Sunday’s games proved to be just as contested and exciting as yesterday’s pool play games suggested. Crossover games began early in the morning, while teams that went undefeated the previous day—Carleton-B, Claremont, Williams, and Valparaiso—got a chance to rest up for quarterfinals.
Smith v. Wellesley and Grinnell v. Princeton were especially close: Smith and Wellesley, the only two teams from all-womens’ colleges in attendance, traded points until Smith’s boundless enthusiasm and effective deep game won them some consecutive points, ending the game at 9-7.
At first, it seemed like Grinnell would surely win their crossover game against Princeton, but the latter team presented a real challenge to the Sticky Fingers. Clockwork overcame Grinnell’s lead at the forty-five minute mark, taking advantage of Sticky’s early morning drops and fumbles by setting up quickly after the turn and putting it deep immediately to a sprightly cutter. Once Princeton pulled ahead by a point, however, Grinnell shook off their morning jitters and rapidly scored five consecutive points to win the game 11-7.
The quarters hosted some equally close games, perhaps most notably Smith v. Claremont. Claremont, having gone 3-0 the previous day, was the clear favorite to win; Smith, however, coming off of a hard-won game in the previous round, was simply not in the mood to lose. Luna put on a tight cup with the intense Amber Sinicrope (#10) on the mark, getting multiple handblocks on dump looks and shutting down Claremont’s handler flow. Claremont fought back, with players Erica Baken (#31) and Liz Duda (#17) getting layout Ds and quickly taking advantage of the turnovers. Due to their deep game managed by Sinicrope and the energy that Luna’s players on and off the field generated, Smith won the game 10-6, knocking a downcast Claremont out of the championship bracket.
Initially, the Grinnell v. Williams quarterfinal seemed as if it would be a close match-up: Grinnell, amped up and ready to go after their previous win, set an aggressive tone at the beginning of the game which Williams was happy to match. The first few points scored were traded between the two teams and included plenty of foul calls, bids, and d-blocks: Grinnell player Paige Hill (#47) had a particularly stunning bid as she toed the sideline in an attempt to stay in-bounds, while Williams’ Elisa Chang (#5) got a handblock layout on the mark that put everyone’s already forceful marks to shame. In the end, however, Williams’ ability to spread the disc across the field, their overall athleticism, and incredibly reliable (and 6’ 3" tall) reset, Claire Baecher, enabled them to pull away after the first twenty minutes, easily winning the game 13-3.
The two semifinal games, then, were match-ups between Carleton v. Valparaiso and Williams v. Smith; the former game proved to be quite an even match. Eclipse scored a quick first two points; Valpo responded by scoring the next two. Valparaiso then threw their signature zone on Eclipse, forcing Carleton’s offense to make short, messy throws down the line until Valparaiso’s mark got a footblock. Carleton’s man defense proved just to be effective as Valpo’s cup, however, with Kate Trennery (#93) and BG Green (#11) leading the way with aggressive handblocks in their competitors’ end zone. Carleton began to take the lead, but Valparaiso wouldn’t go down easily: the agile handler movement and big puts by sophomore Erika Wagner (#18)—a player who acted as the keystone of Valpo’s game, as she handled the disc every other throw—kept Valparaiso trading points with Eclipse, at one point sending a well-placed disc to the back right-hand corner of the end zone only to be received by Ellen Guifredi (#38). Because rounds were short, however, the close game was capped at 11. Carleton, who was up by one point on Valparaiso 9-10, immediately put the disc upon receiving it at the start of the point, which was easily caught in the endzone by Jill Merkle (69) for a Carleton win 11-9.
The Smith v. Williams game wasn’t nearly as close: Smith, having lost twice to Williams in the postseason and looking somewhat exhausted at that point, gave Williams an early four-point lead from which they never quite recovered. By contrast, Williams looked especially eager to win, with players like Haley Eagon (#13) and Nikki Wise (#17) getting some nice d-blocks on Smith girls, while Baecher’s towering presence in the endzone shut down Smith’s deep game. In the end, Williams beat Smith 15-6, earning themselves a spot in the championship game against Carleton-B.
