2015 HS Centrals - Day One Girls' Recap

Posted: May 17, 2015 02:09 AM
The early morning clouds quickly burned off to yield a sunny, slightly breezy day at the 2015 High School Central Championships. As the wind picked up, most games went to cap, making for a long day. It was exciting for this writer to see the development of teams since last year – how personnel has changed, how teams have developed and the general progression of girls’ ultimate in the Midwest. All Saturday’s rounds were pool play, with the final round of pool play to commence tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m.

Holy Family Catholic continues their domination from last year, but roster turnover as well as development of their opponents gave them slightly closer pool play games this year, and most games were played to hard cap. In addition to solid fundamentals and athleticism across the board, Omega utilized more complex and more disciplined offense and defense than the teams they faced on day one. They continue to display outstanding spirit and positivity within the squad as well as toward other teams. This team really shows its depth, spreading the disc around and getting contributions from the entire roster. Omega was unfazed by wind, running their offense smoothly up-line or swinging as necessary to create space. They use the fast break often and effectively. They will play Minneapolis South in their last pool play game tomorrow morning, which will decide the final pool standings. It would take a victory by greater than nine points to take them out of the running for the championship.

James Madison Memorial never gave up on a disc and had a few star players that really made a difference on both offense and defense. Maddy Green (#16) used athleticism coupled with field sense to really clean up on defense and make some beautiful upwind, cross-field throws to break defenses. They did not have the polish or depth of the higher seeds they faced today. Tomorrow they will face St. Cloud Cathedral, who is also winless, playing to stay in the hunt for fifth place.

Minneapolis South also tallied an upset to start the day, using sharp throws and bold cuts to overcome Cathedral. Anna Klevens (#9) uses her speed effectively on both sides of the disc. While all the girls’ teams have inspirational spirit and positivity, Squall stood out with their enthusiastic and loud sidelines, keeping up energy during some of the long points. Carly Eckstrom (#6) bolstered the defense with stifling coverage, making even down-winders tough to come by for opponents. On offense, Helen Walz (#10) used her length to be a big target for bailouts and stayed calm while throwing to continue up-wind movement. This team has really improved since last year, finding more offensive flow and contributions from a wider range of players. They play the dominant Holy Family Catholic first thing tomorrow morning, and if South should win, it will come down to point differential to decide if they are playing for first or fifth.

St. Cloud Cathedral has a "never say die," scrappy style of play but took a few games to find their rhythm. They looked like they were clicking against St. Paul Charter in the third round, going up 2-0 and creating real offensive flow. St. Paul Charter was starting to look gassed, and Cathedral did an excellent job of shutting off the Stars’ upwind hucks. Carmen Ebel (#16) initiates the cuts in or deep for St. Cloud Cathedral and forces turns on D, regardless of her match up. This team is young; middle school players comprise almost half of the St. Cloud roster. They ended the day winless, but their record doesn’t reflect the offensive skill and defensive tenacity they demonstrated today. They will meet James Madison Memorial tomorrow morning to decide the fourth and fifth spots in the pool and determine if they are playing for fifth or ninth place.
St. Paul Charter had the same energy and staying power as last year but looked more polished and had more flow on offense. They came out and broke seed in dominating fashion over James Madison Memorial in the first round, and after a slow start against Holy Family Catholic, traded down-winders to end with a respectable 5-9 score line against last year’s Centrals champion. Holy Family’s athleticism and fast-breaks caught them flat-footed at first, but St. Paul Charter made adjustments and had the athleticism to put pressure on the Omega girls. Standouts include Isabel Olson (#28) picking up the disc and beating Omega’s zone, as well as locking down on defense, and Jian Kettunen (#85) initiating movement as a handler or cutter and dominating in the air on offense or defense. Their third-round game against higher-seeded Cathedral came down to the wire, with the teams tied at 6-6 when the hard-cap horn sounded. Cathedral almost finished the game multiple times, but St. Paul Charter dug deep on defense and remained patient on offense to work the disc up-wind with lots of touches by Kettunen and Olsen. They finished Phoenix on a layout score by Anna Clements. In their final round, St. Paul Charter struck first against Minneapolis South, scoring an upwind break followed by a downwind break before taking half 7-3. Lily Cregan was huge in this game, facilitating upwind movement and generating Squall turnovers. After starting the day as the fifth seed in the pool, they ended the day with only one loss, to Holy Family Catholic, and have the second spot in the pool locked up.  They have a first round bye tomorrow, so will come into the championship bracket well-rested against Neuqua Valley at 10:30 a.m.

