By: Sarah Judd
The story of day one at the 2018 College Championships: don’t take anyone for granted, except maybe Dartmouth. A sunny, hot day with varying levels of wind proved that almost anything can happen on the national stage, and that in the month since regionals, things have indeed changed.
Starting out the day in Pool A was Dartmouth v. Tufts, the one and two seeds of the pool, but there was never any question in this game. The number one seed and defending champion showed up this morning against their regional rival, starting the game on a 6-0 run and taking half 8-1. Tufts threw multiple defensive looks, but Dartmouth’s steady handlers shredded each in turn. When Tufts did earn blocks, they couldn’t convert into scores. Through the second half of the game, Dartmouth seemed to be opening up lines, but while this lengthened points, it did not significantly impact Tufts’ scoring ability. Dartmouth ended up closing out the game 15-4.
Simultaneously, Colorado was playing West Chester in a much closer, and much messier, game. On the first point alone, there were six turns, but Kali managed to put in the goal and then seemed to get their groove going. They went on a 5-1 run, but after two West Chester breaks, Colorado took half at just 8-5. In the second half, it seemed as though West Chester’s Lindsay McKenna was trying to will her team to a victory. She factored in almost every score, including an upwind hammer break on game point (taking West Chester to 14-11) followed by a layout D on the mark directly into an up-line cut for the score (taking West Chester to 14-12) before Kali managed to put in an O point to finish the game. Kali had the depth to take them to a win, but McKenna was doing her very best to make it difficult for them.
This theme continued in Pool A. Colorado barely squeaked out an 11-10 win over California-Santa Barbara in their second game of the day, on double-game point. UCSB came out of the gate raring to go and took half 8-4. Coming out of half, Kali seemed to have refocused and threw a weird zone that UCSB could not react to. They ended up forcing hucks that Kali ate up in the backfield and converted to breaks. Kali received on double-game point, and Kelsey Bennett threaded the disc to Nhi Nguyen to seal the game.
In a similar vein, Tufts’ second game against West Chester was a roller coaster. West Chester started on offense and, with a 2-1 lead, broke upwind to make it 3-1 in the first 10 minutes of the game. After a Tufts handler fumble, West Chester broke again downwind to make it 4-1 before taking half 8-5. A different Tufts team seemed to emerge out of half. Throwing various zone D looks, Tufts scored nine out of 11 points directly following halftime and ended up winning the game 15-11. Hannah Crowley notched seven goals, while Megan Wilson tacked on six assists. The comeback was super clutch for Tufts, who, for a moment, looked as though they might start out the tournament 0-2 (a start they instead pushed on to West Chester).
In the last game of the day in Pool A, Dartmouth notched another resounding win over California-Santa Barbara. There was no let up to their dominance, as they dictated seemingly every moment of the game. UCSB, on the other hand, joined West Chester with a 0-2 start to the weekend.
Texas showed up ready to go on their first day of Nationals. In their first game, against Western Washington Chaos, they notched a solid 15-10 win. In a not-insignificant wind, Texas’ four-person cup easily created break opportunities, and Chaos’ offense was true to their name, shooting late-stall deep looks instead of calm resets. In the first half, a four-break run for Texas effectively sealed Chaos’ fate by closing out the half 8-5 for Melee. Out of half, both teams struggled to execute efficient offense, but Texas managed to stay the course and won by five.
In their second game, against the pool’s top seed, California-San Diego, Texas seemed to have both a renewed energy and a calmer offensive line. Perhaps they got rid of Nationals jitters in their first game, but this Texas team came out focused, smooth and ready to fight. They started the game with a 3-0 run and took half 8-3. Even after UCSD’s zone looks, Texas proved their handler set was steady and unruffled. Although UCSD managed to pull themselves together in the second half, they couldn’t faze Texas, who ended up taking the game 15-9.
In their first game of the day, UCSD managed to beat Michigan in a gritty, messy game. The Psychos went up to start, but Michigan broke back to tie at threes. UCSD responded with a break and took control of the half at 8-5. Out of half, the Psychos went on another three-point run to make it 11-5, but none of these points were first-possession offensive scores. Although Michigan created tons of break chances for themselves, they were apt to huck the disc away. UCSD came away with a 15-7 win, but without having played up to their potential.
