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Washington (15) – Minnesota (14)
This game saw several lead changes and really came down to the final minutes for each team. As the game went on, points became longer and longer, showing which team had the mental focus to execute when they were tired. Washington took an early lead, working the Lucy Williams to Alysia Letourneau connection, breaking for three consecutive points to go up 3-0 over the Ninjas. After calling a timeout, the team reorganized and come out with the focus necessary to connect on offense. Washington took half 8-6.
Minnesota’s second half surge was brilliant, explosive, and passionate, as the Ninjas hit another gear than they had been in all season, scoring four straight points out of half. Natalie DePalma’s backhand hucks out of transitions were unstoppable, finding an open Sarah Meckstroth in stride over Washington defenders. The combination provided crowd-pleasing grab after grab, attracting a sizable crowd.
Washington, refusing to give up, fought back hard. Element’s handlers stopped forcing looks and settled for open hands to work it up the field. Shira Stern played a huge role to facilitate breakside looks for Washington, working give-goes until a look opened in the endzone. Letourneau made a huge grab and called timeout on universe point. The play call was a high release lefty backhand to Barbara Hoover to seal the win and a trip to the quarter finals against Carleton. — Robyn Fennig
British Columbia (15) – Iowa State (12)
After beating Central Florida on universe point, 16-15, an exhausted Iowa State team met a well-rested and fresh British Columbia team coming off of a dominant 15-5 victory over Georgia. But despite their visible exhaustion, Iowa State did not roll over for the faster, fresher Canadian squad. Instead, Iowa State dominated on offense, eschewing deep throws to cutters with only a couple steps of separation and instead throwing break throws to space and breakside hucks to fresher cutters like freshman Linda Behrer, who was had a fantastic tournament. British Columbia turned it over several times early and Iowa State rolled out to an early lead as their four stars – Sarah Pesch, Becca Miller, Magon Liu, and Cami Nelson – played both offense and defense.
A typical offensive possession for Iowa State involved Sarah Pesch flinging an inside out backhand break to space for Liu or Nelson, and then one of them throwing a great crossfield throw to the wide open space in the endzone for Becca Miller or Linda Behrer. Like every other team at this tournament with the possible exception of Ohio State, British Columbia could not match up with Iowa State in man defense, but they spent the entire first half trying and ended the half down 6-8. Crystal Koo was a little too free with her deep throws, and Liu and Brittnee Grimshaw got D’s on ill-advised hucks.
But out of halftime, British Columbia switched between two zone looks – one that was zonal on the handlers but man downfield, and one that was more of a pure zone. To shut down Pesch’s breaks, Terynn Chan starting marking her and got a point block and forced several other turnovers. With that wide open breakside space that was present in UBC’s man defense gone, Iowa State started to force aggressive throws into narrower and narrower spaces, and their fatigue started to catch up to them. Liu, Miller, Pesch, and Nelson still made spectacular visionary throws and layouts to extend possessions, but they were interspersed with uncharacteristic turnovers that UBC exploited.
At 10-10, UBC’s star and Callahan nominee Catherine Hui had to leave the game with a hamstring injury, and Crystal Koo began to take over. Koo threw three hammers for goals, and she almost single-handedly moved the disc down the field with her great handler motion and continual aggressive upline cuts that Iowa State couldn’t counter. Once Hui left the game, British Columbia began to pull away and Iowa State didn’t have the energy to match. Iowa State battled valiantly and displayed some of the best and most visionary throws in the tournament, but ultimately didn’t have the defensive strength to win games by large margins. British Columbia moves on to face regional rival Oregon in the quarterfinals tomorrow morning. –Ryan Thompson
Virginia (13) – Northwestern (11)
This was, without a doubt, one of the most exciting games of the weekend. In the beginning of the game, it was all Northwestern as they jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead. Their man D was tight and strategic, focusing on containing Hydra’s star handler Alika Johnston. Taking a page out of Ohio State’s book, Northwestern, at least in the early part of the game, was content to give Johnston the easy swing and then to clamp down and deny her the dump. As for the Northwestern offense, it was calm and efficient, shredding a loose-looking Virginia zone with smart throws and assertive cuts. At halftime the score was 8-5, and it really looked like Gung Ho had the game well in hand.
But, if there is one thing Viriginia has proven in this tournament, it’s that they can come back from a deficit. Their second half looked completely different than their first half. The change began with their zone. In the first half, UVA had tried two zones, one a force middle zone that was allowing Northwestern a lot of inside looks. In the second half, they made an adjustment, switched to the zone that was more effective, and virtually shut down any productive offensive movement from Northwestern. The UVA D line–and especially the cup–was sensational, applying pressure, running all over the field, and generating turns.
By running zone, UVA was also able to contain Lien Hoffmann (at least on offense), who was forced to step back and handle. For Northwestern, it also didn’t help that they began to drop discs and make silly throwaways. Their defense, too, looked exhausted as the game wore on, and UVA started having many more options deep and in the middle. Soon, UVA had taken the lead from Northwestern at 11-10, and they never looked back. Alika Johnston was once again the key leader for Hydra’s offense, making saving grabs and slinging flicks everywhere on the field. Nada Tramonte, Sarah Hansen, and Theresa Hackett also made crucial contributions down the stretch to win this prequarters match 13-11. They will match up with #4 seed Iowa Saucy Nancy in Quarters tomorrow morning.–Kami Groom
Tufts (14) – Wisconsin (8)
Tufts opened the game with a string of breaks, as Wisconsin repeatedly gave the disc away against the Tufts zone. Qxhna Titcomb twice beat her marker to the front open side cone in the endzone, coverting breaks for a 4-1 Tufts lead. Wisconsin got one break back after Titcomb overthrew a huck, and Sara Scott threw an undefendable huck to Lorraine Guerrin. Tufts had little trouble with Wisconsin’s zone defenses, and a low laser huck from Hailey Alm to Mia Greenwald led to another Tufts break. Tufts took half 8-5.
The teams traded to 10-7, but Tufts was getting more of their roster onto the field, while Wisconsin played a tighter rotation. The following point, Titcomb made a huge layout block on an in cut, and Tufts took a timeout 10 yards outside the end zone. They isolated Titcomb in the lane, and Greenwald threaded an inside-out backhand break that required every inch of Titcomb’s reach.
Tufts broke two more times, with Claudia Tajima showing off her hucks and hammers. Wisconsin’s force middle defense and some nice catches by Amelia Cuarenta gave Wisconsin some chances to close the gap. However, it wouldn’t be enough, and Tufts went on to win 14-8. — Adam Lerman
Feature photo by Alex Fraser – UltiPhotos.com