The following article was written by Eric Simon and was originally printed in the December 1990 issue of USA Ultimate’s (then UPA) Newsletter. Skyd thanks USA Ultimate for generously sharing this article with the Ultimate community at large.
The Maine-iacs, second place finishers in the Western Regional, swept through seven games at the Nationals in West Palm Beach, to win the 1990 UPA Championships. They finished the Finals in a flourish, beating the Western Regional winners, Safari 19-14, scoring 8 of the last 10 goals. It was the second time in the last three years two teams from the same region had met in the Finals. Ironically, the last time the Nationals were in the West, two Northeast teams, Lady Godiva and the Smithereens met in the 1988 Finals, held in San Diego. The Maine-iacs beat Satori 18-14 in the Semis; Safari beat Lady Godiva 19-14 in the other Semis.
This year marked the first 12-team format for the Women’s Division, up from eight in the previous two years. The expansion highlighted the depth of three regions, as the extra teams from the West, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic all did very well. On the other hand, the South and the Central Region each had a 1-9 record for the weekend.
Safari won their pool, but not without a slight scare from the Stray Cows. The Cows took a 5-2 lead before Safari scored 8 of 9 to take the half 9-6. The Cows scored the first point of the second half, but then Safari scored four, and coasted for the 17-12 victory.
Satori, the second place finisher in the pool, was involved in two against the Homecoming Queens, (formerly known as Oh!), the first Women’s team from New York to ever play at Nationals. The game started off as a route as Satori’s suffocating defense smothered New York, and propelled them to a 7-0 lead. The Queenies finally scored, and with a zone defense closed to 9-4 at the half. In the second half, both teams played zone, but it was apparent that Satori was having more trouble than their opponents. New York scored three to close to within 9-7, but then Satori scored three to lead 12-7. At 13-8, Homecoming Queens again scored three to dose to within 13-11. Points were traded to the end, with Satori scoring the last two to win 17-13. Homecoming Queen finished third in the pool, but not without a real tough game against Women-on-the-Verge, the third place team from the West, and the first ever team from Seattle to play at Nationals. The Seattle team battled back from 8-2 to 11-9. Then, down 13-9, they scored four to tie the game at 13’s. Finally, at 14 all, New York scored two and then points were traded for the 17-15 New York win.
The Safari-Satori game for first place in the pool was a thriller. The wind was a factor, but Satori scored the opening goal upwind. Down 2-1, Safari regained the upwind advantage. and led 3-2. The rest of the half was very exciting as both teams came so close to scoring upwind, but neither could until Satori did at 7-7. That enabled the D.C. team to take a 9-7 lead into the half. In the second half, Safari started against the wind and scored. At 10-9, with Satori leading, both teams scored upwind. But still Satori had the wind advantage as the score was tied at 11, and again at 12. The game was capped at 14. Satori had two great chances to score the 13th point; one pass was completed into the end zone but the receiver called herself out-of-bounds, and another was bobbled and dropped in the end zone. Safari finally capitalized, scoring the upwinder, and the ensuing downwind to win 14-12.
In the other pool, the Maine-iacs had two very close games against Northeast teams. In both cases, the San Francisco area team’s superior person-to-person defense wore down the opponents, and broke the games open in the second half. Against the WannaBe’s (Boston), they led 9-8 at half, and 13-11 before winning 17-14. Against Lady Godiva, they led 11-9 before scoring five out of six to lead 16-10, eventually winning 17-14.
The WannaBe’s were involved in the most close games. They finished third in their pool by virtue of a pair of 17-15 victories, over the Grits and Ozone. The victory over the Grits was accomplished by scoring the only upwinder in the second half. Their victory over Ozone was after being behind most of the game, and scoring five of the last six points.
