By: Anneke Vermaak
Back in early March, Texas and Dartmouth faced off at the Stanford invite. Dartmouth defeated Texas 13-11. Three months later, they stepped onto the field again. But this time a National Championship was on the line.
Dartmouth received the opening pull, going upwind. Almost half of their 22-woman roster was rookies this year, but they ran through the usual suspects of Angela Zhu, Jaclyn Verzuh, Piper Curtis and Caitlyn Lee. The teams each held until 5-5, when Dartmouth started pulling away with a seven-point run. Even after Princess Layout had only earned two breaks, it already seemed impossible that Texas Melee would ever close the gap. Texas played the same line for 14 straight points, and they could not maintain their energy levels, particularly when working through a taxing wind.
Texas did a lot of great things in the final against Dartmouth. Their cup contained Dartmouth’s offense to the downwind sideline, and Dartmouth failed to use the width of the field. But Princess Layout felt comfortable jamming it up the force side, making tight, small throws until they could blade it over the top to Piper Curtis or Jaclyn Verzuh. Melee’s zone offense, on the other hand, successfully swung the disc off the line, keeping the disc in the middle of the field or on the high side. Texas Melee also played good end-zone offense, where they patiently swung the disc and hit open hands.
In other aspects, however, Texas struggled, which ultimately cost them the championship title. For starters, their defense was underwhelming. They generated few turns, and if Ds were made, there was almost always a foul on the throw, and the disc would go back. Texas failed to adjust their defensive strategy – even just switching the force from forehand to backhand – and their zone did little to stop Zhu’s blades and the catch-all Verzuh. Further, open-side under cuts remained largely unpressured, and Julia Schmaltz could not find position against Verzuh for deep shots.
Schmaltz made her national-level debut at Stanford Invite. And now, in only her second year of playing, she managed to rack up 38 goals and five assists this weekend. In Texas’ semifinal game against Colorado Kali alone, she had 10 of her team’s 14 goals. But in the finals, Schmaltz looked wiped out. She jogged for much of the game, looked uncomfortable bidding for discs, and Melee’s handlers struggled to connect with her downfield, particularly with the threatening presence of Verzuh in the deep space.
Apart from Texas’ objectively good play, this game highlighted the need for fire from a team. And Texas lacked fire. A large part of their missing energy was from Schmaltz. The day before, in the semifinals against Colorado, her air space remained largely uncontested, and she was exuberant. She could always get open in the end zone, and most importantly, she was explosive. But it appeared that she had not recovered.
While Texas attempted to contain the Dartmouth handlers in person defense, Zhu and Julianna Werffeli found themselves open on strike cuts, with Melee defenders trailing helplessly in their wake. Dartmouth, on the other hand, made smart switches on Melee’s give and goes, shutting down many power-position opportunities.
Finally, an upwind punt from Esparza was a turn, and Verzuh capitalized on Texas’ lack of energy by picking up the disc and hucking to a wide-open Curtis, sealing the deal on the team’s first-ever national championship. Dartmouth Princess Layout defeated Texas Melee, 15-9.
Thanks to her over-the-top grab, caught on camera: https://ultiworld.com/livewire/texas-julia-schmaltz-insane-grab-score/