2016 Northeasterns: Girls' Division Preview

Posted: May 20, 2016 12:49 PM

Excitement is abundant, and confidences are high as top-tier high school programs prepare to converge on Pittsburgh’s Slippery Rock University to compete in the 2016 High School Northeastern Championships – the final Northeasterns.

2012 marked the first year of a split from two to four high school regional championships, which divided Easterns into Southerns and Northeasterns and Westerns into Centrals and Westerns. Since then, Northeasterns has been the capstone event of the season for many high schools in the northeast region.

Amherst Hurricanes (Varsity 1 seed; JVA 5 seed)

The last regional high school championship event Amherst attended but was not crowned victor of was Easterns 2009 where the Hurricanes fell to Paideia in the final. For as long as Northeasterns has existed, Amherst has yet to be dethroned.

Playing the role of top dog is nothing new to this storied, capital northeast program. The Hurricanes understand and expect that they will receive every opponent’s best effort. Regarding the upcoming event, head coach Joshua Nugent said concisely, "We are the team to beat."

The powerful Amherst squad is led by their four captains: Josephine "Jo-Z" Coppinger, April Weintraub, Livvy Weld and Izzi Tripp.

  • Weintraub is a senior handler who is a key distributor alongside Coppinger (member of the 2016 WJUC U.S. National Team). The talented tandem will stabilize the offense and dictate tempo.

  • Weld and Tripp will each be tasked with significant defensive responsibilities. When on offense, they will navigate the downfield space as primary cutters.

  • Make sure to keep an eye out for Shira Yeskel-Mednick. In 2015, she was sidelined with an injury, and since recovering, she has quickly found success on both sides of the disc.

The Hurricanes most recent tournament saw them defending their home turf at the Amherst Invitational. A recap of the event was recently published on Ultiworld.

Amherst Regional High School is able to field three girls’ teams every year – varsity, junior varsity-A (JVA), and junior varsity-B (JVB). The JVA team is coming into Northeasterns as the overall five seed. John Bechtold, coach of Amherst JVA, offered this statement on the program:

"The JVA girls are, as far as we know, the oldest JV girls’ ultimate team in the country. We're in the middle of year 18. I've been the coach for 15 of those years. We've had a long line of successes (second place Nationals 2003; state champs in 2013, and other tournament wins) over the years, and still recognize that our fundamental work is to build the program for emerging varsity players."


Watchung Hills Lady Warriors (Varsity 2 seed; JV 13 seed)

Watch out for Watchung! The Lady Warriors are a serious contender in 2016.  After placing third at last year’s Northeasterns, the dedicated group from central New Jersey used the subsequent fall term to compete in two nearby college tournaments: Jersey Devil* and Fall Brawl where they placed second and sixth, respectively.

At Jersey Devil, Watchung earned an 8-7 win over West Chester University, a team that would go on to take fourth place in the D-III Ohio Valley Region.

*The team that competed at the Jersey Devil College Tournament was named ‘Devyl Girls’ and was comprised of 80% Watchung Hills. Four players from West Windsor Plainsboro played with them.

In the first round of Fall Brawl, Watchung won 13-0 over Stockton, who ended the weekend with a 5-1 record. They defeated Cornell In the quarterfinals before falling to Vermont in the semifinal.

The Lady Warriors have also been busy this spring, placing fifth at YULA Invite and first at Spring Fling.

It’s not surprising to see Watchung sitting right behind Amherst as the second overall seed at Northeasterns. It is apparent from looking at their tournament schedule, as well as their winter conditioning calendar, that they are well prepared for a highly competitive weekend.

A few Watchung players to have on your radar coming into the weekend:

  • Jessie Sun is known for being a shutdown defender and all-around athlete. Coach Ken Karnas promotes her ability to "frustrate the best player on the opposing team." Sun is also a member of the 2016 WJUC U.S. National Team.

  • Look to Kate Stoll to do a lot of work around the disc. "Kate is the engine that makes this team go," Karnas explained. "The offense runs through her."

  • Chelsea Sempre will be making big plays all weekend. She is a three-sport athlete who lights up the field on both O and D.

