UCF took on the one seed in their pool, Michigan, to open up play in Pool B. Michigan came out flat, their offense unable to find downfield options to advance the disc. On the other hand, the Sirens came out with dominant handler motion. UCF’s handlers consistently swung the disc to both open lanes for cutters and to gain quick resets on the mark. Both teams primarily ran horizontal stacks at the game’s start, but UCF moved toward a vertical stack as the game went on. By the time Flywheel started turning it on, the Sirens had pulled away with the game to score the day’s first huge upset by winning 12-9.
In Pool D, more upsets were in the making between Virginia and Carleton. It appeared that Carleton’s more patient play style slowed down the pace of the traditionally quicker transition game that Hydra wanted to play. Virginia effectively shut down the swings to the break side, forcing Syzygy’s disciplined vertical stack offense to rely on hitting the easy options on the force side. This worked well for Syzygy as they initiated a lot of offensive motion from give-and-go passes to striking handlers or from handlers striking up-line for cutters who caught an easy under. Offensively, Virginia looked to push deep, executing best on transitions when Syzygy was not matched up on D. Virginia’s defensive pressure was not enough to overcome Syzygy’s superior disc skills, as Carleton upset Virginia, 11-6.
Florida, hoping to avenge a loss from CCC, took on North Carolina-Wilmington in Pool C. UNCW looks strong this season, returning much of last season’s roster. Claire Chastain is as much a baller as ever. Today she was dominant on both sides of the disc, and seemed to push up-field to cut on transitions more than she had in the past. FUEL’s vertical stack was stifled by Seaweeds force middle downfield marks. Cutting and throwing lanes were minimized, limiting Florida’s deep game. Florida’s Jenna Dahl was really only able to showcase her powerful backhand hucks to open receivers off of transitions. FUEL, unable to pull the upset, lost to Seaweed 5-9.
Pool D saw another hard fought game between Ohio State and Northeastern. Though Ohio State went on to win 11-6, points were long and very gritty. Playing without Cassie Swafford and Pagie Soper, OSU looked to the rest of their roster to pick it up. Kelly Wild shone for Fever, touching the disc a ton on offense, playing a hard mark in the Fever zone, and getting defensive blocks. OSU went up 6-3 before Northeastern started to challenge on both sides of the disc. Becca Ginsburg’s hucks to speedy Shelby Parton helped power the Valkyries transition offense. Northeastern failed to capitalize on the Ohio State turns, and could not pull off the win.
Pool A almost saw a huge upset in the matchup between Northwestern and Tufts. Collected, confident handling by Angel Li and Carol Li helped to lead Gung Ho to take half 7-6 over EWO. Both Li’s have the ability to break the mark, execute deep throws, and push up field to take advantage of poaches. EWO’s deep roster filled with solid fundamental disc skills prevailed, as Tufts was able to clean up and take the game on universe point. Gung Ho cannot be taken lightly this season, as they will contend for a trip to Madison out of the Great Lakes Region.
Michigan came out stronger against Wisconsin; however, Flywheel allowed Bella Donna to take control early in the game. Wisconsin’s strong O-line had no problem working it up on Flywheel. Rebecca Enders and Al Ellis worked extremely well together in the backfield and distributed the disc easily to cutters going to the break side on an under or deep to the open side. What worked particularly well for Wisconsin was their cutters’ ability to quickly continue the disc to the break side, thanks to their Fury-like offensive set where cutters open up huge throwing windows with their momentum moving toward the break side. Wisconsin won 12-8.
Ohio State took on Florida State in round two in another game that was characterized by long, hard fought points. The Seminole Ladies struggled with OSU’s 2-3-2 zone, failing to hit the holes up-field through the zone. As the game continued, FSU found their stride and strung together more passes on O. Using athletic shut-down D, Florida State fought back to take an 8-7 lead in a game that was capped at 9. OSU scored to tie at 8’s, forcing universe point. FSU punted after having no viable options up-field, forcing Fever to work it up. Fever’s Lauren Franke turned the disc on a swing, but was able to come up with an endzone D on a huge Florida State backhand huck that could have ended the game. Caitlin Harley snagged a disc past a diving FSU defender, pulling out the 9-8 win.
Tufts took on Georgia in a highly anticipated matchup in Pool A. UGA converted on the first point, but did not score again for another five points. Tufts varied from their disciplined vertical stack offense in this game, offering a peek into the dynamic offensive sets they are working on. EWO incorporated a few sets with a handler weave in the backfield, looking for an isolated cutter coming from a side stack. Tufts even played some vertical stack and ran some pull plays, showing that they have more tricks up their sleeves this season. For Georgia, Hannah Leathers got in an offensive groove, distributing the disc well to tally up two assists out of Georgia’s three points in the first half. However, it was drops that came back to haunt Georgia during this game, as Tufts was able to convert on UGA offensive mistakes to win 11-5.
North Carolina’s offense really ran through Shellie Cohen, who distributed well to the faceless army of athletic Pleiades receivers. With Cohen at the helm, the whole field was a viable option for any one of her precise throws. Defensively, UNC struggled early, offering no downfield answer for Mariel Hammond, Central Florida’s most dominant and dynamic cutter. When the UCF offense was stagnant, Sunny Harris pushed up-field into the UCF cutting flow to provide another option and some additional offensive power. However, the Sirens worked best when Harris was backfield with Katie Fox and Samantha Young, who moved the disc effectively until a huge huck opened up downfield. As the Sirens looked deep, UNC defenders poached off, leaving the front of the stack open for quick resets. Even though Central Florida played great, they failed to convert in the redzone, allowing North Carolina to maintain control of the game with fresh legs always available to track down Cohen hucks.
