2010 Westerns Saturday Pool Play - Girls Division

Posted: May 8, 2010 09:00 PM

The early buzz on the field Saturday morning wasn’t about the marquee match ups, the trendy wristbands or the fresh jar of nutella. It was about the weather – or more specifically, the lack of inclement weather in the weekend forecast. Had anyone ever seen a spring day in Seattle with zero percent chance of rain? Herds of parents toting in pop up tents, tables and folding chairs were not about to take any chances, and soon the sidelines were stocked with preparations, ready for the teams to take the fields – no matter what mother nature intended to throw our way.

Round 1: Pool Play (2 v 3 games)
As it turned out, the first round of the day opened to bright blue skies and no real breeze to speak of, save for the whizzing of discs and an air of excitement. The morning match ups featured The Lakeside School (Seattle) against Cathedral (St. Cloud), and Seattle Academy of Arts & Sciences (Seattle) against the Alameda Community Learning Center (Alameda).

Despite the calm weather, Cathedral opened up their first match of the weekend with a little zone defense. While Lakeside’s strength is in their fast break offense, Cathedral did an effective job of slowing down key Lakeside handlers Lucia Childs-Walker and Claire Revere through savvy defense. Cathedral did a nice job of capitalizing on mistakes and stretching out their deep game early on - a strategy that would come in handy in the last round of the day. Despite Cathedral’s initial 6-2 lead, Lakeside put a few more on the board before Cathedral could take half 7-4. In the open field, Lakeside would continue to move the disc well, but had trouble connecting in the endzone. Both teams played zones for much of the second half, but in the end Cathedral would walk away with the “w” and a score of 13-6.

On the east field, Alameda clearly came out to play. Having spent the majority of their season, including the UPA California HS State Championship, playing as a girls’ team in the open division, or as a combined mixed team with their male counterparts, these girls were ready to throw down. Marisa Rafter of Alameda put on a clinic in layout poach d’s, followed by huge hucks to her partner in crime, Natalie McKee. SAAS appeared to initially be thrown off guard by Alameda’s fire, but still up a break, 3-5, when Alameda smacked on a 1-3-3 zone that gave the illusion of big holes to throw through. For a moment, it appeared the SAAS would shred this new zone, until a crafty poach by Marisa earned Alameda the disc, and a huge huck to Natalie McKee that finished just short of the endzone, allowing Madeline Heaps to earn the goal. Looking to tie the game up, Alameda again comes out with a junky zone, but after several impressive stands defending their endzone, an big upwind huck by Kirsite Barton of SAAS finds teammate Ellie Engel to finish the long point and keep SAAS up a break, 4-6.

It wasn’t long before sophomores Nina Finley and Kirstie Barton found their rhythm, and identified what they would need to do to contain Marisa Rafter and Natalie McKee. SAAS would take half 7-4, but Alameda was no where near ready to give up the fight. After having traded points to 8-5, Alameda finally converts a break as the softcap goes on, 8-6, game to 10. Alameda is coming out with tough shut down D, causing the SAAS offense to stagnant and forcing a tricky reset that doesn’t get completed. After swinging the disc a few times to get the offense in motion, Marisa Rafter again finds the space to get the disc down line on the go, and unleashes a powerful flick huck to her favorite receiver for the goal and to bring the game within one, 8-7. The game is beginning to have that palpable feeling of exhaustion, as everyone from the players to the parents to the coaches is so emotionally invested in the outcome of this next point. The hard cap is fast approaching and Alameda is either going to score and force the game into a tie and one more point, or SAAS is going to close out a long and hard fought match.