There will also be a Watchung Hills JV team competing this weekend. Proud of the direction of the JV program, Coach Karnas offered this statement:

"For the first time in history, we have a full and independent JV team which will also be appearing at Northeasterns. These freshmen and select sophomores have been playing for less than a year and already have three wins against varsity teams under their belt."


Lexington Fooligals (3 seed)

It took no time at all for the Lexington Fooligals to become a highly competitive, highly respected program. 2015 marked the first-ever season that Lexington focused on developing a competitive varsity girls’ team, as they had previously competed as a mixed team. Now, in just their second year, the Fooligals are entering Northeasterns seeded third. "The captains have done a great job creating a supportive yet competitive culture on the team," said Coach Lizzy Cook. "All the girls help each other work hard to improve."

Here are some of their tournament results to date:

Keep an eye on these players this weekend for Lexington:

  • Tess Johnson is a natural talent and works hard – a time-old recipe for success. Johnson, according to Coach Cook, "actively seeks opportunities to improve her playing in BUDA youth leagues and practices/plays with local club teams."

  • Two words that describe Eva McDermott: "explosive" and "handler." This combination of descriptors will generally mean "really fun to watch play ultimate."


Fox Chapel (4 seed)

As the overall four seed, Fox Chapel (FC) is the highest-ranked Pittsburgh-area team at Northeasterns this year. They just capped off a perfect 11-0 spring in the Pittsburgh High School Ultimate League (PHUL) with a 14-13 finals victory over Allderdice.

It’s tough to gauge with any precision how the Pittsburgh teams will compare with the rest of the division. None of them were able to make the trek up to Portland, Maine, for Northeasterns 2014 or 2015.

In 2014 and 2015, Fox Chapel claimed second and third, respectively, at the Pennsylvania State Championships, with second and first place finishes in PHUL. It is exciting to see them jumping back into the regional mix this weekend.

Players to watch:

  • The team runs their offense through PHUL MVP, Darra Reppermund. She is the primary handler, and if they turn the disc over, she is likely to take it back. She ended the PHUL regular season with 45 assists and 54 blocks.

  • FC’s biggest downfield threat appears to be Elizabeth Heideneich. She led the team in goals this season with 21, and rounded out her stat line with 10 assists and 10 blocks. She played a fearless brand of ultimate in the league final, impacting the game on both sides of the disc.

  • Cierra Miller – the hybrid. Cierra gets the job done on both O and D. She earned 18 blocks, nine assists and six goals on the year.

  • I don’t know if Michele Wolff will be playing at Northeasterns. After missing most of the spring with an ACL injury, Michele played a number of points in the PHUL final. When she plays, the opposition is forced to adjust to her full-field hucks.

Even with some top-end talent, this is a young and growing group. Coach Stephen Wolff informed me that this is the first season of ultimate for 13 of their rostered players.

Lower Merion Lady Baba (6 seed)

The story for Lada Baba’s first-ever trip to Northeasterns is one of unfortunate timing. The weekend conflicts with their school’s senior prom, so no senior members of the team will be playing in the tournament.

Even without their seniors, Lower Merion (LM) will be putting talented players on the field. While they likely won’t be contending to defeat top-seeded Amherst, they can look forward to competitive match ups with Allderdice and West Windsor-Plainsboro and should still be able to take down Watchung JV in its first year of existence.

Here are the players to watch who will be in Slippery Rock with Lady Baba this weekend:

  • Mariko Kishimoto captains as a junior. She has a motor that never stops.

  • Sarah Lipson, also a junior, is a key handler. According to Coach Chris Vanni, Sarah can "throw the disc a mile."

  • The biggest Baba cutting threat is also the tallest. Six-foot baller Bethany Eldridge is going to be Lipson’s target on a lot of those mile-long deep shots.

While lacking Northeasterns experience, Lower Merion has developed into a sincerely reputable program. They have claimed four Pennsylvania State Championships since being founded in 2007, and last year, captured the Philadelphia High School Ultimate Education League (PHUEL) title. They also placed third at the Amherst Invitational in 2015 and 2016.

