2016 National Championships - Women's Day Three Recap

Posted: October 2, 2016 01:20 AM
2016NationalsLogo 435x290  

Follow Along:


Get up-to-date scores and brackets in the USA Ultimate mobile app - free from the App Store and Google Play.



Riot 15-14 Fury

It wouldn’t be Club Nationals if the perennial powers for Seattle and San Francisco didn’t meet in the semifinals or finals.

After speaking with Andy Lovseth and Idris Nolan before the game, I heard the same refrain. They both emphasized the need to change their teams’ mindset from the first two days of play. The big difference was the lack of wind on Saturday compared to the others, and even though both teams have played ultimate in normal conditions, they haven’t done it in the last four games.

So both Fury and Riot worked on getting their reps and doing the basics in less-windy conditions in order to get their muscles and minds back to the way ultimate was meant to be played. Fast and high-powered.

Both teams know each other incredibly well, but Riot benefitted from the fact that Fury was still running similar systems from before, while Fury had to cope with Riot’s new vertical stack.

While Riot had been playing at a high level prior to Nationals, they hit a few speed bumps in pool play and didn’t look their best. On the other hand, Fury had begun to peak before Nationals. Their tournament finishes were in order: fifth place, fourth place, third place and first place at Regionals. Fury had operated at a high level all weekend and definitely looked to be playing the best ultimate of their season.

Fury utilized both a 3-3-1 and a force middle defense to great effect against Riot, and after trading holds, to start the game, they ran off three straight breaks. Sharon Liu was incredibly effective on one of these breaks as she got the bookends.

At 4-1, Riot faced a 3-3-1 diamond that seemed to work quite well until Fury audibled out of it to person defense. Jaclyn Verzuh was able to get open for the Riot hold to bring it to 4-2.

Riot tried out a 3-3-1 of their own, but Anna "Maddog" Nazarov easily solved that puzzle, and the Seattle squad transitioned to person defense but Manisha "Slap" Daryani toed the line for the Fury hold to make it 5-2.

Riot was most successful when they were able to play their vertical stack and utilized it to find Dominique Fontenette for the Riot hold. 

Not content to hold, Riot tightened up their defense as Fury got to the end zone, and it worked when a throw to Alex Snyder didn’t find its mark. Young phenom Jaclyn Verzuh scored her second game point of the game for Riot’s first break to make it 5-4 Fury.

Fury seemed to have a hard time connecting with their handlers as a swing from Nazarov floated too far, and Riot took the opportunity to notch a second break on a cross-field throw from Kelly Johnson to Rachel Bradshaw to tie it up 5-5.

After a Fury timeout, Kaela Jorgenson got up with Hana Kawai right on her back for the Fury hold. Riot counter-punched with a huge layout from Shira Stern for a beautiful cross-field throw from Alyssa Weatherford to knot it up at 6-6.

Riot tried a new wrinkle on D by utilizing a four-person cup, but Fury employed Nazarov’s skills to shred that zone as she directed their offense until Marika Austin made a huge layout grab for Fury. For those keeping score at home, that’s Anna Nazarov two and Riot zones 0. 

Fury took the lead 7-6 and got a couple of opportunities to break for half. A huck to Genevieve Laroche from Carolyn Finney traveled too far, and a great layout D by Lisa Couper was overturned on a foul call. Riot held to tie it back up at 7-7.

Riot’s handler reset D clamped down and forced a turn, and Sarah Griffith beat Alex Snyder to the cone for the break for half. 8-7 Riot. 

What looked like a strong Fury lead at 4-1 was slowly chipped away by some mental lapses on easy turns or throwaways, but Fury was still up a break and looked to extend that again in the second half.

Fury received to start the second half, and the drops that plagued Fury in the first half followed here. Riot took advantage of three Fury miscues for breaks to take an 11-7 lead.

However, the belief and positivity on Fury’s sideline was evident as players were smiling. They were focused but still positive. 

