2011 D-III College Championships - Saturday Women's Recap

Posted: May 21, 2011 11:32 PM
Heavy fog and gray skies greeted the Division III Nationals competitors in Akron, New York this morning, as all sixteen womens' teams geared up to play three games of pool play each, scheduled over a grueling time span of almost twelve hours. The initially dreary weather proved to be a misleading omen, however, since the atmosphere at the field site was far from morose: every team, from the tightly organized Carleton Eclipse to the brightly-clad St. Mary's and Haverford, exhibited extremely cheery and spirited demeanors as they began their long day of play. Most teams, it seemed, were simply excited to be part of a new, growing division in which they are recognized, and were constantly reminding themselves with surprise at how far they had gotten: hearing a player spontaneously exclaim, "Guys, we're at Nationals!" was not uncommon during morning drills and warm-ups.
As the fog melted away and gave way to a sunny, breezy day, players began to shake their pre-game jitters and play some really spectacular Ultimate. Macalester and St. Olaf, regional rivals who were both looking forward to a friendly face-off in Akron, played a particularly close game in the second round: the teams traded points until St. Olaf's Erin Curme (#24) got an impressive handblock on the mark at Olaf's endzone, then picking up immediately and throwing an easy backhand to Kelsie Brust (#35) to end the game at 11-9. Grinnell and Wellesley played an equally captivating game: after Carla Eckland (#10) ended Grinnell's game against Franklin and Marshall with a layout Callahan (on her birthday, no less!), Grinnell came out with their guns blazing against the Massachusetts team, exhibiting quick handler movement and fiery defense from players like Eckland, Sarah Ervin (#22), and Kelly Helbach (#19). Wellesley responded accordingly, displaying some of the best across-field movement and clean, technical offense played all day. The two teams traded points until the end when Grinnell's determination won out: the final score was 13-8.
While Grinnell and Wellesley were duking it out, another closely contested game was underway: Carleton's Eclipse vs. Smith's Luna, or, as some observers on the sidelines were calling it jokingly, the battle of the moons. Eclipse came out strong, gaining an early two-point lead; Smith, however, lashed back, with handler/cutter Amber Sinicrope (#10) putting the disc to the left back corner of the endzone which was received by Clare Horan (#74). "Hey Luna," screamed the Smithies, "Where's the fire?" "In your pants!" the opposite sideline responded. For the first twenty minutes of the game, it seemed that Smith--with its quick disc movement and well-placed deep looks--might come out the winner; unfortunately for them, Carleton Eclipse's height advantage and aggressive defense completely overshadowed Luna's early momentum, ultimately winning 13-5. 
Grinnell and Valparaiso also played a close, exciting game towards the end of the day. At the midpoint of the game, it seemed like Valparaiso had it in the bag: their tight, four-person cup shut down Grinnell's quick handler movement, making them force throws and turn the disc often. After a few unfocused points on Valparaiso's part, however, gave Grinnell some room to catch up in score: soon the teams were tied and the game's energy rose, resulting in layouts and handblocks galore from Grinnell and Valpo players alike. In the end, however, Valpo's cup proved to be effective enough to shut Grinnell's offense down near their endzone, ending the game at hard cap 12-10. 
Interestingly enough, the seeding within pools remained fairly accurate in the womens' division: there was only one upset over the course of the day, in pool A: Princeton beat a tired-looking St. Mary's 13-5 in the last round of the day. Otherwise, the pools' seedings remained accurate: Carleton, Claremont, Williams, and Valparaiso remained undefeated, thus getting a first-round bye tomorrow instead of playing a crossover game. Look out for the Wellesley vs. Smith crossover game in the morning--that should be a fun one to watch. Only time will tell the results of this exciting, two-day championship tournament.