The 2013 D-III Open Final in Milwaukee, WI paired the top-seeded University of Puget Sound Postmen up against the underdog, Middlebury Pranksters. What unfolded next during the finale of the D-III Open season between these two teams is the stuff of legends.
Coverage presented by Spin Ultimate.Feature Image – Nick Lindeke (Ultiphotos.com)
Co-written by Ryan Thompson, Robyn Fennig, Kami Groom, and Adam Lerman and presented by Spin Ultimate.
Freshman Monisha White (Stanford) goes up for the D against Northeastern (Nick Lindeke - Ultiphotos)
Northwestern over UCSB: By the time this game came around, both teams had already pulled one key upset against Georgia Dawgma, the third seed in the pool; they were playing for a spot in prequarters. Although Northwestern jumped out to an early 5-2 lead, the game was close for most of the way, with the difference in score rarely exceeding one point. Ultimately, the game was determined by the usual: team defense and clean offensive possessions. Both teams ran zone for most of the game, and Northwestern was better able to handle the pressure than UCSB, who simply had too many forced and unforced errors. Northwestern was also much better equipped to handle man-to-man matchups; they shut down Thompson and contained Pitcaithley, while Hoffmann ran rampant for Gung Ho. The combination of these factors led to a Northwestern upset victory on universe point, a win which propelled them into prequarters.
Northeastern over Stanford: The Lady Valkyries came in to the tournament as the 17th seed, but they were not intimidated by the teams ranked ahead of them – playing two universe point games against Stanford and Minnesota. They victory over Stanford was inspired, as the rode a 5 point run that spanned halftime to give them an insurmountable lead. With the wind picking up, Northeastern’s zone and clam defenses took them from a 4-6 deficit to a 9-6 lead, and while Stanford would tie it up again, Northeastern had more composure and the confidence to attack down the field with aggressive throws over Stanford’s clam. It was a very impressive win for the second team out of the New England region.
Iowa State: Iowa State came into the tournament seeded 3rd and a favorite for the overall title – but they were just a single point from not even making prequarters. They were plagued throughout the tournament by their lack of depth and defensive firepower – their top four or five players could score with ease on offense, but they lacked the defensive fundamentals and intensity to slow down other team’s playmakers. Cassie Swafford and Nina Finley ran over them in their loss to Ohio State, and Alika Johnston repeatedly took Becca Miller up the line as Virginia came back to upset Woman Scorned. In the end they were able to beat Central Florida 16-15 and secure a place in prequarters, but they followed it up by blowing a lead to a fresher British Columbia squad and a determined Crystal Koo – another player who could not be slowed down by Iowa State.
Most Exciting Games:
Washington vs Minnesota (prequarters):Washington came out hot, and Minnesota looked flat. After half, Minnesota exploded. Everything was working. A 4-point defecit became a universe point game! The Natalie Depalma to Sarah Meckstroth connection could not be stopped. But other people stepped up in huge ways for the Ninjas, like Sarah “Anchovy” Anciaux’s ridiculous sky grab over the pack. It was an exciting game, filled with fire and emotion from both teams.
Iowa State vs Central Florida:Iowa State looked like they were in control, but UCF styed so poised and close throughout. Sunny Harris’ defensive performance and Mariel Hammond’s second half grabs kept the Sirens within striking distance. These teams battled it out to the very last throw of the last point, with bids, skies, big plays, and hucks.
Whitman vs Central Florida: On universe point, both teams had several great chances to win the game. Central Florida worked the disc to 10 yards out before Whitman got a block on the goal line. Whitman looked to have the game won, but their receiver dropped a wide-open huck in the endzone. Finally, 12 minutes past the hard cap horn, Whitman converted for the 13-12 win.