It is readily apparent how seriously Lower Merion is about their ultimate program – so much so that it is recognized as a varsity sport, which is rare for high school programs.

Allderdice (7 seed)

Like most Pittsburgh high school teams, all of the Allderdice 2016 results are from games played within PHUL. Unlike most teams, they entered the PHUL playoffs as the second seed. "This is the highest seed we've been in a while," explained Allderdice captain Peyton Skinker, "probably since 2012 when we won PHUL." They came extremely close to reclaiming the PHUL throne, but fell to Fox Chapel by one point in the final.

So with some good local results under their belt, the squad that many refer to simply as "Dice" will swagger confidently into Northeasterns, their first tournament this season, seeded seventh overall.

The 2016 Dice roster includes a mere 10 players. However, nine of those 10 played ultimate in some capacity before joining the high school team. They have proved themselves competitive, despite their small roster. This weekend, however, they will be adding a few players to that roster.

Dice will be the beneficiaries of some great talent coming out of the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School (CAPA). The minimum roster requirement at a USAU high school championship event is 12, and a team that can’t meet that requirement is allowed to add up to five players from another school to their roster for the event. Allderdice, therefore, extended an invite to any/all players from CAPA to play with them, and three accepted.

Allderdice will likely be using every player they bring as much as possible because of their limited roster size, but here are a few players to watch for:

  • Peyton Skinker* and Sofia Vidic are both seniors and primary cutters who have been playing together since they were freshmen. It’s hard to shut down that kind of cutting chemistry, especially when it’s complemented by a senior handler – in this case, Zoe Le Garrec.

    *Yes, Peyton’s sister is the University of Pittsburgh’s 2016 Callahan Nominee, Vaughan Skinker.
  • There has been a lot of buzz around town about freshman stud Sara Liang, and rightfully so. As a ninth grader, she has taken on the role of center handler, quarterbacking one of the top high school programs in Pittsburgh. Liang was a dominant force in the PHUL final. While her playmaking ability and ultimate IQ are both undoubtedly high, her poise and sense of maturity are what really shine through for this young star.

  • Included in the CAPA pickups are elite Pittsburgh youth Miranda and Sofia Kosowski. The dynamic tandem are serious competitors and ultimate aficionados. It will be exciting to see them get the chance to gel with Allderdice at a high-level tournament.

Coach Katie Florack is unable to attend Northeasterns, so Sam Schurer will be there in her place. Sam has played ultimate in Pittsburgh at the highest levels and has been involved in youth coaching for a year or two now. Most recently, he coached Moxie (U-19 girls) at YULA 2016.

I’ll be watching the Lower Merion v. Allderdice matchup in round one to see if Dice can potentially break seed, or if Lady Baba can come out on fire without their seniors.

Fieldston Sheagles (8 seed)

This was the one team I couldn’t dig up any information on. They are the lone representative from the state of New York. Great team name!

Radnor Raiders (9 seed)

In their eighth season, the Radnor girls’ team will be making their third trip to a regional championship event. The Raiders placed seventh at Easterns in 2011 and ninth at Northeasterns in 2013.

Through 20 games played this season, a combination of PHUEL and Spring Fling, Radnor has a respectable 12-8 record. They placed third in PHUEL and fifth at Spring Fling.

Radnor seems to fall right in the middle of the pack, having beaten Columbia, West Windsor and Watchung JV already this season but losing decidedly to Lower Merion and Watchung Varsity.

Two players on Radnor to be aware of are CJ Dawson and Jess Pevner. Their dynamic cutting is often too much to handle and requires a defensive adjustment from their opponents.

Columbia Sparkle Motion (10 seed)

Columbia has had a girls’ team for 11 years. Early on, they were the team to beat in the state of New Jersey. However, the growth of programs like Watchung and Westfield has provided better competition and ended Columbia’s dominance.

Sparkle Motion continues to be a competitive presence in the region and has regularly attended Northeasterns. 2016 marks just the second year they have had an official coach, so we could be seeing the beginning of an upward trend for Columbia’s tournament results.

