Santa Barbara Invite 2016: Tournament Recap (Women’s)

A look at the best of the Southwest.

Han Chen at President's Day Invite 2015.
Han Chen at President’s Day Invite 2015. Photo: Stephen Chiang — UltiPhotos.com

GOLETA, CA — Here’s a look at the top stories coming out of the Santa Barbara Invite.

UCLA, Stanford Play To Effective Draw

UCLA may have been the champion of the Santa Barbara Invite, but their final against Stanford could hardly have been closer. In a windy conclusion to the tournament, UCLA edged Stanford 9-8 on what would have been — were it not January — a controversial double game point.

The game seesawed back and forth right from the start. Stanford nabbed a pair of early breaks to go up 2-4, before UCLA answered immediately to put the game back on serve at 5-4 with the go-ahead goal scored by Camille Wilson — a spark plug all weekend — on a Callahan. The teams traded to half, before UCLA got a crushing break after a reset turnover near midfield from Stanford’s Caitlin Go to take an 8-6 lead. Remaining poised, Stanford followed up with a gritty upwind hold, then a downwind break to tie the game at eight.

Although the game started about 25 minutes late, the coaches agreed before the game to respect the existing cap rules and end the game at the scheduled conclusion. The observers were informed and treated the cap as such. However, late in the game, the observers were not on the same page, and Stanford was not made aware that the ensuing point would be the final one.

After a long point, Wilson scored and the UCLA sideline erupted, but Stanford started sending players back out to the line. After some conferencing between the coaches and observers, the game was ruled final, wrapping up an exciting game in an odd, anticlimactic way.

Stanford Still Strong; UCLA To Overtake Them?

Stanford will be a top 10 menace yet again this season, but it’s hard to see the team competing at the championship level they were a year ago. While Monisha White and Caitlin Go return to anchor the offense, the team clearly missed the skills of Steph Lim and Michela Meister in the final.

Stanford’s top recruit, Hallie Dunham, played heavy minutes this weekend on a short-handed Stanford roster. She was solid in the final, though she looked a bit shaky at times in the windy conditions. It is clear, though, that the team is putting their trust in her from day one and asking her to be a key cog in the offense.

It is worth noting that these teams were battling the wind as much as each other. Neither team had really been challenged up until that final; Stanford outscored their opponents 44-2 on Saturday and UCLA outscored theirs 36-10.

But when somebody needed to come up with a big play in the wind, UCLA had more answers. Han Chen and Kristen Pojunis were the best players in Santa Barbara this weekend. At times, they were too quick to put up punts into the wind, especially in their 6-5 (!) semifinal win over UC San Diego, a truly ugly war of attrition in 30 mile per hour winds. Still, their physical dominance and high ultimate IQ stood out; they were the reason UCLA took home the crown.

This was UCLA’s first win over Stanford since 2012. “We weren’t scared of the wind; we weren’t scared of Stanford,” said coach Alex Korb. “We were just having fun.”

Expect more fabulous matchups between the two teams later this season. They will both be in the semis hunt and will hope to challenge the Northwest’s recent dominance of the Women’s Division.

“i think if we face them again its going to be another really tough battle,” said Pojunis. “But I’m really excited about the strength of the Southwest.”

UCSD, UC Davis Look Good, Not Great

The fact is that UCLA and Stanford were in a league of their own this weekend. The other semifinalists — UC San Diego and UC Davis — were certainly impressive throughout the weekend and romped through pool play, but they could not match the finalists in top end skill or depth.

UCSD definitely kept it close against UCLA, but it never felt that UCLA was out of control of the game. More importantly, that game was entirely unrepresentative of nearly any other game you’ll see all year: The teams simply hucked up prayers back and forth all game, playing the field position battle. There was one point that may have lasted over 20 minutes.

Both San Diego and Davis will be worth watching later this season, because they could help haul in a big batch of bids for the Southwest.

Notes

…Consolation games were canceled on Sunday due to heavy rain delaying competition and closing a set of grass fields…Teams did a commendable job of staying upbeat amidst some fairly atrocious weather conditions…Special thanks to tournament director Collin Gall for his help this weekend…

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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