Best One-Game Performance (Team):
Oregon (finals): With their blowout victory against Carleton in the finals, Oregon left no doubt that they were the best team in the nation. The thing is … Oregon’s performance in the finals was really no different than their other performances. They stuck to their game, a game of fast-paced transitions, frequent hucks, and fundamental defense. Their defense– both in man and junk– was especially relentless. From highlight worthy layout D’s to smart matchups, Oregon’s defense allowed them to play free on offense, to contain the big cutters from Carleton, and in the end, to dominate, taking the championship by a score of 15-7.
Carleton (semifinals): Carleton put together a complete game in the semi. Their handlers, led by Julia Snyder and Anna Reed, held possession easily and took high-percentage shots downfield. Flannery McArdle was unstoppable on the receiving end, scoring 8 goals. And Carleton’s defense was able to contain Ohio State’s star handler Paige Soper, limiting her to no assists and a single goal.
Minnesota (prequarters): Minnesota’s adjustments out of half rattled Element’s poised, confident handlers. Sarah Meckstroth ate up everything deep, and the transition offense challenged Washington’s players to make big plays in order to pull out a win. Minnesota didn’t win the game, but they played a fantastic game to push Washington to the brink.
Best One-Game Performance (Individual):
Flannery McArdle (Carleton, semifinals): If Flannery McArdle proved one thing at this year’s College Championships, it’s that she knows how to make herself available for her handlers. In Carleton’s semi-final against Ohio State, McArdle always seemed to be open, snatching discs from the air, catching discs on the breakside, and scoring goal after goal after goal. In fact, she scored # of her team’s 15 points, helping Syzygy to secure the victory and a spot in the finals. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, she did all of this on a hurting knee.
Alika Johnston (Virginia, vs Iowa State): Johnston is only a sophomore, but she played this game with the composure and savvy of a five-year veteran. Virginia never panicked as Iowa State rose out to an early three point lead, and Johnston played fantastic offense from the handler spot to possess the disc, break the mark, and throw beautiful hucks for scores. Despite being guarded by Becca Miller and Magon Liu, she repeatedly got the disc and played nearly turnover-free offense, facilitating to her teammates and always being available above stall 6 when her teammates needed a bailout or a crucial upline cut into a power position or for a goal. Johnston put Hydra on her back and they rode her fantastic performance to a 15-13 victory. Expect a lot more from her the next two to three years!
Sunny Harris (Central Florida, vs Whitman): As the game reached 12-12 at the hard cap, Harris (9 assists, 1 goal) had been involved in almost every Central Florida score. She then came up with two big blocks on universe point, but it wasn’t quite enough for Central Florida to pull out the win.
Cassie Swafford (Ohio State) goes over Julia Snyder in semis (Alex Fraser - Ultiphotos)
Sophie Darch (Oregon)
Lien Hoffmann (Northwestern)
Barbara Hoover (Washington)
Sarah Meckstroth (Minnesota)
Julia Snyder (Carleton)
Cassie Swafford (Ohio State)
Chelsea Twohig (Iowa)
All Underclass Team:
Kirstie Barton (Carleton, Fr)
Nina Finley (Ohio State, Fr)
Sarah Hansen (Virginia, So)
Alika Johnston (Virginia, So)
Bethany Kaylor (Oregon, So)
Jesse Shofner (Oregon, So)
Qxhna Titcomb (Tufts, So)
Sophie Darch (Oregon)
Alika Johnston (Virginia)
Crystal Koo (British Columbia)
Julia Snyder (Carleton)
Chelsea Twohig (Iowa)
Barbara Hoover (Washington)
Flannery McArdle (Carleton)
Sarah Meckstroth (Minnesota)
Jen Nowak (Iowa)
Lisa Pitcaithley (California-Santa Barbara)
Bailey Zahniser smothers Liza Minor on the mark (Nick Lindeke - Ultiphotos)
Lien Hoffmann (Northwestern)
Anna Pritchard (Iowa)
Chelsea Twohig (Iowa)
Bailey Zahniser (Oregon)
Morgan Zajonc (Oregon)
Best Of Stats:
Triple Doubles: Last year Catherine Hui (UBC) went 15+ G/A/D, but nobody hit that this year. Sarah Meckstroth was closest (22/14/20), while Lien Hoffmann (17/12/19) and Sarah Hansen (15/10/10) also got triple-doubles.