Center Grove relies on a few players, namely Delaney Johnson (#25) and Julie Barnett (#8), to make big throws and generate turns and create opportunities. As the wind picked up and they faced higher seeds Hopkins and Edina, separation was greater.  They ended the day with a win over Walter Payton, with Center Grove’s role players looking a little more skilled than the Grizzlies.

Edina has athleticism, field sense and height. They use both zone and tight person defense to harry their opponents’ offense. Edina dominated the first three rounds against lower seeds Walter Payton, Robbinsdale Armstrong and Center Grove. Kayla Blanek (#33¬) has great hands and caught almost everything put to her, while Louise Beck (#30) and Annabelle Albitz (#34) directed the offense. They played Neuqua Valley tight, but their athleticism could not persevere over Neuqua’s greater experience and sharper throws. Tomorrow morning’s game versus Hopkins is for second place in the pool and could be anyone’s game.

Hopkins HerT has solid fundamentals and relies heavily on handler movement and resets. When Lilly Shapiro (#0) is in the mix, flow is smooth and effortless. They like to huck, but have varying levels of success. While turnovers were numerous, they played cleaner than Robbinsdale Armstrong and the lower seeds in their pool, Center Grove and Walter Payton. Both their zone and person-to-person defense were solid, generating more turnovers and cutting down the open looks; in particular, Samantha Tankenoff (#8) played exceptional defense. They will face off tomorrow morning against Edina for the second spot in the pool.

Neuqua Valley retained last year’s impact players Kelly Crowley (#24) and Stephany Stumphauzer (#9) and has deepened the skill and athleticism of their roster to create a formidable team. In the first three rounds, they dominated lower seeds, playing a disciplined offense and suffocating defense against Hopkins, Walter Payton and Robbinsdale Armstrong. They faced greater athleticism against Edina, but their fundamentals in the wind were stronger and their overall disc movement superior. Both teams really brought the defensive pressure which made for great spectating. Neuqua should have an easy win over Center Grove tomorrow morning to take the top spot in Pool B unchallenged.

Robbinsdale Armstrong lost two dominant cutters from last year, but the younger girls have really stepped up, and there is greater contribution across the roster. They have excellent horizontal movement to open up up-field opportunities. Hailey Weber (#4) creates space and often initiated the offense as a cutter. Edina’s combination of person, zone and poach defenses really stumped them, especially upwind, but Robbinsdale-Armstrong made their share of bids and grabs. Against Neuqua Valley, Armstrong couldn’t quite match eNVy’s depth and skill. While Hopkins handled them, Armstrong showed some great disc movement, but couldn’t string enough together to generate flow. Armstrong used their zone defense to effectively slow Hopkins’ handler movement, but Hopkins’ confidence remained unshaken. Their final pool play game tomorrow morning is against the winless Walter Payton.

Walter Payton is a young, inexperienced team that showed growth even over the course of the day, sharpening cuts and setting up better on defense. Hindeke Tewodros (#25) has a bright future in ultimate – already she has the field sense and tenacity to create movement and generate opponents’ turnovers. They played a close game with Hopkins, going down a couple of breaks but bringing it back within one, only to have Hopkins shut the door on the comeback. They went winless on the day, but their offense looks sharper, and they had unflagging energy. Tomorrow morning brings them a match up with Robbinsdale-Armstrong in their final round of pool play.

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