The 2011 edition of the round-robin Bellingham Invitational tournament began like most winter Bellingham days, with rain fluctuating from a light mist to a downpour. Some of the top teams in the nation gathered as Western Washington University’s Chaos played host to Skyd’s Preseason #1 Oregon Fugue, #6 University of Washington Element, #9 University of British Columbia T-Birds, and defending Division III champions Pacific Lutheran Reign. The tournament would be the first chance for these teams to play with their full squads.
The tournament was not sanctioned, and thus would not influence the USAU College Rankings or bids to Regionals or the College Championships. But that didn’t affect how teams approached their games. Oregon’s Christina Wickman kept it simple: “We went in it to win it, and [*spoiler*] that’s what we did.” UBC went in with the same goal, according to Crystal Koo and Katie Berezan: “We are playing to win this season. This was our first test to see what the season is going to be like and how we are going to improve as one. Our general goals were to break down the fundamentals of Ultimate and determine our strengths as individual players and as a team.”
Oregon, UW, and UBC all took care of business against Western and PLU, though Western played UW tight, losing 9-7. Western finished the day 1-3, with the win coming 13-3 over PLU. Chaos left the tournament with high spirits, according to captain Daniella Welsh: “This was our first tournament as our finalized traveling team. Our goal for the tournament was to get the top teams in the Northwest Region out to play and learn a lot from playing all of these good teams. I believe it was a success.”
As expected, the tournament would be decided by the games between the three Top 10 teams. In the first round, UW faced off against UBC. UW jumped out to a big lead early, then hung on for an 11-9 win. “UW has many returning players and they’ll be a more all-around team this year,” said UBC’s Koo and Berezan.
Next up was UBC against Oregon. The T-Birds went up by a couple breaks early, but Fugue came back to take half 7-6. UBC would pull out a 10-9 universe point victory, helped by a huge game from Rachel Moens. The weather was a challenge for Oregon. “We haven’t had a lot of experience playing in the wind and it definitely affected our play. It was a good thing to recognize so that we will be ready for it next time.” said Oregon’s Wickman. UBC was less bothered. “There was not very much wind,” said Koo and Berezan.
With a three-way tie possible heading into the Oregon-UW game, UW could win the tournament with a victory or a 1-point loss, while Oregon would need to win by 2 or more. Led by their defense, Oregon extended a small lead late to take the tournament with a 10-6 win.
- Oregon 3-1 (+3)
- British Columbia 3-1 (-1)
- Washington 3-1 (-2)
- Western Washington 1-3
- Pacific Lutheran 0-4
What We Learned:
- Oregon, UBC, and UW are all legitimate title contenders. Don’t be shocked if we see all three in the College Championships semifinals.
- UW looks to be back strong following a disappointing end to their 2010 season and the loss of 2010 Callahan winner Shannon O’Malley.
- With Oregon joining UW and UBC in the region’s Northwest D-I Conference, these teams are going to battle all season long and won’t have many secrets by the end of May.
This article made possible with contributions by Eric Zink of Western Washington.