Midwest Throwdown 2011: Women’s Preview

by | March 2, 2011, 2:00pm 0

Midwest Throwdown
34 College Women’s
Saturday and Sunday March 5-6
St. Louis, Missouri
Score Reporter


Four teams from the 2010 USA Ultimate College Championships will be attending the Throwdown: Wisconsin, Northwestern, Wash U, and Colorado.  Colorado College, who bested Colorado in a scrimmage several weeks ago, and Iowa, led by former Wisconsin-Eau Claire standout Robyn Fennig, round out the top teams at the tournament.  Other challengers include Iowa State, led by 5th year Jasmine Draper, Wisconsin-Eau Claire led by Brit Gartner, and up-and-comer Ohio State led by Team USA Juniors standout Cassie Swafford.  Wisconsin and Colorado made their spring debut at Pres Day a couple of weeks ago, while Northwestern and Wash U traveled east to QCTU.  That precious time outdoors will likely be advantageous this weekend, as many Midwest teams have yet to set foot on a field outdoors this spring.  Wisconsin and Colorado are both adjusting to significant personnel changes, but strong coaching and a tight-knit group of returning players will have them in fine form come May.  Northwestern and Wash U will both be looking to improve upon their performances at the College Championships last year, with most of their top players returning and strong performances at QCTU to build on.

Wisconsin captain Emelie McKain said:

“With our only outside playing time this season being at Pres Day so far, Wisconsin is really excited to have an opportunity that is not too far from home where we get outside again and play top teams. Having a tournament like Throwdown that perennially is held in the Midwest is huge for growth and development because it is a chance to play regionally while giving both experienced teams an outlet for competition and newer teams great resources for development.”

Midwest Throwdown also features a number of “on-the-cusp” teams in the Midwest.  Colorado College is one of those teams.  Captain Sophie Herscu said, “Not only do they [Without Limits] attract the best teams, but they work extremely hard to foster the growth of the sport while maintaining a high level of play simultaneously. Without Limits is the key to women’s development in the sport of Ultimate!…Without Limits has made it possible for Colorado College to compete with the top teams out there and we can’t wait to see how we match up!”  Over the past few years, Herscu has worked hard to build her team, and she will be looking to lead her team to the Championships out of the new South Central region this season.  Their journey starts at Throwdown.  The North Central also looks to be an incredibly competitive region, with Wisconsin and Carleton looking to continue their dominance of the region, and Iowa State, Iowa, and Wisconsin-Eau Claire knocking on the door.

Things to Watch for

– Natalie DePalma (Minnesota), Cassie Swafford (Ohio State), and Taylor Kanemori (Colorado College) were teammates on the 2010 Team USA Juniors Team and all three of them will be competing at Midwest Throwdown this weekend.  With a number of players from the 2010 Juniors team making noise in the college scene this year (Sophie Darch, Lindsay Lang, and Anna Reed to name a few), the value of importing top juniors talent cannot be overstated.  USA Ultimate Director of Education and Training, and 2010 WJUC U-20 Team Manager Meredith Tosta said:

“It’s fantastic to see former Junior National team players take on the college season and make an impact so early in their collegiate career. We always hope that the national team experience will not only be about world level competition, but also give players the skills and depth of experience such that they can go back to their high school or college teams and pass on that knowledge.”

Stay tuned to these players and watch them leave their mark on the college scene this year.

– Graduate student Robyn Fennig is now playing for regional rival Iowa Saucy Nancy.  Fennig appears to be making a smooth adjustment to her new team, and this weekend, she will have her first opportunity to play her old team in a game that matters.

– How does playing high-level club in the offseason make a difference?  Ask Nemesis youngsters and Northwestern standouts Lien Hoffman, Sara Miller, and Christine O’Brien, Pop players Brit Gartner (Wisconsin-Eau Claire), Rebecca Enders (Wisconsin), and Sarah Hoistad (Iowa State), or the plethora of players on RevoLOUtion .  These players make a return to the college scene after spending the offseason competing against the best women’s players in the country.  It will show.

Tournament History

Three years ago, we (the Texas Melee leadership) were planning our spring schedule and wanted to see the best competition in our region before the Series.  None of the existing tournaments fit into our schedule and we knew that there was no way we could get the top teams to travel all the way down to Texas… so we decided to host a tournament in Missouri.  Midwest Throwdown was born.

The first year was nothing short of a disaster.  Teams dropped out of the tournament, snow caused us to lose our primary and backup field sites, and teams were forced to play games starting at 6:45 AM on Sunday.  However, the importance of having a competitive college women’s tournament in the Midwest / South was not lost on anyone, and the following year, Wash U took the reigns and has taken a leadership role with the tournament every year since.  The tournament has grown from 13 teams to 32 teams, and now includes developmental opportunities such as the Roundup Division and a skills clinic.

The vision and commitment of a single college team, Wash U, and the hard work of a handful of organizers including Abby Stephens, Sam Huo, and Sarah Ebstein, have facilitated the growth of this tournament into the most competitive women’s tournament in the Midwest.  Former Wash U captain and current Wash U coach Abby Stephens said, “Running Throwdown the past three years has been an incredible opportunity for us to meet great friends and see what amazing community and level of play the Midwest can look forward to if we continue to promote Ultimate locally.  It’s been an honor to be part of the growth of women’s Ultimate and help make national-caliber competition accessible to our conference and region.”

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