The University of Minnesota took home the championship from 2012 Chicago Invite. Minnesota dominated all of the matchups throughout the weekend against all teams except Valparaiso. Valpo and Minnesota squared off twice during the weekend: once in pool play on Saturday, and once in semi-finals on Sunday. Though both games were decided by only a few points (4 on Saturday, 5 on Sunday), they were closer than scores indicated. Both teams were relatively evenly matched, both demonstrating solid zone offense. Valpo struggled a bit when Minnesota ran man-to-man defense, but cleaned it up in both games, making a run in the second half.
Marquette was the Cinderella story of the weekend. In Moxie’s first sanctioned tournament of the season, they were able to handily win Pool F, pull out a nail-biter over Notre Dame in their crossover on Saturday, and get to semi-finals against Northwestern. Northwestern’s journey last weekend was without Lien Hoffman, who suffered a knee injury in the first game of the tournament against Illinois. Moxie and Gung Ho battled all the way to universe point, which lasted nearly 20 minutes past hard cap. In the end, Northwestern scored, and Marquette’s small roster had to take on a fresh Valpo team in the third place game.
The good news is that Northwestern will not likely have to play without Hoffmann in Regionals. The diagnosis looks good, though Gung Ho will have a better expectation when she gets it checked out this week. Ultimately, Northwestern’s handlers still looked fundamentally solid. The chemistry of Angel Li and Carol Li is fun to watch. Offensively, these two really have the ability to play off of each other, and give Gung Ho the fire-power it needs, even without speedster Lien Hoffmann. If the team can nurse the injuries plaguing their roster, Northwestern can make a run for Nationals in a few weeks at Great Lakes Regionals.
Of all the teams in attendance, I was thoroughly impressed with Marquette’s athleticism. This scrappy team was able to make plays, with every player on the field covered in mud. Top-to-bottom, Marquette’s squad made the most layout grabs on offense layout blocks on defense. After barely fielding seven players in fall, to this impressive performance at the end of the regular season, this momentum could allow them to upset some of the teams at the top of the region.
Minnesota’s handling strength ended up to be too overwhelming for any other teams to contend with. Emily and Natalie Depalma, Andrea Crumrine, and Alyssa Kettler can take control of the game from the handler position, and create looks downfield. Their pin-point precision with both their short and deep game allows players like Emily Reagan and Sarah Mecksroth to take advantage of downfield mismatches from the cutter spot. The Ninjas are a dynamic team—with their full roster in Chicago, they demonstrate that they are only improving. Some of the other teams in the North Central may overlook them heading into the post season, but beware: they are looking really good.
Valpo really is a favorite to win heading into the post season. Watching them play this weekend reaffirms their ability to control the tempo of games, regardless of the type of game their opponents play. Having their top handlers Erika “Wags” Wagner and Dannie Dolan deep in their zone, Valpo is able to quickly transition from D to O, hucking to Ellen Guisfredi streaking deep. Ellen Guisfredi is an unstoppable, athletic cutter for the Chicks Hucking Discs, who can run for days, even on an opponent’s top defenders (See: second half run in semis vs. Minnesota). Guisfredi and Rachel Okerstrom (5’10” ATHLETE) act as the core in their tall, quick, and down-right scary zone D.
Truman State really demonstrated that they have what it takes to work the disc in calmer weather. Their 13-10 pool play win over St. Bens, universe point win over Drake in 9th place semis, and huge win over St. Olaf in the 11th place game are huge for TSUnami. Drake, St. Olaf and St. Bens sit near the top of the deep North Central Region. Heading into the weekend, the North Central had four bids locked down for Division-III Nationals. However, with the other action going on, the New England or Ohio Valley may be able to snag some of those bids, making it a tougher road for teams like Drake, Grinnell, St. Olaf or Carleton-B.
Speaking of St. Olaf, Durga turned some heads at Chicago Invite. In Durga’s second sanctioned tournament, the team demonstrated that losing HUGE players like Brittany Faust and Emma Hill did not kill their chances heading forward in 2012. St. Olaf reaps the benefits of having a B-team, with newer players able to step up and improve. Led by Erin Curme and Tanya Bovitz’s speedy handling abilities, their hucks open up the downfield options offensively. Could they spoil the teams at the top of the North Central during the Conference Championships in just a few weeks?
Drake performed well on Day 1, putting them in the position to fight for ninth. Though Ibex ended up falling on universe to Truman State, the team has lots to focus on heading into Conferences. From what I have seen, this team has not peaked yet, showing improvement with every tournament. With great coaches to help them focus, Ibex can hit their stride and make it to Appleton.