2015 HS Northeasterns - Day One Recap

Posted: May 17, 2015 01:24 AM
In Search of the Perfect Game

"I can’t believe the Amherst Varsity Girls only gave up six points all day!" – said nobody, ever.

I just wanted to get that out of the way. Congratulations are due to a team who is simply playing at a different level than everyone else. I’ll touch upon the Lexington vs. Amherst game briefly later, but it doesn’t change the reality – these girls are amazing.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about some great ultimate. I saw a ton of it today at the 2015 USA Ultimate High School Northeastern Championships in South Portland, Maine, on a virtually perfect day for ultimate – not too hot, not too cold, just enough wind to make it fun and just a sprinkling of rain to keep it interesting. I spent roughly eight hours in a golf cart, scouring 12 fields over five rounds, in search of the Perfect Game. Please pull up a seat beside me and join me for me ride.

Round 1

I assumed Northeasterns is like every other tournament I have been to:  the first round games are all one seed v. four seed blowouts, so I slept in and showed up about a half hour before the end of the round. The first game I stumbled upon was Xavier vs. Needham in the boys’ division. Needham was up 11-9, and Xavier threw a huge huck to try to close the gap, but no such luck. They lost 12-9.

Most other games in round one went according to seed, with two notable exceptions. The bottom seed, home-state girls from Greely pulled off a 10-1 win against 12th seed West Windsor-Plainsboro, and more notably, 12th seed Longmeadow beat top-seeded defending boys’ champions Masconomet (Masco) in a big upset. Note to self: check out Longmeadow next round.

Round 2:

My first drive-by is Amherst v. Xavier boys. Amherst is playing zone, patient offense, easy scores. Up 4-0 as I drive off in search of a better game, I assume they’ll crush. They do. Final score 13-5.

Next up, third seed Lexington vs. 15th-seeded home-state Falmouth. I assume Lexington will blow them out. I coached Falmouth for many years and lost to Lexington several times; it was never close. But I see Falmouth’s Jared DeWolfe throw a seriously big-league inside-out 40-yard flick to tie it at 4-4. Many old-timers on the sidelines talking about that throw. This kid has game. Yes, I’m biased, but that is a sick throw from anyone. Big-league stuff. 

Lexington pulls ahead 7-4 at half; they have the momentum, and I assume they’ll roll my team in the second half, so I get back in the cart to search for a better game.

I stop at Amherst girls vs. Stuyvesant game. See opening paragraph. My notes say "ARHS rolling," so I keep driving.

My next stop is another girls’ game, Maine’s 11 seed, Cape Elizabeth, v. second-seeded Pennsbury. I assume it’s a blowout, but no, Pennsbury is up 7-6 at half. I park the cart. I’ve finally found what may be a great game.

My next note says Izzy > Grace > Katie huck to tie 7-7! These were some big throws, very impressive! Next is "tough Cape D, up 8-7." They’re on a roll. Then "pulling away 10-8."

11-9 Final! Please forgive the hometown bias, but the fourth seed in the pool, 11th overall, just knocked off the second seed in the tourney. This is a big game. So glad I stopped to watch.

Round 3:

I wanted to watch the boys from Longmeadow who pulled off the first-round upset, so I headed to their game against Columbia. It’s always a cool feeling to be at an ultimate tournament and see the "descendants" of the guys who invented the game. It never gets old. They still have "1968" on their jerseys – very cool.

Columbia is up 5-2 and is fired up. Longmeadow is flat. After a score, I hear one of them shout, "Wake up!" Score is 6-2. I drive off; this doesn’t appear to be the perfect game. Final score 13-6 Columbia.

Next up I drive by Masconomet who is rolling Vermont’s Montpelier High School. They take half with a huge huck at 7-1. I keep driving.

I roll by Pennsbury handling Cape Elizabeth with ease; it’s 8-3, and Cape is making unforced errors, so I keep searching.

Stuyvesant v. Sharon, 8-5, doesn’t seem inspiring. I don’t see an upset here, so I’m still driving.

The next row of fields has some girls’ games. I haven’t seen much to get excited about yet, but hopefully this is it. The first game is Cape Elizabeth v. Andover, with Cape up 6-5 and then 7-5 at half. Cape takes it 10-7. It’s a nice win but not the perfect game.

Then I hit the jackpot: Pioneer Valley vs. Amherst JV. Word on the street is that they’re huge rivals from the same region, and I walk up when the score is 7-6, Amherst. I’m ready to settle in for a battle.

My hen scratching says that #13 has an assist to #52 (Sophia Lewis-Nash) to tie it and that a sick layout D led to the score. Sorry, I don’t know who got that D, but she does, and that’s all that matters.

Pioneer Valley throws a four-person cup zone. I ask a teammate on the sideline if they’ve been playing that all day. She says, "We mix it up" – and they sure do. I think I saw a different defense every point after that. They force the turn with their cup and score to make it 8-7, but Amherst answers back to tie it at 8s. This is a great game!

The cap goes on and it’s double-game point. Pioneer Valley now throws a three-person cup, forces a turn and takes the game 9-8. This still doesn’t feel like the perfect game, but it was awesome. I feel privileged to have seen it, and it means so much more that they are rivals. This is why we play this game.