Fury was finally able to put together an incredibly efficient offensive hold with two beautiful passes from both Darragh Clancy and Claire Desmond to Sarah Carnahan for the hold to bring Fury one point closer at 11-8. At this point, the wind and rain picked up a bit, and you could sense that Fury needed something to ignite them. Sometimes you get what you ask for, and after a critical Kaela Jorgenson run-through D, Katie Ryan went up big with Bailey Zahniser all over her for the score and break to make it 11-9 Riot.

The Fury sideline erupted, and you could sense that the team from San Francisco was not ready to go gently into the good night.

Fury tried their 3-3-1 look again, but Riot handlers Geli Boyden, Alyssa Weatherford and Kelly Johnson worked with Hana Kawai to patiently move the disc up the field for the Riot hold, making it 12-9 Riot.

After a Riot hold, Fury found more inspiration from Katie Ryan as she made another tough catch in traffic after Carolyn Finney had to force a high-stall huck into the end zone. The score was now 13-10 Riot.

With Riot only a couple of points from the win, you could sense that both teams had shifted into a higher gear, as the 24th point in the game saw a layout block from Claire Desmond that got tipped and caught to maintain possession, a huck to Jaclyn Verzuh over the stack that was jump blocked by Anna Nazarov, a Bailey Zahniser block in the air versus Claire Desmond, a double layout by Marika Austin and Jaclyn Verzuh that was brought back on a foul, and then a Steph Lim layout save who quickly tossed in the goal to Austin for the Fury hold to bring the score to 13-11. 

The fireworks continued as Alyssa Weatherford put up a huck that caught a little too much air. Both Charlie Eide and Marika Austin had a play on the disc, and Eide made a ridiculous grab for the Riot hold that brought them one point away from the game. 14-11.

There were a ton of exciting plays up until this point, but the next three points were epic as Fury looked to keep their foot in the door. Alex Snyder redeemed herself after an overthrow by blasting a laser to Lisa Couper on the opposite side of the end zone after a Hana Kawai turn. Then Anna Nazarov exploded for the best layout of the game to generate the turn. Carolyn Finney picked up the disc and put up a beautiful cross-field throw to Lakshmi Narayan who made a great bid for the goal. Then Fury got a block on a Geli Boyden throw and found Finney in the end zone to tie it up at 14-14!

At this point, I had to use the rest room and missed what happened next. Okay, that’s not true.

In the end, Riot utilized the vertical stack that they introduced this year for an easy hold for the win. It was certainly a tough loss for the San Francisco squad who mounted a great comeback attempt at the end of the day. 


Brute Squad 14-9 Molly Brown

  • Sometimes teams are so good that they don’t try to disguise packages or utilize trick plays or experiment with new defenses. At halftime, Boston had played one kind of defense and that was person defense. 

    Back in the 1990s, the Dallas Cowboys had a massive offensive line and Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. They would run off-tackle run plays behind massive All-Pro left tackles again and again and dare teams to beat them.

    Brute Squad is the ‘90s Cowboys.

  • They started the game on defense, and Molly Brown played a standard horizontal stack and held.

  • The second point was incredibly painful for both teams with a combined nine turnovers, and it only ended on a great Becca Miller grab with Laura Bitterman tight on her heels. She turned and shot it to Opi Payne for the Molly Brown break to go up 2-0.

  • After such a messy point, Brute came back with a really clean point that ended in two players known for them defense combining for the score as Cassie Wong threw the assist to Lauren Sadler for the Boston hold to make it 2-1.

  • Molly Brown started the fourth point in a side stack. Paige Applegate was nigh unstoppable on the up-line handler cuts. Unfortunately, a throw to Lisa Pitcaithley hung too high and was turned, but Boston turned it right back with a huck that sailed too far for Chelsea Murphy. Molly Brown returned the favor with a bad huck to Sally Lambert from Claire Chastain, and it felt like the second point all over again. Déjà vu. Angela Zhu stopped the shenanigans with a nice throw to Kami Groom for the break, and it was back on serve 2-2.