Who will win, Carleton Eclipse or Williams La Wufa? It turned out that the championship game had one of the most bizarre and unexpected results of the entire tournament. At the start of the game, Carleton appeared to be nervous: upon receiving the disc at the start of the game, Carleton immediately dropped the disc right at their own end zone, giving Williams an easy first point. After a series of messy, frantic moments from both teams—both teams fumbled and dropped the disc, and two Eclipse players collided while running to catch the same disc at one point—Williams finally scored. Carleton dropped the disc again upon receiving it, allowing Williams’ Rachel Kessler (#11) to easily put it to Meg Clark (#24) in the endzone, bringing the score up to 3-0 Williams.
At this point, Eclipse knew they needed to try a different defensive strategy, so they threw a zone after turning over the disc. Williams, who now appeared quite confident, easily broke their cup and brought the score up to 4-0. Eclipse began to look somewhat defeated, and attempted to score an easy point by immediately putting the disc after receiving it; the throw went out of bounds, and Williams—after dropping it and player Elisa Chang (#5) getting a huge D on Eclipse—scored again, raising the score to 5-0 Williams. Eclipse was baffled: for the first time all weekend, they were unable to score a single point. It looked as if Williams had the game in the bag; what team would be able to recover from a five-point deficit 30 minutes into a 75-minute game?
It turned out that Eclipse was precisely this type of team. After conferring on the sideline, Carleton threw a junk zone—which they referred to as "Havana"—on Williams, marking handlers flat and no-around, while defenders bracketed the stack, poaching the cutting lanes both in and deep. This completely threw off Williams’ disc movement as their cutters had no idea what to do; also, Eclipse’s flat, no-around mark meant that Williams’ handlers weren’t able to reset the disc to the middle of the field easily.
Once Carleton-B regained possession of the disc and their confidence, Kalli Perano (#8) put the disc to Leigh-Anne Borkowski (#3) in the endzone, scoring their first point of the game. Carleton went on to quickly score three more points in a row, evening the score to 5-4 Williams. The next point was more contested: Williams maintained possession of the disc for a long time, dumping and swinging the disc around their end zone for almost three minutes before Eclipse’s Erin Heydinger (#12) got a huge handblock. A few moments later, Carleton put the disc to Jill Merkle (#69) in the opposite end zone, who miraculously caught the disc around Claire Baecher’s intimidatingly tall frame.
Eclipse had now gone on a five-point run, tying up the game at fives. After receiving the disc from the pull, Williams fumbled the disc and dropped it; Eclipse’s Claire Leichter (#22) quickly caught the disc in the end zone, raising the score to 6-5 Eclipse and indicating the start of the soft cap. The game was now capped at eight, and Eclipse had taken the lead by taking off on an astonishing six-point run.
At this point, Williams was looking grim-faced, yet seemed determined to re-establish dominance. Rachel Kessler (#11) caught the disc in Williams’ endzone, evening the score at sixes. This didn’t seem to deter Carleton-B, however: they easily scored the next point by putting the disc long to a cutter in the back left-hand corner.
It was now Carleton’s universe point, with Williams in possession of the disc. After having worked the disc down the field, Eclipse’s Claire Leichter handblocked Williams in their endzone; Eclipse’s Kalli Perano forehand-hucked the disc down the line to Kate Trenerry (#93), who caught the winning point in the endzone over Beryl Manning-Geist. The team was elated: after years of being seen as nothing but a B team, Eclipse had firmly established itself as a successful and competitive team in its own right. Carleton-B had officially won the championship game over Williams 8-6, establishing themselves as the 2011 DIII National Champions.
2011 D-III College Champions, Carleton College-Eclipse
PHOTO CREDIT: Discraft
1 - Carleton College-Eclipse
2 - Williams
3T - Smith
3T - Valparaiso
5T - Claremont
5T - Occidental
7T - Grinnell
7T - St Olaf
9T - Princeton
9T - Wellesley
11T - Haverford
11T - Mary Washington
13 - Macalester
14 - Franklin & Marhsall
15 - Oberlin
16 - St Mary's (Maryland)