2016 National Championships - Women's Day Four Recap

Posted: October 3, 2016 12:16 PM
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Brute Squad Wins Second Straight Championship

Boston Brute Squad and Seattle Riot battled in a rematch of last year’s National Championship game, pitting the relentless athleticism of Boston against Seattle’s multiple defensive sets and throwing ability. Seattle’s athletic cupboard is far from bare, but Boston does seem to have an advantage in that department.

When I asked Andy Lovseth to talk about the reason for switching his team’s offense to vertical stack, he told me their defense did play it last year, but they made it universal to fully utilize the depth of Riot’s roster and to force teams to deal with scheming for an offense most of them weren’t familiar with.

During the season, they moved from having a dump behind the handler to putting both their A and B resets in the stack. Watching how Brute Squad’s athletic handler defenders operate in a different space than they are used to was on my list for the game.

Brute Squad also plays vertical stack on their defensive lines, so it was interesting to see how they coped with Riot’s offense.

Both Riot and Brute Squad played great semifinal games, and both benefitted from some miscues (many of which were unforced) from their opponents, so seeing how both teams did in the final was also on the list of things to watch.

Riot had been wearing #BlackLivesMatter headbands all weekend, and I feel that it should be pointed out. The idea originated (as many times, wisdom comes from the mouths of babes) from Seattle’s YCC Mixed 2016 team who wore the same headbands in solidarity. 

They also loaned them out to Molly Brown in their semifinal game versus Brute Squad.


It only makes sense that Boston would choose to start on defense, and perhaps the early game jitters took ahold as a throw to a cutter was put up too high. Dominique Fontenette made a valiant attempt at saving the errant throw, but Boston got the disc a few yards out of the Riot end zone. Boston worked it up until Angela Zhu found Kami Groom for the break to start the game. 1-0 Boston.

On Riot’s second offensive point, a second throw was overthrown on a pass at the end zone, but Paige Soper played the hero role with a layout catch block on a cross-field throw. Callie Mah found Fiona McKibben for the 1-1 Riot hold.

The teams traded holds up to 3-2 Boston, and on the sixth point of the game Boston, came out with a 3-3-1 zone. The point was very active and included a Caitlin O’Connell block as the deep deep, footblocks, contested throws, a clam on Riot’s vertical stack, multiple turns, a timeout and, finally, a Calise Cardenas to Charlier Mercer goal for the Riot hold at 3-3.

Riot pulled out of bounds, and it was an anomaly throughout the last three women’s games as there would be only one more out-of-bounds pull in the final. Lien Hoffman is a god send in her ability to be a release valve for a handler who is running out of options. Becky Malinowski caught a goal with a bidding Jaclyn Verzuh right behind her, twisting around to get a hand in. It was an amazing play, and Boston held at 4-3. 

The teams continued to trade blows as the score went to 5-5. Some highlights were a fantastic inside-out flick break by Alyssa Weatherford, the first instance of a three-person cup zone by Riot, a HUGE layout block by Laura Bitterman, a high-stall put to Verzuh that sailed too far, and a high-stall huck by Boston that was blocked by Verzuh.

The points started to get more hotly contested, and there were some serious plays and turns going forward.

On the 11th point of the game, Sarah "Surge" Griffith got up huge for a block on Hoffman, Cardenas bobbled a catch for what felt like five seconds, Charlie Eide mad a great bid that fell just short, Boston threw a laser deep that went too far, Surge again got up huge on Hoffman for the goal. There was a travel call on the throw, but the observers overturned it for the 6-5 Riot break. It was their first of the game, and it was now all on serve.

More crazy plays were evident in the next point as Fiona McKibben got a block, an Angela Zhu shot went out the back of the end zone denying a great catch by Boston before she then got up for a vertical stack jump block on a huck, Kami Groom played great defense on Baily Zahniser in the end zone. Groom out-read everyone on a floaty throw for the goal and Boston held to tie it at 6-6.

Even though Riot held for a number of points in a row, it seemed Boston’s pressure was always on and that many of Riot’s catches were contested and a mark was always immediately present. It did not seem Riot’s defense was exerting the same kind of pressure, and as the game progressed, the discrepancy became more apparent.

It was evident as Shira Stern had a throwing miscue, and Sophia Herscu won a footrace to the sideline in the end zone for the Boston break to make it 7-6.

Boston took a timeout, and Riot started the next point in a side stack. Zhu played some physical reset defense on Rohre Titcomb, and I believe got a hand block on her. After Riot got the disc back and scored to tie it, she had an animated conversation with Zhu that seemed to be about the level of physicality on the mark. Boston tied it up 7-7.

In a game this tight, it’s so important to try and take half, and this was no exception. There was a high-stall put that Verzuh blocked. An unfortunate drop on an easy dump to Kelly Johnson. A Geli Boyden hand block, an overthrow by Riot, a timeout by Boston, a Becky Malinowski drop, a Geli Boyden layout save, a Julia Snyder misthrow. Fatigue was definitely affecting both teams at this point, as everyone was fighting as hard as they could to take half. The point ended when McKibben reached back to catch a Geli Boyden throw for the 8-7 Riot hold for half.

Riot put their second pull of the game out of bounds, and Claudia Tajima had a great break throw to Laura Bitterman for the 8-8 Boston hold.

Riot started disguising their vertical stack by starting in the horizontal set first and then immediately centering to vert. There was a scary moment when Fontenette and Stern collided for a disc, and Stern came off, replaced by Surge. Luckily, Stern was okay and came back to the game later. Cassie Wong had a drop 25 yards out, and Groom dropped off her person to get a poach block on a Riot pass. Then Verzuh got a block on a bad-decision throw to Wong. Verzuh then hucked to Surge deep on a beautiful pass that Surge snagged for the 9-8 Riot hold.

Brute Squad came out in the side stack, and Riot played force-middle. Rohre Titcomb had great defensive pressure on Hallweaver and forced a drop but Hallweaver also came out on an injury. Groom took her place, and Verzuh subbed in for Riot. If Hoffman played the role of release valve from the cutter spot for Boston, Hana Kawai did the same thing for Seattle. Great patience was shown by Riot’s offense for many throws before they punched it in for the 10-8 break.

The soft cap came on during the last point, so it was now game to 12.

Riot once again came out in the three-person cup zone, but Boston found Cassie Wong with a great cross-field huck. She got rid of the disc and got it again later in the end zone for the Boston 10-9 hold.

Riot tried their disguised horizontal to vertical stack but there was a collision, and play stopped. A Julia Snyder huck floated long enough for multiple players to get under the disc. Verzuh demonstrated that height can’t be taught as she skyed the pile! 

Unfortunately, the laws of conservation of greatness came into play as she immediately threw it away after she came down. After a couple of turnovers, Groom scored for the 10-10 break.

Brute pulled out a strategic gem as they utilized the four-person cup for the first time this game, and it created an early throwaway for Riot. Boston found Caitlin O’Connell in the end zone for the 11-10 break, and were one point away from the championship.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Riot was not fooled by the four-person cup this time around and showed patience as they held for 11-11.

Riot put out Rohre Titcomb, Geli Boyden, Eide, McKibben, Kelly Johnson, Kawai and Surge in order to get a break. They came out in person defense, and although they forced a ton of Boston throws, Brute Squad showed patience as Lien Hoffman found Amber Sinicrope for the Boston score and win.

Congratulations to Boston Brute Squad for their second National Championship in a row, and congratulations to Seattle Riot for not one, but two, amazingly tight and entertaining games this tournament.

See you all in 2017.


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