Midwest Throwdown 2015: Saturday Recap (Women’s)

Notre Dame Huddle

 

The story coming out of the Midwest Throwdown is clear: What happened to Pool A?

Kansas is at the bottom. Notre Dame is at the top. Minnesota is above Iowa, and up is now down.

Kansas lost a 3-way tie with Iowa and Minnesota because their one win was on universe point, and their losses had margins of 4 and 7 points respectively. Iowa and Minnesota both had banner days, impressive coming from two teams who admit they have barely seen sunlight hit a disc since 2014.

Let’s break it down.

Notre Dame(3-0) Looks Stronger than Ever 

Going into Midwest Throwdown, Notre Dame’s goal was to win the pool…and did they ever. Their play got better with every game, from a universe win 10-9 against the Minnesota Ninjas to a dominant performance against the top seed, Kansas Betty, where they won 15-8. They beat Kansas before some teams even took their games to half.

Every team today struggled to change Notre Dame’s game. Womb doesn’t only throw it deep; if you give her the option, captain Kelsey Fink will punish you by sending a flick sailing to the open-and-waiting teammate of her choice. Fink got most of the resets she wanted, and receivers Julia Butterfield, Kristen Collins, and Amalia Carmona were usually open to bring the disc down.

Notre Dame didn’t just execute well; they executed with a visible physical effort every other team lacked. They fought for every possession and every D. Womb played tighter lines than many teams, yet they still had more energy than any other team by the end of their last game.

Womb isn’t ready to relinquish their underdog status yet; they know the tournament isn’t over. But with an easy prequarters game and either Washington University or Grinnell in the quarters, their road to the championship looks better than ever.

Cracks Show for Kansas (1-2)

Kansas stuffed the drama of a season into the course of a Saturday.

They were down most of their first game after Iowa found them on their heels and took advantage. They buckled down in the second half, went on a 4 point run in the soft cap, and earned an unbelievable universe point win. That win represented the mental intensity they wanted; it was the toughness they will need to reach nationals again.

Both Kansas and Minnesota began their second round on post-universe point legs; both teams seemed a little emotionally fatigued, trading points for the first half. But Minnesota’s adjustment in the second half revealed Kansas’ Achille’s heel: the Ninjas amplified their handler defense, and Kansas couldn’t react.

Handlers Caitlin Fitzgerald and Jenni Corcoran played at least 90% of Betty’s points today. Cracks only began to show in the third game, but Betty seemed unable to change their strategy to account for their handlers’ fatigue.  Kansas is far from a two-woman team: myriad players stepped up today, from Kailee Karr to Jordan Alonzo and Grace Roth. Without Clare Frantz (out for season) and Kate Eshelman, Betty’s game didn’t change enough to take the pressure off Corcoran and Fitzgerald.  And it made a difference.

One rough day doesn’t end a season. But Betty certainly expected more from these games; they absolutely wanted to beat Notre Dame. If they execute well tomorrow, they may have another chance in the semifinals.

Iowa’s (1-2) Arsenal is Dangerous 

Iowa Saucy Nancy looked better today than they have in at least two seasons. Most of the playmakers aren’t new names, but they have figured out how to play together in a way they couldn’t master last year.

Liz Gronert, Anna Pritchard, Emily Fujii, Nicole Havel, and Rachel Bradley were all versatile and dangerous players whenever they were on. Gronert had at least four impressive layout D’s throughout the day; Pritchard caught everything that came her way. Bradley, Havel, and Fujii were all dangerous in the midfield.

While Iowa only ended the day with one win over Minnesota, they held Kansas off for most of the first game until Betty surged in the cap to win on universe. Tomorrow they’re set to face one of Tier II’s biggest challengers, Truman State TSUnami.

Minnesota (1-2) has a Breakout Day 

Minnesota was the biggest breakout of Saturday. They began by taking Notre Dame to universe, losing 9-10. They quickly made up for that loss by beating Kansas 13-9.

Last year, Sarah Anciaux (Pop, Drag’N Thrust) was the buzzworthy player on the Ninjas. This season, she is even more formidable: she was involved in almost every point Minnesota scored, whether she earned the turn, threw the assist, or caught the score herself. And this year, she’s not alone: Kalli Perano and Greta Regan were both smart, physical handlers, while Sarah Helm was a rock downfield.  Throws were steady and well-formed in the wind, unusual for a North Central team in early March.

The Ninjas scored more points than any other team on Notre Dame, and they broke away from a close game with Kansas to win 13-9, outscoring Betty 5-1 in the second half. They lost their last game to Iowa, but they face a better matchup tomorrow in prequarters against University of Chicago.

Texas(3-0) is Effective While Unchallenged 

Compared to Pool A, Pool B was boring: Texas Melee outscored their opponents 37-19, winning all their games with relative ease.

Their first game against Iowa State was their closest: Melee took half 8-6, but Iowa State fought back in the second half to make the final score 11-9. The rest of the day, Melee only let Washington University and Illinois score a combined 10 points on them.

Handlers Kelly Lavine and Shiru Liu utilized the break side more effectively than most teams on Saturday, and together Melee quietly produced one of the better resumes of the day.

Tomorrow Texas will play Pacific Lutheran in prequarters, but they will likely get a chance to face off against bigger contenders deeper in the bracket.

Truman (3-0) State Rolls the Day 

Truman State TSUnami let teams score two points against them today… just two. Their opponents included Bradley, who brought only nine scrappy players, three of whom allegedly learned the sport a week ago (seriously though, props), as well as Rhodes, whose roster features only 8 women.

Despite going unchallenged, Truman State still showcased strengths that will help them in the bracket tomorrow, including Emilie Willingham, who was tragically excluded from my Midwest Throwdown preview. Willingham was a Worlds tryout invitee and on the short list for a ticket to London. A naturally athletic player, Willingham was involved in most of Truman State’s plays without ever taking over or carrying the team. She was perpetually an option downfield, but still ready to come back into the zone for a reset.

Willingham was flanked by handlers Stephanie Sherman and Samantha Daugherty. Both players showed composure with the disc, particularly against windy zones. 

Tier II Goes to Seed…for the most part

Key Upsets

Nebraska Cuddle Raptors surprise St. Benedict Rapture, 15-6

Grinnell takes Pool C over Missouri State, 15-8

 

  1. Katie Raynolds
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    Katie Raynolds took a break from Seattle ultimate to test out the Midwestern scene, but now she's back in the Northwest to investigate this "bubble" she keeps hearing about. She played for Northwestern Gungho, two seasons with Chicago Nemesis, and now plays for Seattle Underground. Katie serves as Ultiworld's Women's D1 College Editor, and is damn proud to cover women's ultimate. You can reach her by email (katie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@kraynolds90).

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