone, but Pittsburgh could not convert their break chances.

On the next point, Pittsburgh displayed their efficiency, scoring on their first possession. Colorado responded with a quick goal, scoring just before soft cap went off and making it a game to 13 (they were tied at 11s at the cap horn).

On the next point, Colorado tried to shake up Pitt’s offense with a zone look, but Pitt steamrolled through it, scoring easily for 12-11. Then Pitt managed to force a turn, but threw the disc away on an incomplete deep look. Colorado responded with a deep look of their own, and Jean Russell hauled in the goal to tie the game at 12s.

Double-game point. Second semifinal in a row. Normile cut up-line for her reset, and the disc slipped just out of her grasp. Kelsey Bennett picked up the disc to throw downfield. Pitt managed to get a hand on the disc, but Colorado made the catch on the second attempt. Pittsburgh got the disc back after an errant throw from Bennett, but was forced to launch a punt on a high stall when they could not find an open reset. Colorado managed to work short passes from midfield, and Bennett went up-line for the final Colorado score.

In a valiant game, both teams showed grit and determination. Colorado simply managed to hold on a little longer to take the win. Normile tallied an impressive five goals and three assists, while Bennett notched five assists and two goals of her own. Colorado Kali will meet Dartmouth tomorrow in the championship final, Kali’s first-ever program finals appearance. They will have to step up their defensive pressure to take on big-dog Dartmouth, the defending national champion in the women’s division.

Dartmouth Princess Layout v. Stanford Superfly

In perhaps the game of the tournament, Stanford fought tooth and nail against a Dartmouth squad unwilling to make unforced errors.

Dartmouth came out on offense and scored almost immediately in a first-possession offensive score from Caitlyn Lee to Jaclyn Verzuh. Stanford also held almost immediately with a huge huck and layout score on the first possession from Julia Butterfield. If you haven’t seen footage of this bid, now is the time to go watch it.

The next point was a completely different story. Stanford threw their three-person cup on Dartmouth’s handler set, taking away deep looks and forcing them to play small ball, but Dartmouth was more than willing. Eventually, Stanford managed to force an errant throw, but they were unable to convert that turn into a break. Immediately, the zone was back on. Stanford’s zone gave Dartmouth another opportunity to break, but a 50/50 ball in the end zone was picked off by Verzuh, and the cup set up once more. Dartmouth eventually managed to small ball themselves to the end zone and score, but only after giving Stanford three break chances, and playing a 25-minute third point. On this point, Stanford simultaneously demonstrated their ability to completely entrench the Dartmouth offensive system, while also failing to convert those defensive chances into breaks.

Dartmouth, on the other hand, capitalized aggressively on their next break chance. An errant throw from Stanford’s offense gave Dartmouth the disc, and Claire Trop quickly threaded the disc to Caitlyn Lee to notch the game’s first break and bring Dartmouth to a 3-1 lead over Superfly.

Although Stanford’s offense made some mistakes on the next point, giving Dartmouth another chance to break, Caitlin Go came up with a huge run-through D and found Julia Butterfield for another beautiful catch in the end zone to hold for Stanford.

Dartmouth then went on a three-point run, as Stanford threw their four-person, force-middle cup. Instead of trying for deep looks against the zone, Dartmouth took short passes and quick through-the-cup looks to score, throwing a million passes and proving they can play clean offense. Stanford managed to return with quick, one-possession offense and a break of their own, with a huge layout D, then huck from Butterfield, bringing the score to 6-4.

Stanford chose to throw another of their defensive looks: a box and one that marked Julianna Werffeli and effectively took her out of the point. Even without her, though, the handler set worked smoothly through the zone, and Caitlyn Lee found Trop in the end zone to bring the score to 7-4. A hold a piece brought Dartmouth to half, up 8-5.

Out of halftime, Dartmouth seemed content to continue playing small ball in the face of Stanford’s zone. Points were traded up to 10-7, when soft cap went on, meaning the game would be to 12. On the next point, Julianna Werffeli unleashed her defensive skills, getting a huge run-through D and then another big defensive block after Dartmouth made an errant throw. She then tossed the disc to Claire Trop, who reeled it in for the first break of the half, taking Dartmouth up 11-7 over Stanford.

Stanford called a timeout, presumably to give their players a few more seconds of rest. Off of the pull, Hallie Dunham put up a huge huck to Shayla Harris, who was somehow left alone and unguarded in the Dartmouth end zone. But on the next point, Dartmouth retaliated, playing a single-possession point to score on small passes and take the win 12-8 over an exhausted Stanford squad.

In Dartmouth’s closest win this tournament, Stanford completely dictated their offensive movement. Stanford’s defensive looks generated turns against a Dartmouth team that is not prone to errors; however, Stanford was unable to convert those turns into the necessary breaks. Dartmouth emerged victorious and will take on Colorado Kali in their second straight national finals appearance.

You can watch the defending national champions face off against unexpected first-time finalist Colorado Kali tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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