May 25, 2014 by Katie Raynolds in Preview with 0 comments
Michigan and Central Florida last met on a chilly weekend in February at Queen City Tune-Up. Central Florida took that game 11-7, but now tomorrow they will line up against each other thousands of miles away after dominant seasons on both sides.
Flywheel comes into the game off a close win over the semifinal favorites UC-Santa Barbara 14-13. Flywheel had a lot to prove in that game, and they used smart matchups against the forces of nature on the Burning Skirts line. This game imbues the team with confidence, but a tight game to universe point undoubtedly tired out Michigan’s 15 player lineup, the smallest women’s roster at nationals.
Central Florida was done playing at 4:15 and their top lines were able to rest their legs for significantly longer than Michigan. But their Saturday ended not only with a 13-15 loss to Northeastern but with a loss that they didn’t want. Central Florida rarely loses when they’re trying to win, and they rarely lose when Sunny Harris and Mariel Hammond are staying on the line. Despite meeting both of those conditions, UCF took their first loss of the tournament.
Northeastern’s season is done, but their victory revealed what Central Florida looks like when they’re losing. The loss may be a bramble in Central Florida’s game mentality tomorrow, but knowing Harris and Hammond, it will be a chip on their shoulder that pushes the Sirens to secure points.
Why Central Florida Will Win
To put it simply, because they are veterans at winning. Their Northeastern loss seems like an aberration compared to this team’s history of complete and utter dominance, and they will look to take control of the pace, setting a tempo that Michigan would have to adhere to.
Harris and Hammond are the most dangerous duo in the quarterfinals, and their resets up the field will earn the Sirens five to eight points alone. But Joe Tilley developed depth in the Central Florida roster, so when Sunny and Mariel are covered, Stephanie Williams and Erin Goding will ably step up to create offensive space.
Central Florida is physical, menacing in the air, and they have some of the best developed hucks in women’s ultimate. They’re not used to losing.
Why Central Florida Could Lose
Cracks showed in Central Florida’s man defense today whenever Northeastern worked the under throws. While Shelby Spence clocked in a few run-through D’s, overall Central Florida’s line seemed unready to chase defenders under, especially when they knew Sunny lurked in the deep space, ready to save her team.
A mature and veteran defense might be able to deal with UCF’s frantic movement around the disc. They often rely on confusion and momentary lapses in trust that defenses fall victim to once Harris, Hammond, and company begin their speedy backfield cutting. When defenders start trying to cheat to help one another on the mark or down the field, the Sirens victimize them. If a defense can play with trust and clarity, that might be able to generate some high stall turnovers.
Why Michigan Will Win
Flywheel found a new depth of defensive intensity in their win against UCSB, and they proved that they can win aggressive games against teams that are more imposing physically. They earned this win by adapting their defensive approach:
“We decided to start backing their players, which we don’t practice a lot, it’s not really Michigan’s style of defense,” Meeri Chang explained. It took a few points for Michigan to find the right approach, but once they did, they took away many of the Burning Skirts’ options. Becky “Tots” Moore and Theresa Zettner matched up well on Kelly Gross and Lisa Pitcaithley respectively, and paired with Jacqueline “Jj” Jarik, these three could produce turns out of the Sirens’ deep looks.
On offense, all Flywheel has to do is play their game. Meeri Chang, Hannah Henkin, and Bailey Torvinen can set throws wherever they want, and even if UCF throws a close zone, Flywheel will be able to break through to find Alyssa Abbey’s speed, Moore’s big grabs, and Jarik’s bids. Chang’s vision and game IQ are challenges for any zone to contain.
Why Michigan Could Lose
Michigan hasn’t looked tired in a game in a long time, and a deep 15 person team can run for a long time in easier games. But Central Florida is not a team that relaxes on offense or defense, and Flywheel will have to work at 100% for every possession.
Michigan is also, as Chang admitted, not a team that’s used to defending the deep game. Jarik and Moore can reliably chase down deep looks on defense, but Harris and Hammond will look to exploit their team’s deep talent whenever they can, and Flywheel’s defenders don’t have the jets to shut down enough of them.
If their best defenders are spent on UCF’s handlers, they might not have the horses to keep up with the fleet of speedsters the Southeastern champions send streaking downfield.
Mariel Hammond vs. Theresa Zettner – Zettner has been one of the tournament’s best defenders and gave Lisa Pitcaithley a really tough time. Hammond’s combination of athleticism and disc skills command a similar respect and Zettner can take and dish physicality as well as Hammond.
Sunny Harris vs. Becky Moore – While Meeri Chang plays the handler defense that could slow Harris, Moore brings the most aggressive play to Michigan’s defense, and they will need aggression to combat Harris.
Erin Goding vs. Jacqueline Jarik – Erin Goding is big and aggressive for the Sirens; so is Jacqueline Jarik, These two can work each other under and out all day, with Jarik endeavoring to slow down Goding’s resets and stop her from putting it.