The two most pleasant surprises were probably the teams that finished fourth in each pool. The Grits, the first Women’s team from North Carolina ever to play at Nationals, came close to beating the Wanna Be’s, but also decisively crushed two Regional Champs. They beat the Central’s Spike, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, 17·3; and Ozone, 17-7. Similarly. Women-on-the-Verge gave the third place finisher in the pool, Homecoming Queens, all they could handle before losing 17-15, but they beat the fifth and sixth place teams. Kansas City’s Stray Cows and Tampa’s Hucksters, very convincingly, 17-6, and 17-5, respectively. For both the Grits and Women-on-the-Verge, the showing was all the more impressive because for each, it was their first appearance at Nationals, and they each beat more experienced teams.
For Ozone and the Stray Cows, each with a 1-4 record at this year’s Nationals has got to be a disappointment. The Cows were at their second Nationals, Ozone their fourth consecutive, and hoped to improve after last year. For the Hucksters. from Tampa, and Spike, from Ann Arbor, this was the first appearance at a Nationals. Both teams are somewhat young, and certainly new to this level of play. Spike, winners of the Central Region this Fall, has quite a few players from the University of Michigan team that finished second two years in a row at College Nationals. We ought to be hearing from them in the future.
Semis and Finals
The two Semi-Finals were very different games, although the scores were almost identical. This observer thinks that Safari and Lady Godiva have the two best offenses in Women’s Ultimate, and that the Maine-iacs and Satori have the two best defenses in Women’s Ultimate. This, though, was not the only difference between the games.
In the Safari-Lady Godiva game. Safari came out smoking at the same time that Godiva was experiencing somewhat of a melt-down. Safari scored seven straight to take a 10-1 half-time lead. This 10-1 score was all the more impressive because the wind was a factor, and Godiva could only get a single downwind score. Godiva got their act together in the second. half, but the hole they had dug for themselves was far too deep. A few upwind goals by Godiva led to a couple of three-goal runs, as they closed the gap slightly from 16-7 to 16·10, and then 18-11 to 18-14. This was a disappointment for Godiva, since they had played so well during the Fan season. They just didn’t really put it together for Nationals, however, and won a few games that were closer than they thought they should be.
The other Sem-Final was a real nail-biting defensive struggle. The Maine-iacs took the opening pull and marched upwind to score. Two more upwinders in the f1rst half helped the Maine-iacs to a 10-6 half-time score. Both teams played, for the most part, zone defense gomg downwind, and a ferocious person-to-person in the other direction. After scoring-the first downwind point after the half, the Maine-iacs held what looked like a commanding 11-6 lead. At 12-7, however, Satori scored five straight to tie the game. On more than one occasion, Satori was trapped against the back line in their own end zone, even pivoting out the back of the field, with wind on their face. but was able to score. At 12’s, the Maine-iacs still held the wind advantage, as the teams traded points. At 14-13. however, the Maine-iacs scored upwind. and converted the downwinder to take a 16-13 lead, as the game was capped at 18. At 17-14 , a if to put an exclamation pomt on the victory, the Maine-iacs won the game with an upwinder. 18-14. One other part of this game deserves mention: there were more than a few goals called back by travel and pick calls, although it probably did not effect the outcome of the game. At times in the past this problem was restricted to the Open Division, and it was a shame to see this in Women’s Ultimate. (There were no such problems in either the Open or Women’s Finals this year).
The Finals were a rematch of the Western Regionals Finals: Safari and Maine-iacs. Both teams looked a little bit nervous at the start, neither team had ever pla}ed in a Nationals Finals before. After trading downwinders to 3-3, and a pair of upwinders to 4-4, the Maine-iacs scored four to take an 8-4 lead. At 9-5 the scored another upwinder to take the half 10-5. At 11-5 Safari scored three, and at 13-9, they (fought back to score three more to close to within 13-12. The Maine-iacs called a time-out to regroup. They scored the ensuing down winder, and then two more for a 16-12 lead. Things looked bleak for Safari. Downwinders were traded to 18-14. Just like in their Semi-Final game, the Maine-iacs finish the game with a flourish, scoring upwind to win the game, and the Nationals Champi0nships, 19-14.