By: Anneke Vermaak
You may have heard the saying, “Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.” This sums up the action from the opening day of the College Championships. Ohio State (17) almost upset Stanford (1). Ohio State was up 5-1 against Stanford at one point. Later, Stanford went on a seven-point run out of half, eventually taking the game 12-7. Colorado Kali also gave Stanford a run for their money; another almost. To finish the day, Texas (4) almost held seed against UBC (5) – but lost on double-game point.
Stanford Superfly (1) v. Colorado Kali (8)
The game started sloppy, and the game ended sloppy – but what was in between was some of the best ultimate you could ask for. Stanford ran their system like a machine; their vertical stack looked like clockwork. That is, until the cog that was Kali got in the way. But first, Kali had some jitters to get out. They suffered in the beginning with their drops and missed connections – swings, away shots, unders – you name it. They could not connect. While Stanford’s defense was intense from the get-go, what kept Kali in the game was that they brought up their defensive intensity to match Stanford’s. Kali pressured the under cuts, generating several Ds in the first half. Once they finally got into the offensive hang of things, they played with veteran patience. When Stanford first implemented a zone, Kali struggled. But then they shined. They were calm, they moved the disc quickly but without rushing, and had upwards of 20 touches just through movement in the red zone. Kali was content with as many as it took. Kelsey Bennett and Jessie Chesnut moved their marks with fakes, opening gaps in the cup to hit poppers downfield. Despite Kali’s chill play, good fakes and ability to utilize the break-side spaces, the poppers failed to stretch the field deep. Stanford succeeded at swinging the disc, getting it off the line and patiently waiting for something in the end zone to open up. Kali, on the other hand, was better at the slow, calm zone offense. When the defense switched to person, Kali struggled to hit hands that were open off quick swings because they would force the throw.
Stanford took half 8-7, but as they walked back to the tent, they looked like the defeated team. Kali was dancing and singing going into their break because they were excited to have a game this tight. They were having fun. This was the sort of energy that, if it could be kept up, would earn them an upset. But Friday was a day of “close.” Stanford took the game 13-11 because they stuck to their system and stayed disciplined while hitting open hands.
Dartmouth (2) v. Notre Dame (7)
Notre Dame Womb failed to play consistently against Dartmouth. Some points would be clean, up-the-open-side offense. But on other O points, their players looked noticeably uncomfortable with the disc and struggled to get a reset off the line and held onto the disc too long, forcing bailout throws which Dartmouth happily converted into breaks. Womb also struggled to contain Dartmouth on defense. Out of half, Notre Dame tried a zone look. However, either because of a lack of communication or a miscommunication about a transition to person defense, Notre Dame left an unguarded Jaclyn Verzuh in the end zone. With Angela Zhu’s blade forehands, mistakes like that proved fatal for Womb. Overall, Notre Dame looked tired. Their often-stagnant offense and a failure to run through the disc were the nails in their coffin.
A step above, Womb’s future co-captain Sarah Lipscomb had some of the most athletic grabs, defense and cutting of any athlete on the field. Lipscomb seemed to be everywhere on the field and kept Notre Dame in the game as much as they were. One of the notable match ups from the day was Notre Dame’s Callahan nominee, Julia Butterfield, and Verzuh. At one point, Butterfield scored on Verzuh with a turn-the-page cut for a bladey forehand; the next point Verzuh scored on Butterfield with a similar bladey flick from Zhu. However, Butterfield struggled to maintain her presence in the game between knee issues and battling fatigue.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame’s energy did not match that of their sideline. The Notre Dame men’s team and the women’s team parents dominated the away sideline of the showcase field, displaying the energy the team lacked. Womb would fall to Princess Layout 15-6.
Tufts (10) v. Michigan (15)
Michigan was up on Tufts 6-5. Overheard on the sideline: “Let me put it this way – the score is close, but Michigan is definitely beating them.” Tufts came out hot on offense to begin the game. They scored so easily that it seemed like Tufts would be setting the pace for the entire game. EWO’s Jojo Emerson was connecting on her deep shots and capitalized on give-go movement, getting breakside hucks off before the Flywheel mark could set. But Tufts suffered when they held onto the disc too long – if Flywheel could shut down Tufts for even just five stall counts, it would most likely result in a turnover. So that was exactly what Michigan continued to do. Where Tufts tried setting the pace of the game with their lightning offense, Michigan ultimately defined the game through their intense defense. After generating Ds, Michigan took advantage of the turns and gave Tufts a taste of their own medicine – movement so quick the defense did not get a chance to catch up. By maintaining their relentless defense and aggressive offense, Michigan upset Tufts 15-9.
One of the best plays of the game came from Michigan’s Callahan nominee, Tracey Lo, busting deep while simultaneously maintaining her positioning against a towering Tufts player that was bodying her. The 5’3” senior held her own, skying the Tufts player and then throwing a buttery inside forehand for the assist.
Texas (4) v. British Columbia (5)
The first half of the game saw poor decisions and poor execution from both teams. At this point in the afternoon, the wind had picked up quite a bit. Melee and the Thunderbirds must have felt the pressure of playing on the showcase field because they were each taking deep shots – sometimes to no apparent cutter, and sometimes the throw just could not connect. Both teams struggled to throw upwind and with shots that sailed too far out of reach for the downwind receivers. If this half could be defined by one point, it would be this: Texas is 20 yards out from the downwind end zone. Domenica Sutherland hucks a backhand to the corner – only to be blocked by a UBC player. The UBC player then picks up the disc and hucks it upwind, where Naomi Morcilla skies a Texas player and gets the assist. UBC takes half and finally the game, 14-13.
- Stanford’s Thomson #3 learned from her earlier mistake reading the disc in the crosswind against Colorado Kali, and the second time she found herself in that scenario, she read it perfectly, skying teammate Courtney Gegg and Kali players.
- Carleton Syzygy handblocked Pittsburgh’s Carolyn Normile twice in only three points.
- One of Carleton College Syzygy’s top O-line handlers, senior Claire Rostov, tore her ACL in a practice leading up to Nationals.