  • Caitlin O’Connell was able to force a turnover about 20 yards out, and Boston put up a high-stall-count prayer to Lauren Sadler who out-jumped Claire Chastain for the second Boston break. 3-2 Boston.

  • It seemed like Boston would tally another break when Kami Groom forced a drop from Lisi Lohre, but a foul was called, and it stayed a foul after they went to the observers. Opi Payne threw what I believe was her third turnover, but Boston gave it back, and Opi was able to redeem herself with an athletic sky over a pile right outside the end zone. She fed the disc to Alicia White for the 3-3 hold.

  • Molly Brown and Brute Squad traded a pair of holds. Molly Brown used a lot of deep cuts that drove their defenders back to open up space under. It is an effective strategy, but it requires a ton of energy to sustain, and it seemed that Molly Brown was playing a tighter line than Brute. 

  • At 5-5, I wondered aloud why no one had played anything other than person D, and lo and behold, Molly Brown came out with a four-person cup. They switched to person, and Lindsey Cross had a catch block in the end zone, but Molly Brown turned it back, and Lien Hoffman shot a nice throw to Amber Sinicrope for the Boston hold at 6-5.

  • The teams held a few times again, but at 7-6, Boston tallied another break for half. After a few turns, Kami Groom set up an ankle-breaking cut to get open on Lisa Pitcaithley for the goal.

  • Boston, thus far, had made their money on tenacious person defense and patient offense that flexed as needed between cutters and handlers. Cutters like Lien Hoffman and Becky Malinowski would come back to fill the handler spot as handlers like Julianna Werffeli would go downfield. 

  • Molly Brown looked like they started to run out of gas, and it was seen in more casual dump throws, shots that were too short or too deep, and the Boston defense only exacerbated it with incredibly tight pressure.

  • To open the second half, Boston held again as Kami Groom hit Lien who hit Kami for the goal. 9-6 Boston.

  • Out of a side stack, Molly Brown found Lisa Pitcaithley who put too much of an edge on an OI backhand shot. Becca Ludford turned it on a similar throw before Opi took a great shot to a redeeming Lisa P for the Molly Brown hold. 9-7.

  • Molly Brown started a spark as they went to the four-person cup again. They put four tall people on the front with Lisa P, Lindsey Cross, Alicia White and Rebecca Miller. Although Denver came out of the zone, they were able to get a turn, and Alicia White scored the 9-8 break to keep them alive.

  • It’d be hard to tell that Julianna Werffeli is a rookie as she played great this game. She was constantly getting open and scored a goal with a great read-and-react break-side cut for the 10-8 Boston hold.

  • Boston took a page out of Molly Brown’s playbook and came down in their own four-person cup and got a block on the very first throw! Kami Groom came through with the bookends score to punctuate the Boston break. 11-8.

  • This point was a battle as there were multiple turns, a time out called, and a hand block by Opi Payne, but what did in Molly Brown was a miscue with the handler reset, and Shellie Cohen launched a cross-field laser to Cassie Wong for the second break in a row to make it 12-8.

  • If it works, keep doing it. Boston came down in the four-person cup again, and Denver used a big cross-field blade to get past it. Fatigue seemed to affect Molly Brown’s throws as a pass to Opi went too high and was turned, but a rare Boston drop allowed Lisa P to grab the goal for the Denver hold at 12-9.

  • The soft cap came on, and it was now a game to 14. If most of the game was a person defense game, it quickly became a four-person cup game as Molly Brown came in the same format. However, Tunnell launched a cross-field huck to Becky Malinowski that hung slightly – allowing defenders to make a play, but Becky skyed the pile for the Boston hold to put them one point from the final game. 13-9.

  • Boston used the four-person cup again, and Claire Chastain short-armed a blade. Boston found Cassie Wong in the end zone for the game winner. 14-9.

  • They will face Seattle Riot tomorrow in a rematch of last year’s championship final!


Have any questions or comments? We welcome community feedback and discussion made in a respectful manner. Please refrain from profanity or personal attacks, as such public comments negatively reflect on our sport and community.