UC-Santa Barbara Burning Skirts Defend The Southwest Throne At Home

UC Santa Barbara Burning SkirtsThere’s always something special about winning your home tournament. There’s also something thrilling about competing in and winning your first tournament. And don’t forget about defeating a bunch of your regional rivals; that’s always nice, too.

The UC-Santa Barbara Burning Skirts managed all three during their home field victory at the Santa Barbara Invite this year, ending in a dramatic double game point final against rival Stanford Superfly. The matchup is the first meaningful game between last year’s Southwest Regional finalists. The tournament victory marks the first time the home team has taken the crown since 2010; Stanford won in 2011, bouncing the Skirts in the final.

For #6 UC-Santa Barbara, who came in as the top seed, rising up to the challenges of the weekend was significant. Coming into the spring, their depth was a question mark, but to win their final three games over solid competition in UC-San Diego, Sonoma State, and UCLA, and to still have enough in the tank to gut out a gritty victory against Stanford speaks to their ability to go the distance.

Stanford Superfly turned in a mighty effort and an explosive weekend, helping them move from #23 to #13 in the Ultiworld power rankings. They were dominant in virtually every outing, including a seven point run against Sonoma State that allowed Superfly to cruise to a pool play W. After the Stanford women felled UC-San Diego 14-7 in the semifinal, they finally got a look at their regional nemesis.

The home team jumped out to an early lead, going up 4-1, but Stanford settled in and shrunk the margin to just a point. After the two teams exchanged blows, Santa Barbara took half 8-7, but Superfly eventually captured their first lead of the game to go up 11-10. The Burning Skirts responded, behind the play of superstar Lisa Pitcaithley of course, who had a possession saving dig to help notch back to back points, regaining the lead for UCSB. A pair of points later, they were the champs.

There were some long and hard points in the final, with Stanford’s zone defense slowing the pace of the game. While Superfly may have relied on zone because of how difficult Pitcaithley is to match up with one on one, it proved an effective measure. UCSB used Pitcaithley and Kelly Gross to throw over the top of the spaced defenders, with Pitcaithley acting as the catalyst for disc movement.

Stanford’s team defense was their biggest strength on the weekend, and they revealed they have a wide range of offensive contributors. Sophomore Monisha White is bursting onto the scene as a dynamic defensive presence that is able to deal heavy damage after the turn. Senior captain Jennie Lummis, along with Hilary Vance, also turned in big weekends. Even the rookies were making an impact, such as Amanda Somvilay’s layout D in the final.

“It was awesome to be able to play an intense, challenging game against Santa Barbara,” said Superfly captain Steph Lim, “I think we learned a lot this weekend, and losing to Santa Barbara in that universe point only fires us up more to work harder and play our game the entire game next time.”

The two rivals’ status atop the Southwest will likely inject their next battle with even more meaning, although some of the regional competitors are demonstrating they could change the card for a title bout. Both UC-San Diego and UCLA impressed in Santa Barbara; UCLA’s one loss weekend earned them the #23 slot in our power rankings, while San Diego’s only losses were to the top three teams.

Both Sonoma State and Cal struggled on their way to disappointing finishes, at 5th and 6th, respecitvely. Neither team separated themselves from the pack, lacking the kind of statement win that could jump start their season. They’ll need to retool before their next appearances.

The stage is set for the SW Region to once again be very exciting this year. The top two programs look poised to make a larger impact on the national stage. This won’t be the last time you hear about great play in the Southwest.

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