2013 HS Northeasterns - Saturday Recap

Posted: May 11, 2013 11:48 PM
There are few things that can get most high school students out of bed with the sun on a Saturday morning. Luckily, ultimate is one of them.
Teams arrived today in Devens, Mass., for the 2013 USA Ultimate Northeastern High School Championships, only to be greeted by clouds, drizzle and gusty winds. Although, considering the level of play seen throughout the day, these 30 teams seemed to think those were fine conditions for ultimate. Surrounded by the historic buildings that constitute the U.S. Army’s Fort Devens, many of the strongest teams from across the Northeast gathered to begin their quests toward earning the title of the region’s best.
Shortly before 9:00am, team cheers echoed off the nearby buildings as they prepared for their first match ups of the day. Fortunately, the rain had largely dissipated by the time the initial horn sounded, but the winds and wet grass remained, creating some tricky throwing conditions.
Here are some highlights.
Open Division: Upsets are King (results)
Only Pool C played out to seed by the time the day ended and not by much. Upsets were a common theme, showcasing the difficult task of ever accurately ranking these teams. 
Amherst, however, doesn’t seem to believe in upsets. They cruised through the day and came away with a 3-0 record and not having allowed any one opponent to put more than four points on the board. Legendary coach Tiina Booth and assistant coach Brent Anderson have the Hurricanes prepared for anything. They play tight defense, covering the cutters and eliminating easy resets or dumps. After forcing a turnover, they transition quickly and smoothly to their offensive sets, where they use the whole field with their seemingly never-ending supply of confident handlers and sure-handed receivers. The team’s poise in tough situation belies their age.
Fox Chapel had some exciting games and worked hard to earn their 2-2 record with wins over Westfield and Xavier. The offense runs off quick handler movement to deep shots to one of several athletic receivers. Max Sheppard is the field general; he plays with a lot of confidence and has the throws and ability to match. Fox Chapel’s clash with Westfield, a similar team that matched up well with the boys from Pittsburgh, was one of the more thrilling games of the day, ending only with the hard cap and giving Fox Chapel the 11-10 win. 
Needham was another powerhouse on the day, leaving with a 3-0 record and an average margin of victory of more than seven points. The solidarity and chemistry on the team was clear – and not only because of all the buzz cuts and mohawks. They play with intensity and focus and constant support from their vocal sidelines. Cuts are efficient and run through the offensive system, which is powered by consistent throws across the board.
A relative newcomer to the high school ultimate scene in the Northeast, Sharon High School’s Bad Clams started off their day with an exciting come-back victory over the Warriors from Watchung Hills. Down 3-6, the Clams tallied four consecutive goals to go up 7-6. Watchung Hills responded and tied the game at sevens, just in time for the hard cap. On universe point, the Clams looked to the end zone and put up a flick that got quickly got a little extra floaty thanks to the wind. But the Clams came down with it in traffic to take the win 8-7. Sharon ran into some tough competition in the next several rounds and ended the day with a 1-3 record, but keep an eye out for the Clams down the line. According to Coach Dave Christiansen, Northeasterns is their first big event of the year with the entire team. And after graduating 14 of 18 members last year, this team is young but looking to play with the region’s frontrunners sooner rather than later.
Pool C looked to be a toss-up from the outset. Three teams closed out pool play with a 2-1 record: Newton North, Hampton and West Windsor-Plainsboro (WWP). Thanks to point differential and head-to-head results, the pool was left according to its initial seeding. As a result, Hampton and WWP each had an extra game to play – a crossover game for seeding in tomorrow’s championship bracket. Hampton got a win over Sharon, while WWP fell to the two seed from Pool B, Fieldston.
Both Newton North and Hampton were solid throughout the day. Newton North plays with intensity and flair, and a lot of neon cleats. They have quick handlers who use the entire width of the field to swing the disc and keep things moving. Handlers often took shots to their athletic downfield receivers, giving them opportunities to win battles in the air and outrun their defenders.
Hampton is consistent, top to bottom. Scott Trimble played big for the Hampton Ultimate Club (HUC) all day; he was nearly always on the field and making his presence felt with big grabs and smart throws. His counterparts, often against zone defenses (which were frequent with today’s wind), were Mark Schwoegl and Wally Gaida who handled in the middle and on the opposite wing. Between them, these three tallied countless goals and assists during the day. But again, the team is solid throughout. HUC plays an incredibly poised, even-keeled game that is impressive for any ultimate veteran to watch.
Going into Saturday’s play, there were predictions that Pool D would turn out to be the always-feared Pool of Death, and it did not disappoint. After the dust settled, the Hooligans from Lexington emerged victorious, no thanks to their opponents. Well-hyped, but largely untested, Pennsbury started the day as the three seed (and ninth overall seed) in the pool. They also started the upset movement with a 12-9 win over the pool’s one-seed, Columbia, in the first round. In one of the more intense games of the day, Pennsbury and Lexington clashed to decide who would win the pool and avoid the crossover game. While other teams seemed to struggle to match up with Pennsbury’s individual playmaking ability, Lexington was equal to the task. The Hooligans also employed a tough zone defense that seemed to neutralize quite a bit of the Falcons' athleticism, and Lexington walked away with a 12-6 win. The loss didn’t seem to bother Pennsbury for long though. They followed it up with a 13-3 victory over Maine’s Fryeburg Academy and a 13-8 win over Westfield in the crossover game. Both Pennsbury and Lexington play exciting ultimate and are teams to keep an eye out for in tomorrow’s championship bracket.
