Sonoma State should give themselves a huge pat on the back for their performance this weekend. We rarely see nearly perfect games in college women’s, let alone so early in the season. Sonoma State’s Semifinal against last year’s champs UCSB Burning Skirts saw under 5 turnovers from D’Vine – they ran that game and won 15-8. Buoyed by that success, they took the time remaining in the two hour round to rest their legs and came out fired up in the finals against UCLA. BLU had just beat the Pie Queens in their Semis game, and had only about 10 minutes between matches. You could tell the Bruins looked tired from the getgo, and Sonoma took advantage, winning 14-8. One of my favorite matchups of the weekend came from watching Sabrina “Kodiak” Fong of UCLA battle with D’Vine’s Maggie Ruden – both girls played with intensity, with lots of layouts and spot on throws.
I’m not sure I can say it enough: Sonoma State is impressive; they have amazing endurance, keeping a tight rotation through the toughest games (Ruden isn’t the only one who plays every point). I rarely saw a misthrow from one of their players, they obviously spend a lot of time practicing or at least throwing with each other. They force turnovers and then capitalize immediately, many of their breaks were scored in under 5 throws. Most of all, they have a consistent game plan which was unstoppable this weekend. It was surprising how many teams let D’Vine players streak deep while watching Ruden stroll into a power position: a huge OI huck followed about 90% of the time, and it usually ended up in the endzone. While no team had a good answer for Sonoma’s offense in Santa Barbara, one wonders if we’ll start to see new defensive sets come out by the time Regionals rolls around: some force middle, perhaps?
Here’s my question: is Sonoma peaking too early? Will they be able to maintain all the way through the season? They boast some amazing athletes but playing every point of every game could be incredibly draining. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
A Fire Doused?
The UCSB Burning Skirts had a rough Sunday. They played amazing on day one, crushing their opponents 15-4, 15-4 and 15-5. They looked consistent, energetic, and like they were having a lot of fun. Something changed overnight, because though their Quarters game went smoothly, their Semis game was almost embarrassing. There were many unforced turnovers, grounded throws and drops from their top players. They couldn’t stop Sonoma on defense either (not saying much, barely anyone could last weekend). Someone on the sidelines put it quite aptly: Sonoma scored in a few throws, UCSB managed to score after a few turnovers. This just means that now we know the Skirts can totally lose a game for themselves. They are beatable, if they let themselves be. However, they have the time to practice their consistency and to figure out what they need to do to dominate at Regionals. The fire might flicker, but it’s far from out for Santa Barbara.
Psycho played hard this weekend, and it paid off with a 7th place finish tied with Stanford. Led by captains Hannah Walsh and Brittany “Agave” Cabriales, UCSD had a great win on Saturday against Colorado, 15-10, leading them to finish second in their pool under UCLA. From there, they went to pre-quarters where they beat up Santa Cruz; however, they would lose in quarters to eventual champion Sonoma State. I spent some time with Agave and Natalie “Imli” Halstead after that game: both expressed pride in their team, mentioning how fun it was for their offense to come together and that they were looking forward to improving over the season. Agave then spent some sidelines time cheering on her Safari teammate Elizabeth “Timon” Melnikas on UCLA.
The Pleiades have got a strong roster this year: Led by Gina Schumacher (have you seen this girl run?) and Paige Kercher (she played with Mixed Silver medalists Polar Bears this summer). They had a Saturday as expected, taking third in their pool, beating Long Beach 12-4 to end their pool play. Then they ended day one beating Arizona 15-4 in prequarters, officially breaking seed into the top 8. From there, they lost to eventual third place Cal, placing them in a tight game against Stanford who had been having a pretty bad weekend of their own. Davis ends up beating Superfly, then Humboldt to take 5th place overall, breaking up 7 spots from their original 12th place spot. This team has gone by in past years just under the radar, but I’m not sure that the top teams will be able to ignore the Pleiades this year – if they keep improving they could play a significant spoiler role when the series rolls around.
Humboldt State Hags
Humboldt State also broke seed, finishing 6th from an initial 7th place spot. These girls played quite aggressively, never making it easy for an opponent to grab a disc. I saw lots of layouts from these ladies, but in the end, their inconsistencies became their downfall. However, if the Hags do learn to minimize their mistakes, they could be a team to watch out for later in the season. Also, many of the girls were sporting black face paint in the shape of whiskers or other artwork – I’m not sure what the benefit of this is other than team bonding, but I know I would hate to wipe my sweaty face on a hot weekend like this past one and come away with paint on my hand…
This tournament ended up a fantastic foreshadow of what the Southwest will need to be to secure four bids this season. The top four teams, Sonoma State, UCLA, Cal, and UCSB, will need to all keep improving. Then, they’ll need to start beating teams from other regions. I have full confidence that the Southwest deserves four bids this year: all four of the previous teams mentioned deserve a spot at Nationals. The finals game and the 3rd place game were closer than the scores may reflect. UCSB actually lost to Cal 13-14 due to a time cap. In fact, many of the games (especially for UCLA, who played all Sunday games to two hours straight) went to cap this weekend, a difficult achievement. Teams like Sonoma need to minimize tournaments with little sleep and lots of action for their top players in order to preserve their energy: they definitely had an advantage coming in to the finals against UCLA.
Long story short, if the Southwest received only three bids right now, my picks would be Sonoma State, Santa Barbara, and then UCLA; however Cal is a close fourth place, and I truly believe that this region deserves four bids – all of these teams deserve to be seen in Boulder. We’ll see how these teams the upcoming tournaments like Centex and Stanford Invitational treat these teams – big wins against out of region teams will set up the Southwest nicely come May.