#4 Iowa (15) vs. #10 Virginia Hydra (6)
In this quarterfinal matchup, both teams came out hard but perhaps a little jittery. In the early part of the game, the Virginia zone looked like it would once again be disruptive. Many teams have struggled with their multiple zone looks in the tournament, and it certainly took Iowa’s offense a little while to get going. Some uncharacteristically stagnant and sloppy play by Saucy early resulted in teams trading points to 3s. But off of a Jen Nowak sky D and a Chelsea Twohig huck to Dana Demmert, Iowa got a break to make it 4-3 and they never looked back. They took half at 8-3, and they looked ridiculously good.
Virginia was able to get a few early points out of half with Alika Johnston picking up the pull and putting it deep to a streaking receiver, but once Iowa shut that down, they continued to dominate for the rest of the game. The truth is that this was a tough matchup for Virginia. Their game is not a game of clean possessions. Rather, they generally fight hard on defense and take many possessions to score. Unfortunately, Iowa just wasn’t giving them the number of chances that the Virginia offense required. Iowa’s defense was able to generate lots of turns both in man and in zone, and once they got the disc, they were expert at retaining it. Their wind throws were much better than those of Virginia, and they were able to handle the tricky Virginia zones by bringing a versatile set of handlers back to help. With great composure but also with impressive risk, they tore through the Virginia zone. Twohig, Beckah Hickernell, Anna Pritchard, and other handlers were not afraid to put it over the top to aggressive cutters who were coming down with every contested disc. Particularly noteworthy was the performances of cutter Alison Vandegrift, JoJo Peterson, and Dana Demmert, but it was truly a team performance as the Saucy defense was suffocating and the Saucy offense was moving calmly as a unit. Following the game, captain Hickernell said, “When we’re on top of our game, we’re the best team in the nation.” After that performance, I believe them. In the end, they won this one in a blowout 15-6. –Kami Groom
#1 Oregon (15) – #7 British Columbia (4)
This quarterfinal pitted the top two teams from the Northwest Region against each other, a familiar matchup for both teams. But with Catherine Hui out of action for British Columbia, the Thunderbirds lacked a consistent deep threat and the link between their handlers and their deep cutters. As a result, UBC struggled to move the disc consistently in the first four points, not getting more than 30 yards without a turnover. Not surprisingly, Oregon rolled out to a 4-0 lead. Crystal Koo was forced to do much of the work herself from the handler position, with Rena Kawabata and Amira Maddison guarded well by Oregon’s stable of strong and athletic cutter defenders.
However, Oregon didn’t make quick work of UBC. The wind gave Oregon more troubles than we’ve seen this weekend, and coach Lou Burruss acknowledged that Oregon hasn’t had the opportunity to play much in the wind this year. Forehands down the downwind sideline troubled Oregon, and their hucks consistently fell short, giving UBC a lifeline. But Oregon’s defense was too good, and in the second half Oregon played everyone on their roster and kept getting turnovers with their junk defense. Everyone feels comfortable in at least one role in the defense, and they’re able to play deep into their roster and not give up anything in terms of the amount of the pressure they placed on British Columbia. After an 8-3 halftime score, Oregon ran out 15-4 winners. –Ryan Thompson
#2 Carleton (15) – #9 Washington (9)
Carleton and Washington are two teams that are very familiar with each other, with many players on both squads from the same Seattle HS leagues. Carleton captains Julia Snyder and Anna Reed remarked after the game that it felt like a classic high school matchup. Carleton tried to restrict Washington’s athletes and protect the deep space, while encouraging Washington’s aggressive handlers to continue to take risks. Reed and Snyder watched Washington’s prequarter matchup against Minnesota, and they replicated their North Central regional rival’s strategy – just a little better.
Carleton jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and built on it to take half 8-3, largely behind their intimidating zone defense. With tall athletes like Brianna Rick, Emily Buckner, and Flannery McArdle, Washington’s handlers Amanda Kostic and Lucy Williams were forced to put more lift on their throws beyond the cup, giving Carleton’s second-layer players more time to make up the necessary ground. With their backs against the wall, Washington went on a small run behind the inspired play of Barbara Hoover and Alysia Letourneau, but Carleton already had too large of an advantage for it to matter. Carleton wins, 15-9. –Ryan Thompson
#5 Tufts (13) – #6 Ohio State (15)
In a mostly upwind-downwind battle, Tufts broke upwind early, as Hannah Garfield came down with a huck that sailed over the intended receiver, then caught the score from Hailey Alm. Ohio State answered right back upwind, with Cassie Swafford putting up a big backhand huck, which was caught easily by an open Lauren Franke. The teams then traded downwind scores to 7-7, with both teams mixing up zone and man defenses. In particular, the Ohio State 4-man cup, using Swafford and Paige Soper as their markers and Nina Finley deep, frustrated Tufts as they tried to move upwind.
At 7-7, Ohio State came down in their 4-man cup against the Tufts downwind offense. After a Tufts drop near midfield, Tufts patiently worked the disc towards the endzone, until Franke called timeout 5 yards outside the endzone near the sideline. Franke was unable to get the disc to Finley, who was isolated in the lane. Instead, she swung to Caitlin Harley, who gave the disc right back to Franke at the front cone for the upwind break to take half 8-7.
The teams traded downwind scores early in the second half. Soper found Swafford and Kelly Wild downfield against the mostly man defense of Tufts, while Alm and Claudia Tajima went over and through the Ohio State zone. At 12-10 with soft cap quickly approaching, Ohio State rested both Soper and Swafford, their senior captains. The Ohio State zone forced a Tufts turnover near midfield. Ohio State converted on their first possession, as Janine Walker found Nina Finley with a short pass to take upwind break and the 13-10 lead.
After a couple turnovers each way, Tufts scored their upwind O point. After a difficult pass by Sarah Lindsay in the middle of the Ohio State zone, Alm found Laura Fradin open in the endzone for the score. There would be no more upwind goals, as the teams traded until Ohio State was receiving going downwind at game point, 14-13.
Against a man defense from Tufts, Ohio State patiently worked the disc down the field until it got to Paige Soper in the middle of the field, 15 yards from the endzone. Ohio State isolated Swafford in the lane, and when Soper’s marker overcommitted to the force side, Soper stepped around and threw a flat forehand break to Emmy Schroeder, wide open at the front cone on the break side. Ohio State wins, 15-13. –Adam Lerman