In Michigan’s second game of the day, against Carleton College Syzygy, they were able to refine their energy and effectively use it to come out with a win. The pool’s fifth seed led early on, before Carleton College broke just before half. Carleton College was able to break again at a high-pressure moment, to tie the game at 11-11. Tight, intense person defense was the name of the game, with both Michigan and Carleton College making big defensive plays. With Michigan receiving on double-game point (tied at 12s), Brittany Wright calmly picked up the disc and hucked to Amy Stoddard, who grabbed the disc and sealed Michigan’s win
The win came after Carleton College’s sound victory over Western Washington, leaving Pool B in an interesting position. Michigan, the pool’s fifth seed, currently sits in the third spot, while Carleton College faces elimination, unless they can beat either Texas or UCSD tomorrow. At that point, depending on tomorrow’s Michigan v. Texas result, Pool B could go to point differential to determine who makes it to bracket play – but it wouldn’t be the College Championships if there weren’t high stakes and small margins.
Pool C is unique in that the expected is actually happening. British Columbia started out the morning against the Whitman Sweets and proved both their depth and experience. Whitman never seemed to get their energy up, and UBC was able to shred through the Whitman defense seemingly at will. In the wind, Whitman was unable to pull effectively, and UBC capitalized with clean, fast offense. UBC came away with a relatively easy 15-8 win over the Sweets.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh and North Carolina came away with 13-6 and 13-7 victories over Florida in their respective match ups. Despite their best efforts, Florida never seemed to be able to get into a rhythm and could not compete with these two teams.
In British Columbia’s second game of the day, against North Carolina, they were unable to match UNC’s depth. North Carolina threw a zone defense that UBC could not respond to, and the Pleaides converted break after break when UBC’s offensive looks failed. Jenny Wei, UNC’s Callahan finalist, played a fantastic game, but more impressive was the way in which North Carolina’s entire team played together as a unit. Their huge team Ds created the opportunities for such a win. They ended up taking the game 15-6.
There is a reason that Pool D is sometimes called the pool of death. N.C. State opened the day with a 15-11 win over Oregon – a 16 seed upsetting a four seed. It certainly wasn’t the only upset of the day, but it might have been the biggest. Oregon just didn’t seem completely awake as the game began with a 3-1 N.C. State lead. Miscues, misthrows and quick turns allowed N.C. State to establish a lead and keep it throughout the game. They took half 8-6, and continued the pressure through the second half and to a 15-11 win. Ashley Powell was a constant open reset for N.C. State, and no Oregon defensive look seemed able to shut down their system.
Simultaneously, Ohio State triumphed over Cornell in a 15-4 match up. Stanford shortly followed suit, taking care of Cornell, 15-3. In that same round, Ohio State played a close game against N.C. State. Where N.C. State had previously been able to run their calm, reset-focused offense against Oregon, Ohio State threw defensive looks that seemed to throw off N.C. State much more. Oregon threw junk looks and a zone defense against a calm N.C. State team, while Ohio State’s fierce person defense seemed to fluster the North Carolinians and forced turns and break opportunities. Ohio State capitalized and came away with a 13-9 win over N.C. State Jäga Monster.
In one of the last games of the day, the pool’s top seed, Stanford, took on the pool’s fourth seed, Oregon – the classic 4 v. 5 match up. In one of the more highly touted games of the day, competitive high-level play led to few break chances and a win for Stanford, thanks to their ability to convert on those chances. Stanford started on offense, and things were on serve up to 4-3, when Stanford forced a turn and worked calmly up the field to put in the break. Stanford, unlike Oregon, was conservative in their decision making and opted to reset over and over instead of forcing a riskier throw. Their caution led to few opportunities for Oregon to break in response. Stanford got two more breaks in the first half, closing it easily 8-5. A couple more breaks in the second half and Caitlin Go snagged the disc in the end zone to take the game 14-11.
In Pool D, the top seed and bottom seed seem to be firmly rooted in their places, making the race against elimination even more intense. Oregon started out the weekend 0-2, but has yet to play Ohio State, and neither N.C. State nor Ohio State has played Stanford.
If this Friday has left us with anything, it’s excitement for the rest of the weekend. Nothing is for certain, and tomorrow’s pool play games will propel some teams on to bracket play and, for others, stop their Nationals runs short. We’ll find out tomorrow!