Here are the players to watch:

  • Olivia Woodruff is a sophomore captain. She is over 5’11" and handles. Pair Woodruff with Anna Winters, their senior captain who is 4’8" and cuts. While somewhat unorthodox in nature, this duo is talented and knows how to work together.

  • Look out for Lilly Sickles on defense.

Pool C should be a lot of fun as it presents the most parity from top to bottom. Each team (Lexington, Fox Chapel, Radnor, Columbia) could reasonably make Sunday bracket play.

North Allegheny NAGU (11 seed)

North Allegheny (NA) is another Pittsburgh high school team that did not play outside of PHUL this spring. They did go to Tidewater Tuneup 2015, a competitive fall tournament, where they placed third out of 10 teams. They were recently eliminated from the PHUL playoffs after being seeded fourth.

Recent results include second at Tidewater Tuneup 2014, fourth at Pennsylvania States 2014 and first in PHUL 2013.

Players to watch:

  • Julia Buss

  • Mary Grace Antonich

  • Emma Phelps

  • Dom Ross

Check out the NAGU team website.

West Windsor-Plainsboro Wind Dragons (12 seed)

West Windsor-Plainsboro (WWP) is in its second full season with a girls’ team. In their first season, the Wind Dragons took second place at the New Jersey State Championships. "We’re really excited to be growing as a team and encouraging girls’ ultimate in our area," said captain Lucia Wei.

So far this year, WWP has attended YULA Invite and Spring Fling, placing eighth and sixth, respectively. Attending those tournaments gave them some great competition, going up against the likes of Amherst, Lexington, Columbia, Radnor and Watchung Hills.
\"All the teams we’ve played are full of great players," stated Wei, who described her opponents saying they are "not only good at playing the sport, but have great spirit as well."

Players to watch:

  • Kristi Huang

  • Lucia Wei

  • Emily Yin


Northeasterns Thoughts

With this being the final Northeastern Championships, a number of coaches and captains in the girls’ division offered the following comments on what Northeasterns has meant for their programs over the years.

  • "Our team has always prided itself on seeking out the best competition...YULA, Amherst, Spring Fling, various college tourneys, etc. But Northeasterns (and Easterns before that) has always been a highlight of the year. We are going to miss this event and hope to make a lasting impression on the final Northeasterns. Many of our seniors were on the sidelines as freshmen when our team made the finals, and we hope to be back again this year." - Ken Karnas, Coach, Watchung Hills Lady Warriors

  • "We've been at Northeasterns since they've been Northeasterns, Easterns before that, and a couple years of Nationals before that. Like many a year, we're a young team with a combination of brand-new players to the sport and some talented underclasswomen poised to continue the dominance of our varsity program when they get their turn. We enjoy the feeling of perennial underdog in many a tournament/game against other schools' A squads. We love hard competition from teams that also love the game as much as we do." - John Bechtold, Coach, Amherst JVA Hurricanes

  • "We're really excited to be coming back to Northeasterns this year – we're interested to see how our team will do, and we think Northeasterns is the perfect tournament to challenge all of our players and push them to their limits. Coming to Northeasterns means a lot to us in terms of growth and playing some really great ultimate with great teams from across the Northeast." - Lucia Wei, Captain, West Windsor-Plainsboro Wind Dragons

  • "We are really excited to play new teams, get more experience, grow as a team, see how other teams grow, and observe how other teams play." - Emma Phelps, Captain, North Allegheny

  • "The girls always love attending this tournament. They love to experience the culture of ultimate and get a chance to meet new players and expand their knowledge of the game. They also always look forward to playing new competitive teams who challenge them to become better players. This group of players has been very dedicated this season, and I am really looking forward to seeing how they match up against new teams and, in general, just getting to see them play the game they love with other people to share their passion." - Lizzy Cook, Coach, Lexington Fooligals

  • "We've been to Northeasterns a number of times and usually finish somewhere in the middle but extremely proud of making it to the tournament anyway." - Lisa Phillips, Parent Manager, Columbia Sparkle Motion

  • "Hopefully, with next year’s restructure, USAU will find a more central location. I have mixed feelings about this being the last official NE Regionals, but the team is excited to be attending. We look forward to great competition." – Michael Gentile, Coach, Radnor

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