Ohio State vs. Carleton
In a rematch of the 2013 semifinals, Ohio State Fever will be the heavy favorite this time around against a scrappy Carleton Syzygy team. Ohio State is the deepest team in the country, and they haven’t lost a game since their first tournament of the season in January, Florida Warm Up. Cassie Swafford and Paige Soper are the calm and the storm behind Fever, with Swafford always in control of the game and the offense and Soper always ready to explode with a huge play, great cut, big bid, or aggressive throw. They have very capable handlers supporting them, as well as a cadre of dominant receivers, which allows both Swafford and Soper to float around the field as handlers, cutters, and playmakers.
For Carleton, the key will be freeing Julia Snyder and getting her the disc with her defender trailing. Kirstie Barton, Sarah Robinson, and Lucia Childs-Walker will be asked to break the mark to Snyder in the open field so she can launch hucks to streaking receivers. Emily Buckner will likely be deployed on Soper to stymie her with an aggressive and long mark, while a variety of person, zone, and junk defenses will be deployed to keep Ohio State guessing.
Carleton won the matchup last year and made it to finals, but this Ohio State team is deeper and more complete than last year. Carleton is can’t match up with Ohio State consistently, which means that Ohio State should always have open looks. Prediction: Ohio State advances to semifinals with a 15-10 win.
Oregon vs. Virginia
Hydra is a scrappy team, led by Alika Johnston (Scandal), Sarah Hansen, Theresa Hackett, and Michelle DeRieux. Through pool play, Johnston had the third most assists at the tournament with 21, and she is an incredibly dynamic handler who seems to always get free when her team needs a reset, frequently upline. Hackett and Hansen are her favorite receivers, with 13 and 12 goals through pool play respectively. DeRieux is her capable lieutenant, moving the disc around the field as a handler and making sure that the disc gets to Johnston when Hydra is in trouble. However, while Virginia has a future Callahan contender in Johnston and several strong receivers, they’re raw and turn the disc over too much to beat an elite team.
And just Virginia’s luck, but they’re going up against Oregon tomorrow morning, who is the definition of an elite team. Fugue will push the pace relentlessly and punish every Virginia mistake with an endzone look. Playing Oregon is a mental and physical struggle, as Fugue’s depth and talent means that wave after wave of aggressive defenders and skilled throwers will stretch the field and make life miserable for opponents. Sophie Darch is the orchestrator of Oregon’s offense, but Jesse Shofner is the engine. They power the disc downfield, and Alex Ode’s lockdown defense gives Fugue so many opportunities for breaks. Against Stanford, Adrienne Bovee made her case for being one of the tournament’s dominant receivers, and she’ll have another chance to show that tomorrow in quarterfinals – and semifinals.
Prediction: Oregon runs out big winners over Virginia, 15-8.
Central Florida vs. Michigan
The Central Florida Sirens have been one of the most dominant teams at the tournament so far, riding Sunny Harris, Mariel Hammond, and a suffocating zone defense to an easy perch atop Pool C. While Michigan may have been able to wear down UCSB’s stars in prequarters, Harris and Hammond have shown no signs of slowing down this tournament or this season, and they’re capable of playing at 100% late into games, despite playing nearly every point. On defense they patrol the downfield space, covering so much ground that they allow four players to pressure the handlers. On offense they are patient and wait for their shots, or they dink and dunk the disc between each other when the going gets tough.
Both are capable as handlers and receivers, but Harris opens up the field much more with her hucks. The rest of the squad is capable and resilient, playing their roles with confidence. UCF believes that they can win this tournament and are not afraid to say so – they’re the only team to beat Ohio State this year, and a universe point loss to Oregon at Stanford Invite shows that they can play with the Northwest’s best too.
Michigan has a strong set of veterans as well, and Meeri Chang should welcome a shot at Central Florida’s zone defense tomorrow morning. Chang and Hannah Henkin will be instrumental if Flywheel can force UCF out of their zone looks and into defenses that force Harris and Hammond to move around the field more. Theresa Zettner will need to have another big defensive game tomorrow, fresh off of covering Lisa Pitcaithley, and will likely be matched up against Mariel Hammond. But Central Florida gives up the disc less frequently than Santa Barbara, is deeper than Santa Barbara, and is more capable of gritting out long points.
For Flywheel, this is a difficult but not impossible matchup. If Becky Moore and JJ Jarik can make big plays downfield against the zone, it will open up a lot of space for fast breaks and big throws for goals. But Central Florida will apply plenty of pressure on Michigan, and it will likely just be too much. Prediction: Michigan puts up a fight, but can’t hang with Central Florida. UCF wins, 15-11.
Washington vs. British Columbia
This Northwest rematch showcases two teams that are very, very familiar with each other. Washington is strong at the top with Amanda Kostic and Lucy Williams behind the disc, Shira Stern floating around doing everything, and Barbara Hoover and Alysia Letourneau stretching the field as cutters. Converted D1 varsity soccer player Molly Boyd has come on strong for Washington at the end of this season on both ends of the disc, and she’ll likely spend a large portion of her time tomorrow stuck to Mira Donaldson. Letourneau is one of the country’s most underrated and overlooked cutters, and her propensity for earning huge chunks of yards and making great grabs has frequently gone unnoticed. The top players on Washington frequently cause matchup problems for their opponents.
But both Washington and British Columbia are teams that run hot and cold. Washington can be their own worst enemy, throwing unnecessary aggressive shots downfield, turfing open throws, and having mind-boggling mental lapses on defense. With UBC, you never know which Thunderbirds team is going to show up – the impressively deep team of skilled ultimate players who can all throw and catch, or the stagnant and nervous team that can’t advance the disc unless they’re throwing up jump balls to Mira Donaldson. British Columbia is young, with lots of potential, but with that comes a streaky nature that has already revealed itself at this tournament – after crushing Colorado 15-5 on Friday, they lost 13-14 to Northeastern in an incredibly sloppy game.
When UBC is clicking, Terynn Chan, Laurel Jay, and Devra Waldman are hitting Donaldson in open space and confidently breaking zone defenses and charging down the field. Their freshmen stretch the field as cutters and pick up the disc after turnovers – Leah Mulholland, Vic McCann, Naomi Johnson, and Jessica Chung all had a great game against Carleton in the final round of pool play. Donaldson is the key for the Thunderbirds, as her length, throws, and field vision open up so many opportunities for UBC’s offense, while her height and athleticism often win the disc back for UBC after turnovers.
This quarterfinal should be the most interesting of the day – if the right UBC team shows up. They’ll have difficultly matching up against all of Element’s stars, but Washington has yet to play a game where they don’t cough up the disc every so often. Prediction: Washington ekes out a win over their regional rivals, 15-13.