Carleton looked to take down another team in their pool to keep moving up in seed for tomorrow’s brackets. Again, Syzygy ran their disciplined vertical stack, utilized wide open unders and strike cuts past diving Florida State defenders on the force side. Though they looked to the break side in their offensive flow, they were unable to connect due to hesitation on throws or throwing to tight windows, with defenders close to make the play. On the other hand, Syzygy’s redzone offense was quite different, with confident break throws that allowed them to swing at will. Most of their scores came from break throws or swings, and their red zone turnovers came from tight, rushed throws to the open side. Florida State did not have much of an answer for the Syzygy defense. FSU’s five points came primarily from transition offense when they were able to take advantage of confusion or mismatches. Florida State fell again 5-9 to Carleton, who was able to take down another team seeded above them.
Ohio State went up 2-0 after quick, flawless points against Carleton. Offensively, Fever looked re-energized after a bye round and was ready for a tough Syzygy team. Fever’s biggest mistake was choosing to come out in a zone in the game against a team with great disc skills. Syzygy found new life and went on a run against the 2-3-2 OSU zone. Taylor Want, Anna Reed, and Julia Snyder worked the disc and consistently found open hands with quick handler movement. It is rare to see a team complete 30+ passes against a zone in college women’s ultimate, but Syzygy was able to do so to take a lead with ease, causing an early OSU timeout. Carleton used the momentum, cruising to take half 7-5, and went on to win 10-7 over the top seed in their pool to take Pool D.
Wisconsin changed up their O-line in their game vs. UNC after opening lines a ton against Washington University. UNC played extremely well in the first few points, taking a 3-0 lead over a Bella Donna team who was unable to string together more than a handful of passes in any possession. After a timeout, Wisconsin still struggled with UNC’s deep game. After returning to a more vet-heavy O-line, Bella was turned it on and chipped away at a sizeable UNC lead. Wisconsin’s charge, led by Sara Scott and Biz Cook in the Bella Donna 4-man cup zone, came from tough, gritty defense. A conversion off of a block in the cup brought Wisconsin within striking distance at 11-12, but Bella could not quite reel it in, falling 11-13 in their first loss of the day.
In another highly anticipated matchup of the day in Pool A, Iowa took on Georgia. The first half was characterized by poised offense until the red zone, where both teams seemed to struggle to convert, resulting in long points. Iowa was able to score the first break, after failing to convert off of a solid D by Chelsea Twohig. Consistent handler movement allowed Saucy to convert on two more breaks, going up 4-2 against Dawgma. Amble Johnson called a time out to fire up his squad, who came out strong afterwards. Julia Fuster worked hard on O, scoring two goals to tie the game at 4’s. Saucy Nancy and Dawgma traded until half, where Iowa went up 7-6.
Lane Siedor came out hot of halftime, throwing goals like it was her job. Saucy went up 9-7, but Siedor, Leathers, and Margie Quinn picked up their play, helping the Dawgma offense to capitalize on Saucy turnovers and re-gain the lead at 10-9. Iowa’s offense worked the break side well with a lot of inside-out forehands from Anna Pritchard in the handler spot. By getting the disc to handlers on the break side, throwing lanes were wider for downfield Saucy cutters. Twohig was a very dynamic player for Saucy. Though she was handling more for Saucy than she has in the past, she still pushed up field when the opportunity arose. Twohig found Dana “Dubz” Demmert to tie it at 10-10, forcing universe point.
After a heated series of points, tensions were high. Iowa’s co-captain, Anna Pritchard said, “The game got heated after some calls in previous points. We knew that our O could convert if we got the chance.” Pritchard led the charge with a monster layout D (at 1:02), in the video posted below:
Iowa went on to win the game 11-10.
The Pleiades looked a bit gassed after their close game against Wisconsin as Michigan finally hit an offensive stride. Flywheel’s deep game was especially effective, able to mix longer shots seamlessly with shorter cuts away from handlers to open space behind the UNC defense. Michigan looked fresh and poised, more like the nationals’ favorites we know them to be. Michigan went on to beat North Carolina; however, the Pleiades cinched the one-seed out of their pool with the win over Wisconsin. Michigan failed to qualify for the championship bracket, despite being the only team to deliver a pool play win over UNC.
Northwestern came out strong against Georgia, who was tired after the close Iowa game. After going up 5-3, Northwestern took advantage of a Lane Siedor-less Dawgma team, as Sideor sat out with a hip flexor injury. Confident, poised Gung Ho handlers took control early, taking advantage of Georgia turns, Gung Ho up at halftime, 7-4. Dawgma did not give up, with Leathers and Fuster leading a defensive charge and helping to convert on offense. Georgia’s philosophy of winning games to three, allowed them to fight back to tie the game at 7’s. It was at this point that Northwestern pulled away, looking deep off of strike throws, to take the game 10-7 knocking Dawgma out of the championship bracket.
Around the Horn:
–Iowa State won their pool handily, despite a small squad. Rookie Linda Behrer integrated well with the athletic play style of Woman Scorned.
–Iowa had the biggest point spread on the day, outscoring their opponents 50 to 28, finishing +22 on the day
–UNC won their pool with the smallest margin, showing they can win close games
–Many teams played vertical stacks in day 1 of the competition, with only a few teams playing junk sets