Ohio State Resets
In their only other matchup this season, Ohio State consistently was able to hit resets at high stall counts. Even if Paige Soper and Cassie Swafford were both shut down, they cleared out early in the stall count, Ohio State throwers did not panic, and a downfield cutter always filled in appropriately. It was very patient, fundamental offense that you don’t often see in incredibly high-pressure games. But in the semifinals against Washington, Ohio State seemed a little less confident in their high-stall resets, opting to punt the disc downfield more frequently. While Ohio State’s receivers do typically have a height advantage, Oregon’s speed downfield will allow them to challenge more discs that aren’t carefully placed. Wind has something to do with it as well – turning the disc over downwind instead of in your own backfield is much more palatable, and Oregon puts tons of pressure on handlers. But Virginia stayed true to their offense and was able to hang with Oregon, as did Central Florida and Stanford. If Ohio State can maintain possession even against aggressive defense, instead of tunneling in on Soper or Swafford, they will be in the driver’s seat all game.
Oregon Defensive Conversion
With Bethany Kaylor’s injury and a more permanent move of Alex Ode to offense, Oregon’s D line’s have not had the typical conversion rate you might expect from an elite team. Freshman Hayley Wahlroos is given the reins of the D line offense, and while she does an excellent job, Oregon frequently misses the dynamic presence of a Shofner, Ode, or Kaylor to drive the disc downfield. Dre Fontenot has been given more responsibility as a thrower, but her hucks are inconsistent and she is still more comfortable on the receiving end. We may see different subbing in the last game of the season. Lou Burruss was unhappy with his team’s defensive intensity against Virginia, as Fugue barely forced any turnovers until the last few points of the game. Their effort against Central Florida was better, but they still struggled to convert despite Central Florida giving them several short field situations. Moving Darch and Ode over to defense for crucial points should help with this, but if Ohio State takes an early lead it will mean a lot of points for Oregon’s stars.
Ohio State Depth
Ohio State is the deepest and most balanced team at this tournament. Despite the focus on Soper and Swafford, they have a stable of athletic and experienced cutters who stretch the field and are comfortable throwing as well. Second-year player Stevie Miller is a great athlete and frequently rotates through as a bailout reset option as needed. Caitlin Harley is a fantastic handler who has only thrown TWO turnovers all tournament. Jenna Galletta, Elizabeth Gates, Lauren Franke, and Emmy Schroeder also pose matchup problems for Oregon, which doesn’t have the same depth of defenders it did last year. Ohio State is very comfortable using everyone on the field to move the disc, and Oregon will not be able to consistently shut down all seven players on the field. Oregon’s advantages are confusion and speed, but Ohio State is a very experienced and calm team that can move the disc out of sticky situations well.
If Jesse Shofner doesn’t play for Oregon, it is a huge disadvantage for Fugue. Shofner has been Fugue’s lightning rod all season, winning the MVP jersey at Stanford Invite and playing phenomenally all tournament. She almost has a triple-double, with 11 goals, 20 assists, and 9 blocks, to go along with only 8 turnovers. Shofner can advance the disc down the field like nobody else, and she provides a constant outlet pass when Oregon needs a high stall bailout or an endzone isolation cutter. She has a hip/abdominal injury and is questionable for the finals today. While she will probably play at least some, her effectiveness may be limited and that will hurt an Oregon team that needs all the help they can get against this Ohio State Fever squad.
Ohio State 15, Oregon 12