Oregon Fugue wins 2013 College Women's Championship

Posted: May 29, 2013 09:58 AM


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A National Championship Caps Off a Dominant Season

Although countless unknown factors helped determine the outcome of the 2013 women’s championship game between Oregon and Carleton, one thing was clear: the game could either be played Oregon’s way or Carleton’s way, but both playing styles could not accommodate each other.

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As they demonstrated throughout the tournament, Carleton’s offense is possession-minded. After a turn, Syzygy takes the disc and runs with it, leaving their defenders reeling in their wake. Star handlers Anna Reed and Julia Snyder, having played with each other since their early teenage years, work seamlessly together to facilitate quick, short disc movement and open up deep looks for unstoppable receivers such as Flannery McArdle and Marlena Hartman-Filson. Carleton’s precise, quick offense truly shines and once flowing, can’t be stymied.

Oregon’s game is built around an opposite premise. Fugue relies on their fierce defensive intensity to create an atmosphere of chaos, throwing their opponents off of their A-game. Possession isn’t as important as scoring to Fugue, although the two often go hand-in-hand. As Oregon coach Lou Burruss explained, "We don’t want our game to stay clean. Winning is not about completing passes; it’s about scoring goals, and you have to score fifteen of them." Burruss readily acknowledges that while he considered Oregon’s defense to be the best at the college championships, their offense probably wasn’t – and he was perfectly fine with that.

Going into the game, Carleton coach Megan Molteni knew it would be a battle to see whose playing style would dominate, which would surely determine the championship game’s outcome. "Carleton will be looking to come out and play our offensive game today," Molteni said before Syzygy’s final game. "Our strategy is to play with confidence, to play for the love of each other and to not think too hard about who our competitors are. We are confident in Oregon’s ability to throw the disc away, and we will capitalize upon that every time."

As the championship game began, it seemed as if Carleton’s clean, offensive-minded game was going to trump Oregon’s defensive-minded one. After watching Oregon’s handlers repeatedly overthrow deep looks, Carleton’s Anna Reed put some successful, quickly executed throws to extra-tall teammates that were caught far above Fugue players’ heads. Oregon defenders seemed shocked: this was clearly the first time their deep game had been so challenged. Julia Snyder’s big throw to Laura Carson marked Syzygy’s first of two early breaks, which further rattled Oregon’s offense. Fugue committed some uncharacteristic drops between handlers which just fueled Syzygy’s fire. With Carleton in the lead 4-2, Oregon decided to take a time out and regroup.

Right after the time out, Ashley Young, sprinting alongside her opponent on defense, leapt for the disc and caught it mid-layout. Her team, exploding with excitement, used the display of selflessness and defensive ferocity as a point around which to rally. After Jesse Shofner hit Anna Almy in the end zone to narrow the score gap to 4-3, Oregon really began to bring their defensive game. Oregon’s intense junk zone immediately forced simple handler turnovers from Carleton.

Oregon finally managed to get the score back on serve at 6-5 after some long, messy points full of stunning defensive plays and many turnovers. Oregon’s Ode booked it deep, only for the ensuing throw to be easily intercepted by the sky-high McArdle in the end zone. Carleton’s Kirstie Barton then put the disc deep to McArdle on the other end of the field; after Oregon’s Morgan Zajonc just missed the D, McArdle trapped the disc in her lap while toeing the line for the score. However, thanks to shut-down defense from Zahniser, Shofner and Alex Ode, Julia Reed and Anna Snyder had trouble making effective dump cuts. Without their guaranteed resets, Carleton cutters forced up numerous lofty hucks, many of which were unsuccessful, creating more turnovers and general disorder.

Of course, the fact that these points were chaotic, confused and rife with drops proved that Oregon’s game was prevailing over Carleton’s, signaling the beginning of the end of Syzygy’s early dominance. After an 8-5 half, Oregon ran away with the game and began showcasing their depth. Sophie Darch and Zahniser often took a backseat to the quick work of Shofner, Young, Zajonc, Kimber Coles and Bethany Kaylor. Carleton, while still scoring points, was clearly no longer playing their possession-minded offense. Generally consistent players were dropping the disc on easy throws, and their tired-looking defense was trailing Oregon players. Shofner threw a gorgeous forehand huck to Young in the red zone to end the game 15-8. Oregon had won their first national championship since 2010, and they had done it their way.

After the game, Sophie Darch was all smiles. "This win feels great," she said. "It means everything to me and my teammates. It makes all of our track workouts and practices worth it." When asked how Fugue managed to rally after losing the first few breaks to Carleton, she explained, "We knew from the beginning that this game was going to be a battle and that it would be tough. We got into a huddle and talked about how this was our game and that we play fiery defense." The biggest challenge Carleton posed to Fugue’s hot defense was Syzygy’s receivers. As Darch explained, "Their deep receivers are absolutely incredible and so tall. That was the first time that our deep receivers were really challenged."

For Burruss, a finals win over Carleton elicited a complex range of emotions. When asked what the win meant to the Carleton graduate and former coach, he paused to think. "My immediate reaction is to say not much, since I’ve participated in other championship games. But really, it means everything to me. I wanted this so much for the team and my players – I wanted them to have this experience, and it’s so great to watch all of their hard work pay off." And although he claimed to compartmentalize the fact that Oregon was in tight competition with his alma mater, Burruss admitted that seeing Carleton’s emotional response to their loss wasn’t easy. However, witnessing a third Oregon appearance in the finals in four years must have been extremely rewarding to the coach.

Congratulations to Oregon Fugue, the winners of the 2013 Division-I Women’s College Championships!


Day 4 - highlights - Images by ultimatefrisbeephotos.com