Early Sunday morning saw conditions become colder and significantly windier, forcing teams to try some new looks.
Iowa vs. UNC-W
The mythical upwinder – often the game changer on windy days – was first captured by Saucy Nancy, who took a 3-1 lead. Behind the throwing of Bekah Hickernell and catches of Audrey Erickson, Iowa would add another upwinder to make it 5-1 before taking half 8-3. Hickernell would continue to add to her assist tally, often to stud Liza Minor in the second half on the way to a 12-8 victory.
UC-Santa Barbara vs. Minnesota
The Burning Skirts – without their star and leader Alicia Thompson – would open their day with an energetic Ninja squad. They Ninjas would draw first blood, getting the upwind break and taking a 3-0 lead. The Skirts would fight back to make it 5-4 before Minnesota opened it back up to take half 8-5. The second half would mostly be a back and forth game, with Minnesota getting one more break, eventually finishing it 11-8.
Ohio State vs. Colorado
Fever was able to open with an upwind score, and with zones being effective tools, control the pace of the rest of the game. Despite some long points with good defense from both Kali and Fever, the Buckeye state women would take half 8-1. They’d roll to a 13-5 win, which the wind forced all the way to soft cap.
Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Each of these teams was coming in with a 1-2 record on the weekend and certainly not wanting to fall to 1-3 and out of contention. The last they saw one another, it was a 13-11 game that Wisconsin took, dealing Superfly a critical loss at their home tournament. The wind made this game one full of long points, but Superfly was able to get the upwinders necessary to win 7-4.
Tufts vs. Central Florida
The game would start with the Ewo women getting an early break and upwinder to get a 2-0 lead. The Sirens would respond – crucial to do in these sorts games – to tie it at 2-2. The teams would battle through long points, but behind the play of Emily Shields and Skyd 5 Callahan Selection Claudia Tajima, who would get a big goal line layout D and eventually get the back to back scores,Tufts would take that half, 8-7. The cap went on, and the teams went to 9-9, double game point. Shields would get low for a floaty pass to nab the win and send Ewo to Quarters.
Virginia vs. California
I may sound like a broken record, but the wind lead to some long points in a very close game. California started up, but Virginia was able to score back to back to bring it to 5-4. Theresa Hackett was huge for them in this game, as she was all weekend, bringing in a lot of key grabs. The teams would trade, with Alika Johnston bringing in the 7-6 game winner.
Carleton vs. Texas
Carleton may have been one of the teams least unhappy with the conditions. Their strong throwers and tall receivers can overpower opponents when conditions get dicey. Texas, riding high from the Saturday they hoped for, probably were less enthused. Syzygy was able to stake out an early lead and wouldn’t look back, 11-5.
Iowa State vs. North Carolina
In the last episode of this matchup, Woman Scorned took down North Carolina in the QCTU Semis, to the tune of 14-11. ISU is, like their North Central brethren, pretty comfortable in the wind, particularly with the throws of Sarah Pesch and Magon Liu, two of their four U23 team members. North Carolina’s Shellie Cohen is one of the most powerful throwers in the Women’s game, but her strength was not enough to overcome the long points against Iowa State, who would win, 9-7.
Carleton vs. Iowa State
Iowa State moved from their QCTU Semis rematch to a QCTU Final rematch, facing Carleton. Winds started getting near 20 mph, but both teams were able to generate some offense behind skilled handler play. The rematch wouldn’t be quite as close as the 14-13 QCTU game was, with Woman Scorned coming out on top, 10-7.
Tufts vs. Virginia
Both teams were coming off hard fought games, but Tufts was able to tap into their skill and depth early on. They’d fire off the first 8 points, their zone dominating the game. They’d add a Callahan from Tasha Link before finishing things, 12-4, punching a ticket to the top four.
Ohio State vs. Stanford
Both teams were happy to huck the disc downwind in this one, but Ohio State would be the first team to find the upwinder, Diddy Soper firing one to take the 3-2 lead. Stanford was unable to flip the break, giving up a very long and hard fought downwinder and going down a pair. Fever would seize the momentum to score another upwinder, going up 5-2. That lead would be what they would need to take the game, which ended 10-5.
Iowa vs. Minnesota
This North Central clash was one both teams really wanted, as they saw each other twice at Midwest. Minnesota scored the upset in pool play, but Iowa dominated when it mattered in the Final. The Ninjas would open with a quick downwinder and an upwind break for a 2-0 lead. However, Saucy Nancy would respond to flip the break and score the ensuing downwinder, tying it back up, Erickson still leading the way on both sides of the disc. The teams traded to 4-5, when Minnesota would manage three in a row, soon taking half 8-5. The gap would prove too much for Iowa to overcome in the second half, and they’d fall 12-8.
Minnesta vs. Ohio State
Fever would jump out to a 4-1 lead, again behind the playmaking ability of Diddy Soper, with the help of grad student Jenny Perry. Minnesota would get a break of their own before the half was out, but OSU kept the pressure on. With Soper getting most of the assists, Ohio State wouldn’t look back on their way to a 14-6 win, sending them to their second consecutive tournament final.
