Club Championships - Day 2 Women's Report
Posted: October 29, 2010 07:26 PM
2010 USA Ultimate Club Championships
Women’s Division - Day 2
By: Carolyn Matthews, special to usaultimate.org
All was going according to seed in the women’s division until – cue dramatic music – Nemesis! This year’s dark horse foiled Showdown’s shot at quarterfinals while registering the only upset on Friday. The Chicago crew was ranked 10th coming into the USA Club Championships but gutted out a victory against Phoenix in Thursday Pool Play that earned them a spot in the Power Pool with Fury, Capitals and Scandal. Nemesis hung with the Capitals through 11-10 before the Canadians broke away with a 15-10 victory. The match-up against an equally young and determined Scandal squad went to soft cap with Scandal eking out a 16-14 win. Looking past these losses, Nemesis came out strong in pre-quarters against the ninth-seeded Showdown and fought their way into Saturday’s quarterfinals with a 15-12 win.
So, how are they doing it?
Coach Pfil Broering attributes their success to the hallmarks of Ultimate: athleticism, hard work and chemistry. In terms of athleticism and hard work, Broering points to one of the team’s core members: Megan Tormey. The 26-year old competes in the Crossfit World Championships – a strength and condition training competition that combines weightlifting, sprinting and gymnastics. Additionally, Nemesis boasts college phenoms such as Lien Hoffman – a Colorado YCC alumna and freshmen at Northwestern. The team calls her “Panther” a nickname she earned for her springs, speed and ability to stalk her opponents. Hoffman was assigned to mark Scandal’s dynamic Octavia Payne and Showdown’s Callahan winner Cara Crouch. Nemesis runs primarily hard person defense, typically forcing forehand. In their pre-quarter, they stifled Crouch’s deadly around backhand enough to upset Showdown’s flow and generate breaks.
The team pulls it all together with a cohesive, rehearsed offense that runs through a core group of handlers. Downfield cutters run a rehearsed series of cuts with two cutters lined up in the middle of the field and two on the sidelines similar to their quarterfinal match-up Riot. The middle cutters flow off each other creating quick open looks for lots of yards. Their huck game is hard to stop with beautiful looks coming from veteran handler Jessica Hellyer. In their game against Showdown, Hellyer threw a 40-yard forehand huck to a streaking Lori Eich to put the team up 14-12. Broering called it the play of the game.
Tomorrow, Nemesis will play Riot – a team they’ve never faced. Riot steamrolled through Friday and may well do the same thing on Saturday. Using a combination of junky defenses, zones and person defense, the Seattle giant easily took down regional match-up Traffic 15-6 and they beat the three-seed Brute Squad 15-7. Nemesis may not be ready to jump up to the level to Riot’s level play since only Fury has proven itself against Riot this year.
Like Brazilian soccer, Riot plays the beautiful game. They use the whole field, break marks effortlessly and huck with precision. They run a split stack in the open field that condenses into a vertical stack in the endzone Miranda Roth, Rohre Titcomb, Liz Duffy, Shannon O’Malley and pretty much the rest of the Riot’s roster make it look easy. Captains Gwen Ambler and Sarah Griffith lead the deep roster with composed and meticulous control. The team and its regional rival Fury stand head and shoulders above the competition – including the high-ranked Brute Squad. During its eight-year history, Brute Squad has yet to put up a win against either Northwest team and today was no exception.
In round two, Brute came out and broke Riot twice but quickly the walls collapsed around Boston. Despite big plays from Dominique Fontenette, VY Chow and former Riot player Vivian Zayas, Brute Squad could not recover after an upwind break that put Riot ahead 4-3. Brute Squad squandered endzone opportunities and Riot capitalized quickly. Riot extended their lead by hammering over Brute Squad’s cup. Against their person defense, Riot used a combination of jailbreak offense and dumps and swings. Their defense was a mix of several styles but each one included tremendous hustle including a big layout D from Riot’s Calise Cardenas. Riot used the same strategy in the first round of Friday against Traffic. The Vancouver team stuck with their regional rival early. Traffic’s Kira Frew made great plays all game including a big handblock at 5-5. Riot went on to score that point and another quick 10, allowing Traffic to score just once more, ending in a 15-6 Riot beat down.
