2015 HS Centrals - Day Two Girls' Recap

Posted: May 17, 2015 10:32 PM


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Neuqua Valley claimed their first-ever High School Central Championships title this weekend in Ames, Iowa.

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Final Round of Pool Play

Not too much excitement here, since all games went to seed. Holy Family Catholic dominated Minneapolis South, though South’s Maya O’Loughlin had some great breakmark throws, and overall, the South defense played smart. Holy Family Catholic’s Hayley Samson, was racking up tick marks in the stat columns. Cathedral and James Madison Memorial’s game for fourth or fifth place in Pool A was the tightest and most exciting game of the round. Both teams looked fresh and sharp this morning, answering each upwinder with another upwinder. Not all the throws were pretty, but disc awareness by both teams made for some great grabs.  Epitomizing the excitement was the first upwind break by Cathedral: After working the disc up the field, a 50/50 throw went up with three girls from each team attacking it. The disc was deflected, but a layout grab by Cathedral’s Hannah Deaton secured the score. Players from both teams congratulated her on the amazing play. James Madison Memorial’s Sophia Vaccaro and Emily Hubbard were key on both sides of the disc. In Pool B, Neuqua Valley continued to be sharper and more athletic than their opponents, handling Center Grove easily.  Edina and Hopkins played for the second and third spots in the pool, and Edina’s athleticism overpowered Hopkins’ sharper throws. Robbinsdale-Armstrong and Walter Payton had similar styles, with good basics and bids on nearly every disc. Armstrong came out on top to put them in the fifth-place bracket. Walter Payton’s Vanessa Tran often made the teams’ punts work in their favor.

Championship Bracket

Two undefeated teams came into the semifinals to face athletic pool runners-up. Edina faced Holy Family Catholic with only nine players; both a primary cutter and a handler had to miss out on second-day action, and playmaker Jill Morton was lost to an ankle injury in their first-round pool play game. They traded down-winders for the first four points with Edina scoring both of theirs without turnovers. After that, Holy Family’s upwind throwing prowess, as well as their patience, slowly allowed them to pull ahead, taking half 7-2. In the second half, Edina’s zone made adjustments with both Mara Stephan and Louise Beck putting on fierce marks, coupled with Emily Layton anchoring the middle of the cup. While more turns were forced, Holy Family stayed cool under pressure, continuing to swing, pivot and fake until they could find their upwind shots. Edina got their scores downwind but were unable to complete an upwinder. Final score, Holy Family Catholic 12-5.

Neuqua Valley met the well-rested St. Paul Charter Stars in the other semifinal. The Stars came out hard, scoring their upwind offensive point without any turnovers, then following it up with three more breaks to go up 4-0. They continued to roll in the first half, shutting down Neuqua and taking a commanding 7-3 lead. For St. Paul Charter, Greta Peterson-Nafziger was everywhere on defense, while Lily Cregan, Chloe Peterson-Nafziger and Jian Kettunen all worked the offense with great grabs and continuations from their cutters. Out of half, Neuqua Valley turned up the intensity, scoring four in a row to tie the game at 7s. They utilized their full lineup with smooth throws, calm breaks and athletic plays. St. Paul Charter scored a downwind point to go up to 8-7. The hard cap went on during the following point, and Neuqua Valley was able to score to tie it up at 8s and force double-game point. The intensity and effort from both teams on the final point was unbelievable. Neuqua Valley still tried to work the disc patiently, but the Stars took a huck-and-play-D approach that may have worked if not for Neuqua Valley’s ability to work the disc most of the way up the field on each possession. Neuqua Valley almost ended the game on an upwind hammer, but it was dropped in the end zone. On the next possession, Neuqua Valley did manage to get a sky for the win.

The wind picked up during the break between the semifinals and finals, making even some of the downwinders tough. Holy Family Catholic received going downwind and scored easily but made the ensuing Neuqua Valley downwind score tough. Holy Family scored again quickly and began to look like the superior team. Neuqua Valley’s Kelly Crowley stuffed that idea with a lovely cross-field backhand for the next score. After the first few points, the teams settled in with tenacious, primarily zone defenses. Both teams were able to work the disc in the wind, but the stifling zone defenses forced too many throws and, eventually, turnovers. Crowley was instrumental in Neuqua’s eventual up-winder, but Annie Wells had one Spiderman-style grab to keep the possession alive, followed by a Crowley huck to Stumphauzer that ended just outside the end zone. Stumphauzer waited for Zoe Rath to get open on the break side and got an easy assist; they also completed the following down-wind break. On the last point before half, Neuqua Valley was up 6-5, and Holy Family used a combination of crashing handlers and quick shots through the flagging Neuqua Valley cup to create a marathon point before Neuqua finally scored the down-winder to make the halftime score 7-5. Out of half, the teams traded downwinders to the final score of 9-6. Neuqua Valley played an open rotation, including 13 players in the mix throughout the game, while Holy Family Catholic stuck to only eight. Those eight had great chemistry and communication. Emily Dorsey directed the offense, and Maddie Samson kept a lot of discs alive. Both deserve special mention for their performances. For Neuqua Valley, Allie Swiatek had sticky hands on some downwind discs with a lot of momentum.

Placement Games

With some of their girls having other commitments and others suffering injuries, Edina only had seven players left and opted out of the third-place game, giving St. Paul Charter sole claim to third place.

In the fifth-place bracket, both games went to hard cap and were tied up at after the time-cap horn. The Hopkins v. Cathedral game had a lot of turns with the score tied at upwind 1s after 25 minutes of play. Cathedral got the next up-winder, followed by the downwind break, but Hopkins answered. Hard cap went on with Cathedral up 5-4, but Hopkins scored to tie it up and force double-game point. After a long battle, Cathedral punched in a down-wind score to claim the game. Carmen Ebel was huge on defense and tireless on offense for Cathedral.

Armstrong broke early against Minneapolis South to go up 2-0, but South worked the disc upwind and followed it up with a down-wind score to put the game back on serve. After trading to half with Armstrong up 7-6, the cap went on with South going downwind. They scored easily, but though they have some great breaks and low releases, on their ensuing break chances, they could not string together enough passes to reach the end zone. Armstrong closed out the game 8-7. South’s Maya O’Loughlin got low on offense to make her upwind throws look effortless. Armstrong’s Hailey Weber is everywhere on defense, while Katie Cudo and Hannah Cowan use give and goes to initiate flow.

Consolation Round Robin

James Madison Memorial looked sharper today than they did yesterday and ran their offense with more discipline. They defeated both Walter Payton and Center Grove to end up in ninth place. Center Grove and Walter Payton played in the final round against 25-mile-per hour winds, with gusts upwards of 30mph, and traded downwind points with Walter Payton, scoring the final one to end it 6-5.

It was a great weekend of ultimate with visible improvements over last year. It is very exciting to see the Centrals field expand to more teams, as well as develop greater skill, strategy and athleticism. I thank all of the players for making this writing task exciting and all the coaches, volunteers, players and fans that helped fill in the bits while I was running between games.  
Hope to see you next year!

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