Tufts vs. Iowa State
Early on, both squads would trade, Ewo still relying on stellar play from Laura Fradin to help their offense navigate Woman Scorned’s defensive play. However, it would be Iowa State that would snag the first break, to take a 5-3 lead. The response would come swiftly, Emily Shields again coming up big with her playmaking to tie it at 5-5. For a while, neither squad was able to capitalize on opportunities and generate a second break. However, late in the game, tied at 11-11, Tufts would finally strike, taking a 12-11 lead. With their backs against the wall, Iowa State would need to find a way to break and very soon. Woman Scorned doesn’t crack under pressure, punches in the upwind O point to Liu, and then wins the ensuing double game point with a downwind break to march onto finals, 13-12.
Ohio State vs. Iowa State
The Final would be a rematch of the last round in Pool D. In that game, Ohio State was able to use their deep game, powered by “Dissie” (a combination of Diddy Soper and Cassie Swafford) to win 14-11. However, Iowa State came in the reigning Centex Champions. While you could look at a few angles for storylines, in the end, the storyline went one direction: downwind. Winning the flip turned out to be critical, as both teams struggled to generate upwind opportunities, despite having a number of talented throwers. Ohio State came really close on a couple of possessions, but drops near the endzone – not uncommon on cold days with discs hopping around – ended their run each time. The teams would trade the entirety of the Final, leading to a 13-12 victory for Woman Scorned. Cami Nelson would take home Skyd’s red MVP jersey.
After one team from Division III cracked the bracket – Arizona State with a surprising win over MIT – the teams settled in for PreQuarters. Colorado College and Dartmouth are your surprises here, topping Florida State and Northwestern respectively. Each had gone 1-2 the previous day, but would ride the momentum to win their Quarters game and make Semis, beating Northeastern and UCLA, respectively. Michigan walloped Pittsburgh 15-2 and Whitman knocked off Texas A&M, as well. Colorado College would stay hot with a 9-7 win over Whitman, while Michigan would end Dartmouth’s run. The Final would be another battle for upwind breaks, of which Colorado College would get the first. Very long points lead to a low scoring affair, and Flywheel was able to get the upwind break response they needed very late, tying the game at 7-7 and sending it to universe. Colorado College was unable to get back upwind and Flywheel took the DII title home, 8-7.
In DIII, Rice made a great four game run to win the Final over MIT.
My three favorites to challenge Northwest supremacy AKA The Evil Empire at the College Championships all solidified themselves this weekend. Iowa State Woman Scorned has been legit in my mind, ranking withstanding. They still are running balanced lines, throwing rookies out even in important situations. It is really hard to think of a team with a top four like theirs – they need some sort of nickname – and when they really want to turn it on, I expect them to be just about as good as anybody. Tufts Ewo and Ohio State Fever were two teams I liked coming into this year, returning their cores and continuing their growth from good runs last year. Ewo has shown me not only their top end talent, but their depth, with Laura Fradin, Emily Shields, and Qxnha Titcomb emerging as playmakers. Ohio State is the same. While Paige “Diddy” Soper is clearly one of the college game’s premier handlers and Cassie Swafford, when healthy, is equally as good a cutter, the team’s development and additions are what make them a threat. Adding freshmen Nina Finley has been gigantic, but Jenny Perry, the return of the beautiful and talented Janine Walker, and Lauren Franke’s defensive play have all elevated this team.
I worry a little bit about Virginia Hydra. While I’ve had a history of underestimating them, I just feel like they have a high floor and low ceiling. They have the defensive ability to make Prequarters, but I just don’t know if their overall talent level can take them any further than that. Their wins this weekend were 14-12, 15-12, 7-6, and 9-5. Their losses were 10-15, 4-12, and 3-11. All of those losses came against teams that could make Semis at the show, while all of their wins were against teams that will have a tougher time getting that far. Their win over North Carolina Pleaides was a nice statement about their takeover of the AC Region though.
I was of the belief that people were overreacting to Wisconsin Bella Donna‘s performance at Stanford Invite. Their performance was worthy of all the praise being heaped on it – hell, I couldn’t stop tweeting about it – but if you look at their full body of work, calling them a top 5 team is silly. Clearly, the potential is there, but without any of the consistency necessary to pull it off. I expect the North Central to get their five bids, but if they didn’t…would Wisconsin be left at home? If they aren’t playing well at Regionals, it is a definite possibility.
Speaking of #bidwatch, coming in, Stanford and the Southwest took one of the North Central bids, while the Southeast trio moved into the danger zone at the back end of the top 20. Stanford had a tough weekend and could fall backwards, though a 15-5 smashing of Minnesota will help their math. UCF started the weekend with two blowout losses, which will be tough to overcome, but they did beat Stanford solidly. I think Florida State did what they needed to on the weekend. Northeastern had a great showing this weekend and was just outside of a bid coming in. I expect them to take one for New England. Seaweed from UNC-W was also hanging around (#30) coming into the weekend, and notched wins over Ohio State, aforementioned Northeastern, and UC-SB, and all of their losses were very close. I think they’ll move to just outside the bid picture. Finally, Colorado College may very well take one for the South Central, on the back of a 4-3 weekend, with wins over Northeastern, Florida State, Whitman and UC-SD and very close losses to Michigan and Whitman.
In total, we have five teams: Northeastern, Colorado College, Central Florida, Florida State, and Stanford. They are fighting for two bids, assuming Iowa State takes one back for North Central. All of this will be settled shortly when the USAU releases their rankings, which they typically do around this time on Wednesdays.