Girls’ Division: There’s a Reason They’re Called Powerhouses (results)
In each of the last three years, the Amherst Regional High School Hurricanes have emerged as the champions of their region – in both the open and girls divisions. They are undoubtedly one of the most prolific programs in the, brief but not insignificant, history of youth ultimate. The Hurricanes Girls Varsity team is certainly looking to extend their title streak. 
Amherst has a system, and it works. Each game starts with a team focusing huddle that includes their coach, Josh Nugent. When they’re ready, a team tunnel is formed, and the starting line is called, each girl running through the tunnel to the cheers and excitement of her teammates. Then they get on the line and continue the routine – tough defense that leads to turnovers and disciplined offense that adds to the scoreboard. In all, the Hurricanes allowed two points today, both to Allderdice, in their first game of the day. They are a force to be reckoned with. And the scary part? The current varsity team includes only three seniors. Oh, and their junior varsity team – presumably the players that will replace any graduates – they went 2-1 on the day. Their one loss came to Mount Lebanon, the eventual one-seed in their pool, by two points.
The Lady Warriors of Watchung Hills also had a dominant day, securing a 3-0 record, and definitively winning their pool. Beacon, Longmeadow and Radnor all came away with 1-2 records, demonstrating the parity among much of the field. The Lady Warriors were continually effective against the many zone iterations they saw throughout the day. Quick handler movement, smart decisions and standout play and on-field leadership from senior Olivia Hampton helped Watchung to their undefeated day. They also won the (unofficial) award for best dressed coach in Terence Chen, despite the unforgiving weather. 
One of the most exciting games in the girl’s division featured Columbia Sparkle Motion and Haverford HUDA. In what was a fast-paced, energetic game with great play from both teams on both sides of the disc, points were traded throughout. Sparkle Motion kept the defensive pressure high with tough, aggressive marks, while a zone look from HUDA seemed to temporarily slow down the Columbia offense. In the midst of a marathon point, tied at 7-7, the hard cap horn blew. Both teams fought hard to come away with the win, creating many athletic plays from big hucks to countless defensive blocks. HUDA’s Linda Morse kept locating open receivers with precise throws, while Aurora Rojer was consistently able to shake her defenders to be open downfield and keep the disc moving for Sparkle Motion. In the end, Columbia’s Kiyomi Taylor, who came up with huge play after huge play throughout the game, made another great grab in traffic to give her team the victory. 
Great, spirited play could be seen across all fields today. From the Maine combo team playing their first tournament together and celebrating each score, to the Beacon ladies who never gave up on a game or a point, the future of youth and women’s ultimate looks strong. 
The National Team Conquers Devens
As one of their several practice weekends leading up to July’s World Games in Colombia, the U.S. National Team converged on Devens this weekend. The team used the morning to practice on a spare field neighboring the open division. Following their practice, the team hosted a carnival of sorts as a chance to talk with the youth players and raise money to help cover all the expenses associated with this summer’s competition. Members of the National Team were challenged in a wide range of activities, from a game of P-I-G with trick shots to three legged races to solving calculus problems, among other things.
Immediately following the last round of tournament play, the National Team took on a group of Boston all-stars from Ironside and Brute Squad. Those brave enough to weather the rain that reappeared late in the last round witnessed the highest level of play available in our sport. Athletes many ultimate players have admired for years flew around the field making spectacular plays and running down discs others only dream of. 
To cap it all off, the sun appeared in the western sky for the first time all day in the last two points and was mirrored by a double rainbow in the east. Ironsquad certainly gave the U.S. team a run for their money and lots of excitement to the mostly local fans, but the National Team pulled it out in the end with a 15-12 win.
What to Watch For – Sunday:
Sunday’s bracket play in both divisions should create many memorable match ups. Any number of teams in the open division could challenge Amherst this year. 
In the open division, the Hurricanes will likely face Lexington or Hampton in the semifinal round; whichever team survives the quarterfinals will be a worthy opponent. The semis will be full of athletic plays and smart decisions. Barring tired legs from the quarterfinals winner, in what will be an equally exciting to game watch, Amherst should have their hands full. And that’s only the top half of the bracket. The bottom half is sure to be just as intense and fun to watch.
In the girls’ division, the original one and two seeds, Amherst and Watchung Hills look to be on a collision path headed toward the finals. Can anyone unseat the Hurricanes, or will they be taking home their fourth consecutive regional title?
Overheard on the Sidelines:
  • Regarding the team’s blingy headbands (while wearing this year’s version): 
    "Do you still have the purple one from two years ago?"
    -Supportive Haverford Dads
  • "It was a great day. George Stubbs shook your hand."
    In response: "We interacted!"
    -U.S. National Team Fans

Photos by UltiPhotos.com - Saturday Girls Division



Photos by UltiPhotos.com - Saturday Open Division




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