Plus/Minus: Meckstroth (+35), Barbara Hoover (+29), Hoffmann (+27), Cami Nelson (+27), Cassie Swafford (+26), Kayla Ramirez (Texas, +24), Julia Snyder (+23), Liza Minor (Iowa, +22), Bethany Kaylor (+22), Lisa Pitcaithley (+21), Magon Liu (Iowa State, +21), Mariel Hammond (UCF, +21), Lorraine Guerin (Wisconsin, +20), and Marlena Hartman-Filson (Carleton, +20) were all +20 or better.
Assist/Turnover Ratio: For players with more than 10 assists, the best assist to turnover ratio goes to Kayla Ramirez of Texas (2.8). Followed by Swafford (1.82), Nelson (1.79), Laura Fradin (Tufts, 1.67), Liu (1.64), Kaylor (1.54), Minor (1.42), Snyder (1.32), Paige Soper (Ohio State, 1.2), Rena Kawabata (UBC, 1.14), Finley (1.1), Pitcaithley (1.09).
Most Impactful (Assists+Turnovers): For some players, assists and turnovers don’t tell the whole story of the responsibility placed on these handlers to lead their teams. Sunny Harris led in A+T with 68, outdistancing Sophie Darch and Amanda Kostic (both with 53) by quite a bit. Michela Meister (Stanford, 52), Twohig (52), Snyder (51), Johnston (48), Claudia Tajima (Tufts, 46), Natalie DePalma (Minnesota, 46), and Pitcaithley (44) round out the top 10.
After the whirlwind that was the 2013 College Championships finally settled, Skyd got a chance to talk shop with 2013 Callahan winner, Dylan Freechild.
Skyd: What exactly does the Callahan award mean to you? Is it a reward for all the hard work this season and previous seasons? Or just a nice bit of recognition?
Dylan Freechild: Everybody plays the game a little different from one and other and everybody puts importance on different parts of the game. People’s skills differ based on what aspect of Ultimate we are talking about. The fact that my formula of how to attack the game (mentally, physically, and emotionally) is what my peers deemed the most valuable for a team is something I can’t even wrap my mind around. I am by no means the best at everything. I am not even the best at one thing. But through hours and hours of playing, thinking, strategizing, developing, and working with different teams, players, and coaches, I have created something that works for me. So, it is simply an honor to have been named the 2013 Callahan Award winner.
Were you surprised when your name was called to win the 2013 Callahan Award?
I was more relieved. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t something I thought about every so often. I think all the finalists probably did and although I don’t think it took away from practices or my game or anything of that sort, it certainly occupied a small place in my head. That relief would’ve occurred regardless of who had won. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if any of the guys standing next to me had been called out. I think Brian, Jimmy, Tyler, and myself had all done enough to give ourselves a chance at winning. I just wanted to stay positive and confident about what I had done and just hoped my name would be called come Sunday. With all that said, of course I was surprised. By no means did I head into that ceremony believing I was going to win. So even though I felt like I had a chance, it was definitely a little surreal to hear them call out “the University of Oregon.”
There were a lot of great nominees this year, what do you think set you apart?
I am not exactly sure. I think that is a question you would have to ask the people who voted for me. Everybody had something going for them. I think Tyler was the best player on the best team; although it was hard to say before semifinals who the best team was. I think Jimmy has the best ability to take over a game.
2013 Callahan Nominee Finalists (from left to right) Jimmy Mickle, Brian Hart, Dylan Freechild, and Tyler Degirolamo pose for a picture before the announcement of the 2013 Callahan Award winner. Photo Courtesy - Alex Fraser (Ultiphotos.com)
Brian was clearly the heart and soul of Wisconsin (again, people couldn’t quite see that importance until he got injured at nationals) and was one of the best defenders I’ve faced. Will and Jacob have both not only had to carry the load on the field but have done tremendous jobs as leaders of their entire program. I think I am blessed to be on a great team that puts me in position to make plays and to do it on the biggest stage. I am blessed to have a coach that allows my personality to be expressed on and off the field. Lastly, I am lucky to be what I think is a pretty diverse player.
