2010 Easterns Saturday Pool Play - Girls Division

Posted: May 15, 2010 09:00 PM

The absence of defending girls champion Padeia, whose graduation coincided with UPA Easterns, was definitely felt this weekend in Buffalo, NY.  With the highly respected and often feared team from Atlanta out of the picture, one would think it would have opened the door for new rivalries and fresh blood. 

“Padeia not being here definitely takes away from this tournament,” said Amherst’s captain Hannah Yee. “They’re great competitors and our fiercest competition.”

For those who follow girls’ ultimate, the Amherst Hurricanes from Massachusetts are the logical favorite to win the championship with two members, Yee and fellow captain Afra Danai, heading to Junior Worlds in August.   And the Hurricanes did not disappoint, dominating their opponents by a total of 33 points in three games. Amherst did suffer a scare in their 13-3 win against fifth seed LC Bird when Yee, a junior, strained a muscle in her right shoulder, keeping her out of the tournament for the rest of the day.

Down a couple of key players, juniors Katie St. John and Kathryn McGill led the way as the rest of the team stepped up their intensity as they continued to trounce their opponents  Memorial and Columbia high school 13-1 and 13-2, respectively. The Hurricanes held their breath yet again when Danai, a senior, crashed face down to the ground after colliding with a Sparkle Motion player. She quickly regrouped and seconds later scored for Amherst.

With the rest of the field consistently remarking on Amherst’s monopoly in the region, it’s a wonder the Hurricanes are able to maintain their intensity. “We actually sat down as a team before the season to discuss this very issue,” said Yee. “We talked about individual goals and really appreciate it when someone reaches their individual goals, and this makes us strong as a group. Ever since then we’ve really stepped it up in practice.” And it certainly translates onto the field.

Unlike perennial Amherst, this was the first tournament for the University School of Nashville girls. More than half of the girls on the roster had not touched a disc before this month. Tenth-seeded Brutal Grassburn, who also represents the sole girls’ team in all of Tennessee, surprised the field by going 3-1 with a dominating performance 11-1 to Watchung and wins over Mt. Lebanon (9-5) and YHB JV (11-2). Brutal was led by captains Jesse Shofner, a junior, and senior Allyson Lutz. Lutz’s father also coaches the boys’ team. “This is a phenomenal tournament,” said Shofner. “It’s so much fun to come out here with such a rookie team and share with them how awesome the sport of ultimate is.”

With Padeia out, the Yorktown/HB Woodlawn girls are expected to step up and become the Hurricanes’ stiffest competition. The YHB team has grown tremendously in the past few years with 58 girls in their varsity, junior varsity, and “newbies” squads. YHB varsity fought hard to keep seed through tight games nearly all day. They started off the day staving off Mt. Lebanon who was led by the quick cutting and strong and accurate handling of Ellie Shaul, a senior headed to Worlds in Heillbronn, Germany. Tied at 8, the YHB Titans forced turnovers with their workman-like defense to get the win.

“It was definitely a wake-up call,” said captain Sam Taggart who will attend the University of Virginia in the fall. “We’ve got to bring our A-game tomorrow.”

Mt. Lebanon split their games 2-2 with victories in the final two rounds against YHB JV (11-2) and Watchung (11-7).

This was the highest the Titans have ever been seeded. “We’re really hyped up but there is a lot of pressure,” said junior Alika Johnston. “Hopefully we live up to the expectations.”

YHB varsity did just that in arguably the most intense game of the day. Down 3-6 to Watchung Hills in the fourth round, YHB went on a 4-0 run to take the lead. Although evenly matched in athleticism, it was the defense of the Titans, led by junior Michelle Derieux (4 goals and 6 defensive plays against Watchung), that proved too much for the Lady Warriors. With the score tied at 8 and universe point, sophomore Jojo Emerson hucked from beyond half-field to junior Claudia Dimick to seal the victory.

While the varsity team was focused on keeping seed, the junior varsity team (0-4 for the day) led by sophomores Hannah Littman and Kelly Willner, were just happy to be a part of the blustery day in Buffalo. “We are just so psyched and so pumped,” said Littman. “Our team is learning so much.” “You learn to play against different styles of play and defense,” agreed Willner. “You also learn how to stay competitive and aggressive while keeping the spirit of the game.

Although they’ve been a mainstay of New York City high school ultimate for over 20 years, the Stuyvesant girls (2-2) are also trying to build up a new base of players. After defeating YHB’s JV team 11-1 in the first round, the Sticky Fingers’ next two wins of the day were fueled by the chemistry of seniors Emily Park and Raisa Shnayder who connected consistently throughout the day. The duo combined on three straight scores to seal their 9-7 victory against Nashville in the fourth round of play. The winds picked up and Stuy’s next game against Watchung was hotly contested but fraught with turnovers, frustrating both players and coaches alike. Shnayder benefited from a high-release backhand from junior Jenny Li to tie the game at 6 and senior Connie Li was the recipient of the game winner from another zippy flick from fellow captain Park. Stuy dropped their final game of the day 7-11 to YHB varsity who was the pool’s top seed.

With a large contingent of new players, Columbia girls went 2-1 for the day, led by seniors Kate Donatelli and Claire Kearns-McCoy. “We have a huge freshman class,” said Kearns-McCoy, “so this has been a great experience for us and we were able to try out a lot of new things.”

Sparkle Motion defeated sixth-seeded Andover 11-1 and ninth-seeded LC Bird 13-6, before falling to Amherst.

LC Bird (2-2) broke seed by defeating Andover 13-7 and Memorial 13-3, who were ranked sixth and eighth respectively. Said junior and captain Rachel Basham, “We came into this weekend just wanting to have fun, play hard, and work on our skills. People stepped into their positions quickly.”

Both Watchung Hills and Memorial had a tough first day, going winless in their respective pools. Wacthung found themselves in tight matches, losing their last three games by a combined total of six points. Memorial made the 14-hour bus ride from Madison, Wis. to represent the only established female team in the state, both girls and women, for the past several years. The Andover Golden Gophers also dropped seed by going 1-2 for the day with losses to Columbia (11-1) and LC Bird (7-13).