Round 4:

So being a thoroughly biased journalist, I start round four by watching my old team, Falmouth, again, mostly because they’re my team, and I want to cheer them on, but also because this is a big game. The winner goes to the crossover round, and the loser goes to the consolation bracket. They’re playing Watchung Hills, and I roll in with the score at 4-4. Watchung Hills is playing a tough zone, with Falmouth playing patient offense. Watchung Hills goes up 5-4, then Falmouth throws a sloppy hammer, and Watchung Hills goes up 6-4. Next point, Falmouth is flailing on defense, with one or more players forcing the wrong way; everyone is screaming, it’s just chaos. Watchung eats it up and takes half 7-4. I was hoping this was the perfect game, but this isn’t it. I assume Falmouth is toast and drive off on my quest. Time is running out.

I come upon Pennsbury rolling over Stuyvesant, 10-3. Keep driving.

Cape Elizabeth is up 8-3 over Sharon. Boring, keep driving.

I can’t find a truly exciting game anywhere, certainly nothing close to the perfect game, so I circle back to Falmouth. I might as well watch my old team and hang with old friends and parents. I thought the game would be over by now. It’s been about 30 minutes since I drove off with Falmouth down 7-4 and clearly on the ropes.

But lo and behold, it’s 8-8! Watchung scores to make the score 9-8, and then Falmouth’s leader Jared DeWolfe nails a huge hammer to tie it at 9s. This is a game. Big crowd, everyone is pumped. I look at my watch; we’re about 20 minutes to cap. I decide to park the cart and settle in. This is where I’ll end round four.

Falmouth once again flails on the force, some go home some go away. Watchung capitalizes and goes up 11-9. Tons of great play on both sides. This is why we play and watch and love ultimate. The crowd is into it, everyone is jacked, the tension keeps building.

Falmouth has a few costly drops, total unforced errors, and goes down 12-10. The hometown crowd is getting nervous. Momentum is clearly going the other way.

But they score. It’s 12-11 now. I check my watch, and it is seven minutes to cap. This has double-game point-situation written all over it. My notes get more frantic and blurry; I don’t want to miss a second of this game with my head down with pen and paper. But I can barely make out "Ted Blum layout, Andrew Muscasomethingorother [Muscadin] to Ben Fields for the score!"

12-12 at 3:59 p.m.; hard cap at 4:00. This is as double-game as it gets.

I feel like the next 10 minutes are a dream. I can say with certainty that this was the most exciting point of ultimate I’ve watched in a decade, if not more.

And it is so obvious, that no matter who scores this point, I found the perfect game!"

The final point was absolutely ridiculous. I stopped taking notes because I didn’t want to miss it. But here’s what I remember: After some great play on both sides and a few turns, Watchung Hills threw a big, perfect huck that was caught perfectly in the end zone, and the game was over. Everyone rushed the field, the Falmouth fans groaned and the Watchung sideline all cheered.

And then Falmouth’s Matt Edmonds screamed "He dropped it; get off the field!" And all the parents slapped their foreheads and shook their heads, and Falmouth took possession. I still have no idea what happened, how the disc was dropped, but it was.

More awesome play ensued. A couple huge bids by both teams, a few costly mistakes, classic back and forth. And then Falmouth puts up a big huck, and the receiver comes down with it for the win! Epic!

Or not. Everyone 20 or more yards away was certain it was a score, everyone near the goal line indicated it wasn’t, but only in the most subtle way, since we need to let them decide it on the field. And what followed was Spirit of the Game in its most pure form – an epic game on the line at double-game point, the receiver justifiably sure he was in, the defenders just as justifiably sure he wasn’t. It was that close.

If we had refs, they would have flipped a mental coin to make the call unless they were in perfect position. This is why we play and love ultimate.

They debated for several minutes. Nobody on either team, or the parents, not one person seemed to rush them. We all just stood there patiently waiting while they calmly worked it out. And in the end, they made the correct call and put the disc in on the goal line.

And then Falmouth got stalled! And of course the stall was contested. So it came back in at eight, and then Falmouth…turned it over!

So about five more minutes of epic play ensued from both teams, with huge plays all around. But eventually, Watchung got the disc and made an absolutely perfect huck down the sideline, maybe 35 yards. It was just beauty. Game over.

Or so we thought, once again. Nobody quite knows what happened, but the receiver tipped the disc a bit, basically mac’ed it to himself perfectly down the sideline, making for an even more perfect and easy score.

Or not.

After recovering his mac, he seemed to tip it again, just a bit. It wobbled, but not much. We figured he’d just pull it in.

He didn’t.

It wobbled more. And more. And all of a sudden it was just flopping out of control and dropped to the ground.

The crowd and players went absolutely nuts. I’ve been playing ultimate for 30 years, and this was unquestionably one of the most intense, incredible moments I have ever witnessed.

A few more back-and-forth plays ensued, and then Falmouth once again launched a huck to the same player who was or wasn’t in 10 minutes earlier, and this one was just as close.

But he was in. Game over.

I found the perfect game, and I will never forget it. It represented everything I love about this sport – the intense competition, the unpredictability of the disc, the sheer willpower of the players and, most of all, the Spirit of the Game.


In the last round of the day, teams battled through the quarterfinal round with the hopes of advancing to tomorrow’s championship bracket. 

In the boys’ division, the big surprise came when defending champions Masconomet were unseated by Needham, 13-11. They’ll move on to the ninth-place bracket tomorrow, while Needham still has a chance to play for the championship.

Longmeadow, Stuyvesant and Middletown joined them as winners in the pre-quarters round. They all claimed convincing wins over their lower-seeded opponents in the final round of Saturday play.

In the girls’ division, four of Pool A’s teams finished pool play in the last round of the day. Lexington gave Amherst their closest game of the day but fell 4-9, and Andover defeated Columbia 10-5. The girls will start championship play at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.  


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