Do you think playing youth ultimate helped you achieve success in college and club? Or was it the coaching and structure of the college game (as compared to youth) that really allowed for you to succeed? Or both?
Playing youth Ultimate has definitely helped me. I think there is a direct parallel between times played and refined skills/knowledge for the game. Obviously some people are naturally more athletic or pick up the game faster but if you put time in you get results. When I was younger and playing youth Ultimate I craved watching older and better players. I constantly went to Club tournaments to watch and I treasured my time playing pick up with Ego players. This helped me to see what was effective in higher level games. It also allowed me to work on skills that aren’t necessary for success, but can give you an upper hand against competition that haven’t honed the same [skills]. Of course my biggest jumps in improvement have come from U20 Worlds, my first year on Ego, and my first year with Rhino. The learning curve was just much higher than what I was previously used to. So, coaching and structure of higher level Ultimate and playing youth Ultimate have both been vital in my development as a player.
Freechild celebrates an Oregon Ego break at 2013 College Nationals the only way he knows how, by drumming on an overturned trash can. The coaching and structure (and comradery) of college ultimate, coupled with youth experience, gave Freechild the tools for success. Image Courtesy - Alex Fraser (Ultiphotos.com)
You now have a target on your back. Every team you play will know who you are and put their best defender up against you. How do you plan to counteract this to continue to have success during the rest of your college career? And beyond?
Well I play with a small chip on my shoulder anyway and I think that that has always given me an advantage against any defender. I don’t take any matchup lightly and I respect the defender that is assigned to me and I take what is given to me. I think that is the best way to react towards defensive match ups and nothing will change there. The pressure of already being named a Callahan Award winner will definitely be something to deal with. But with new publications such as Skyd and Ultiworld and constant streaming of games, players in the last four years have become subject to a lot of scrutiny and/or praise and it is a mildly new aspect of Ultimate that players have to deal with. I have already dealt with different pressures and I can’t say I have succeed all the time but I am getting better at it. If anything being recognized on this level affirms my self-confidence and keeps me working towards something greater and doesn’t make me scared of performing or what others might think. I am going to have to continue to work hard on and off the field; harder in fact. I’m going to need to ask more questions, question more answers, apply new strategies and techniques through trial and error, becomes faster and stronger, and see if I can keep giving my opponents new and efficient looks that can hopefully stand the test of time (the duration of my playing and possible coaching career).
Plans to play club this summer, outside of NexGen?
I’ll be playing with Rhino this summer, I hope. I am not entirely sure yet because of money, but it won’t be anywhere else.
Ok, final question is an easy, random one. Headed to my first Potlach this year, what’s a good, silly game to play on the sidelines/during a timeout?
I don’t have any good potlatch games! I wish I did. I never think those up and currently can’t remember any of the fun ones I have played. Sad that I am missing Potlatch. Have a good time!
I’m currently writing an article previewing what the D-I College open scene will look like next year. Although a lot of information (regarding rosters and returning players) can be found from looking at the event guide from this past weekend’s College Championships, there are some things that can’t be known without actually talking to the teams. For instance, which players that have just finished their senior year will be returning to use their fifth year of eligibility? The Ultimate world just observed what kind of an effect fifth year players can have, with Degirolamo and Thorne helping Pitt win a second consecutive national championship. These players can often make a team, but it is impossible to know this information purely from speculation.
I’ve emailed most of the top teams from this past year asking which (if any) of their players will be returning for a fifth year, but as of yet have only heard back from about half of them. The teams I still need to hear from are:
If anyone from these teams would be so kind as to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, it would be incredibly helpful and I will love you forever.