With a slight wind picking up, the level of play of the defense on both squads begins to rise. Marisa lays out to get a catch block on a reset pass. Kirstie hand blocks Marisa’s huck, but it’s still catchable – until Nina explodes out of the chaos to throw her body and the disc definitively to the ground. In defense of her teammate, Natalie puts a hard mark on Nina, and earns Alameda a hand block statistic as well. Marisa is looking to win the game with her throws and rushes a huck, but Nina has sprinted off after the streaking Natalie and gets the inside position, denying Alameda the scoring opportunity. Fatigue and desperation begin to replace calm decision making on both sides of the disc, and after a number of turnovers, Alameda calls a time out to regroup and rest before making another attack on the downwind endzone. Savvy SAAS comes out of the time out with a box-and-one zone, with Kirstie playing person defense on Marisa while her teammates set a zone. The strategy works, and SAAS punches the disc in to win 9-7 at the hard cap.

Round 2: Pool Play (1 v. 3 games)
Having just left their hearts and souls on the field against SAAS, Alameda struggled to come out of the gate with much enthusiasm against a fresh Nathan Hale (Seattle) squad. The first half went by all too quickly, with Nathan Hale going up 6-0 and Alameda trying to refocus their game to get on the board. Coming out of half time, they did just that but it was too little too late, and though they earned a number of defenses in the second half, the final score was 13-4. 

Perhaps the Northwest School (Seattle) girls were a bit groggy from sleeping in, or last night’s Prom, it’s hard to say. But credit should be given to the Lakeside girls for coming out in the start of the second round with a fresh intensity and a positive go-get’em attitude. Much like the last round, both Lakeside and Northwest practiced their zones on defense and their handler sets on offense, complete with crashing and over the top throws to make any coach proud. When Lakeside could carry some momentum, they were able to work the disc up much of the field. Credit must also be given to Northwest’s stifling endzone defense for not giving many opportunities for scores, and their ability to get a turn, get the disc moving and quickly and efficiently find their own endzone. The final score of 13-4 is not indicative of how interesting this game was to watch, with its many exciting plays.

Round 3: Pool Play (1 v. 2 games)
At this point in the day, Alameda and Lakeside have earned a little rest, the wind is picking up, and some dark and twisty clouds are resting neatly on the eastern hills. The buzz is once again on the weather and the potential for the clear and sunny day to turn into the chilly and wet weather that is so typical of spring Ultimate in the northwest. It was as though the weather wanted nothing more than a front row seat to the next two rounds of nail biting action, because the ominous storm clouds never left the nearby foothills.

Having shook out most of the cobwebs in their first game against Lakeside, Northwest School confidentially took the field  in the third round and started out the game with a 4-1 run against a fiery and talented Cathderal. Not to be outdone, Cathedral answered back with a run of their own and brought the game quickly back within grasp at 4-5. Northwest called a timeout to regroup, only to find themselves facing a renewed Cathderal zone. Julia Snyder and Michaela Fallon hardly bat an eye as they swing and strike, hitting poppers in stride until an uncharacteristic turn by a receiver allows Cathedral to convert on a goal by Kelsey Jackson that brings the score to 5-6. Not to be daunted, Northwest goes to work and takes half 7-5.

After taking a brief break for half time, the teams again take the line but this time with Cathedral pulling to Northwest, who will then be going upwind. In taking advantage of the situation, Cathedral is able to get a block and convert the score to again be within one, 6-7. Now back on serve going downwind, Julia Snyder works to get the disc and shortly thereafter, the assist, as she helps her team to again go up by two, 8-6. The opportunities are there and both teams have been looking to their usual suspects to move the disc down the field and utilize all seven sets of legs that are working hard to get open and reel in the disc. Cathedral’s Cami Nelson puts a beautiful throw just a tad too far in front of teammate Kari Neutzling, and Northwest uses the opportunity to go up 9-6.

A few points later and Cathedral is once again down by one and working it upwind towards their endzone, but a pass too close to the sideline results in a turnover and at the hard cap Northwest is able to score the last point and win the game 11-9.