Fury’s road was not paved as smoothly as Riot’s but the San Fran team sealed their favorable quarterfinals match-ups with 15-10 and 15-7 victories over Scandal and Capitals respectively. Fury came out slow against Scandal who was up 6-3 on the defending champs. Fury made several unforced errors and simply put – had a case of the dropsies in the first half of game one. Scandal also had several endzone turns but finally connected with hucks to Huldah Gronvall and Johanna Neumann. Scandal took half which lead to a serious meeting of Fury leadership during the break. Soon after half, Fury pulled to Scandal and the Ultimate nightmare occurred: a dropped pull. Fury converted quickly but Scandal did not hang their heads. Instead, they brought the game up to 10-10 before Fury ran away with the next five scores ending in a 15-10 finish. In their second game, Fury players were awake from the start. They took half at 8-3 and didn’t look back until they put the Capitals away 15-7.
Elsewhere in Power Pool play, the unsinkable Molly Brown saw the tip of the day’s iceberg against Brute Squad in game one. The new Colorado team came out gunning against Brute Squad using a strategy that involved the basic strategy of pick-up-disc-fast-and-huck-far. Anna Schott and Kelly Kneib served as quarterbacks for these hail Mary plays – and in the first half receivers Yelena Onnen and Lindsey Cross scored several touchdowns. Molly Brown also employed dump-swings and breaks but their go-to play was the long outside-in forehand huck to one of the team’s speedy receivers. Brute broke up the Molly Brown’s huck game with a three-person cup. Brute Squad had its share of hucks coming from Fontenette, Rana Kannan and Chrissy Dobson. Molly Brown closed in at 11-10 but Brute’s Squad’s zone coupled with Molly Brown’s indiscriminate hucking put Brute Squad ahead 15-12.
After the team’s big loss to Riot, Traffic got to do its own damage against Molly Brown who appeared to be taking on water after their brush with Brute Squad. Dejected from their near-victory against a top-four team, Molly Brown came out slow against the re-energized Traffic and never gained speed. Both teams play a similar game of using outside-in hucks to gain major yards. Today, Traffic elevated that game above the high-altitude training Coloradans who fell to the VC team 15-4. The number eight-seed Molly Brown was now slated to play a pre-quarter against the top finisher of Pool H.
North Carolina’s Phoenix lived true to its name and rose up from the lower pool to face off with Molly Brown. Both teams were born out of dissolved legacy teams – Phoenix from Backhoe and Molly Brown from Rare Air. The names both depict redemption and rescue but unfortunately only one team would emerge from pre-quarters to meet Fury in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
Phoenix played two long 15-13 games against Bent and Safari and their throws and legs looked tired in the first point. Molly Brown pulled to Phoenix and broke N.C. to go up 1-0. Phoenix had a quick response with a huck to Melissa Gannon to put the game at 1-1. They teams traded breaks and lots of turns throughout the first half as things stayed tight through 6-6. Point breaks, swilly hucks and jump balls made the first half thrilling and frustrating for Molly Brown.
“Our deep game came together in this game,” said Phoenix Captain Lindsey Hack. “It wasn’t clicking against Nemesis but we worked it out when it mattered.”
In the second half, Phoenix pulled ahead by catching more of the outside-in hucks thrown by Heather Zimmerman. Tireless cutting from Kate Morrison and tight defense from Katie Harris have Phoenix the edge against weary Molly Brown. Phoenix pulled ahead 12-8 and punched in goal after goal until Teresa Rouse finished the game in dramatic style – getting a run through D and aggressively cutting for the final goal, 15-10.
Hack credited her team’s resolve for the victory and tipped her hat to coach Tully Beatty for being the team’s “positive life force.”