On the next field down, a cross town rivalry between Nathan Hale and SAAS is once again being played out on the field. Hale comes out firing, and thanks to big pulls by Barbara Hoover that force SAAS to play 70 plus yards of offense upwind, Hale is able to get blocks and convert to take a 5-2 lead. The next few points trade out with both teams scoring downwind. Kirstie Barton is on fire, running the offensive handler set with standout teammate Simone Barley-Greenfield, as well as getting multiple endzone blocks. It ends up being not quite enough, as Hale takes half 7-4 and then is able to roll two more points right off the bat to go up 9-4. Not going down without a fight, SAAS puts two more on the board as well, including a long hard fight for a downwind score, followed by an upwind break to start to catch Hale’s 9-6 lead. It’s also too little too late, with the hard cap going on and Nathan Hale scoring the final point to win 10-6.

Round 4: Crossovers (1s v. 2s and 3 v. 3)
Three games to watch, all opponents evenly matched. The bounty on the line for the two one seeds is a chance to prove they deserve the first round bye into the semis on Sunday morning. The two seeds would like nothing more than to earn that late wake up call. All three games come down to double game point. It just doesn’t get any better than this!

By now, the wind is gusting and shifting from a west to east wind, to an east to west wind. Teams need to adjust on the fly, and whoever can keep their composure and put a lot of spin on the disc in a swirly wind will seemingly come out the better.

SAAS is the first to capitalize on the changing wind and goes up 4-3 on Northwest School. After trading out downwind points, it’s clear to both teams that someone is going to need to pull ahead. A bit serendipitously, the wind dies and a SAAS zone doesn’t realize in time to stop Northwest from earning back their break, as well as the next downwind score and another upwind break to go up 7-5. After a relatively quick half time, and knowing that the cap horns will soon be blaring, both teams possess the disc well, and SAAS recovers a break to tie the game at 7-7. In the first of three double game point games, Northwest earns the last downwind goal and the win with a score of 8-7.

Next door, Alameda and Lakeside are playing a game of runs. Two points at a time, both teams appear to be chipping away at each other’s fatigue in this third game of the day. It appeared that Alameda was going to be able to close up shop after having taken half 7-3. Through a lot of grit and determination, Lakeside manages to bring the score back to 7-7, and nearly get a block on the last throw. Instead of sending the disc to the ground, a defender inadvertently pops a swing pass up into the air and into the waiting hands of Alameda Sweet Meat for the win, 8-7.

The game to watch this round was again down on the east field, this time between Cathedral and Nathan Hale. There is so much talent on both sides of the disc, and both teams are wanted it badly enough that some points were long enough to be downright exhausting just to watch. Hale’s Barbara Hoover and Shira Stern took ownership of scoring the downwind points, and both teams traded until Hale was able to get an early break that gave them the advantage at half, 7-5.

The wind began to die down and Hale tried to create more separation from the battle ready Cathedral, but even in utilizing their scoring machine Naima Antolin, they could only pull as far away as 12-9. Cathedral’s Kari Neutzling and Kaylyn Leither do a nice job of running the show behind the disc, and answering Hale’s surge with a clean offensive point. The score is 12-10 in Hale’s favor, game to 13. A quick turn and score by Cathedral gets the sideline energy up, and Nathan Hale appears to become a bit nervous, giving up another break to a fired up Cathedral and allowing the game to be tied.

With the strings of her red necklace floating in the wind as she races down the field, Cathedral’s Cami Nelson gets a big lay out block. Unable to score on this possession, Hale works it to their downwind red zone before calling a time out. With a guess that Cathderal might throw an endzone line zone, Hale turns and resets the disc, before swinging and striking at what appears to be a tough pass into traffic. Cathedral defenders collapse on the disc in front of the intended receiver and earn themselves a chance at the win. A few bladey forehands later, and Cathedral has made it to their endzone line where from a distance it looks as though Hale has gotten a lay out block, but it’s a contested foul that goes back to the thrower. A high stall count results in a big flick going up and into the endzone, where a savvy Cathedral player snatches the final goal and the only upset of the round, a 13-12 win.