Neuqua Valley And Holy Family Catholic Claim Final High School Centrals Titles, Presented By CUT Camps

Strong play from sets of siblings help both Neuqua Valley and Holy Family Catholic in Ames.

Neuqua Valley's Ben Swiatek celebrates after making the tournament-winning catch. Photo: Nick Lindeke --UltiPhotos.com
Neuqua Valley’s Ben Swiatek celebrates after making the tournament-winning catch. Photo: Nick Lindeke –UltiPhotos.com

The article is presented by CUT Camps; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and participate in CUT Camp!

This article was written by guest author Kelly Schiro.

I walked to my car on Saturday morning expecting it to be a decent day for ultimate weather-wise. As a player from Iowa, I should’ve known better — it blows, literally.

The first day of USAU’s High School Centrals Championship was a little chillier than expected and there was just enough wind to alter player’s’ throws. In both boys and girls divisions, Saturday was all about who could get the upwind point; those that could swing the disc with confidence would triumph.

Boys Favorites Stand Out In Saturday’s Pool Play

As the tournament’s top seed, Edina had an impressive Saturday, beating most of their competition handily despite being notably short-handed. With the team’s seniors not yet in attendance because of their prom, Edina’s younger players proved they were capable without them. The seniors’ absence allowed some of the juniors to stand out — handler Daniel Brunker played patiently and showcased strong throws throughout the tournament, while cutter Sam Hammar made some huge layout Ds and skies. After cruising through their pool, the understaffed Green Lantern lost a crossover game for seeding to Neuqua Valley in what would be a preview of the tournament finals. 

Unlike Edina — whose Saturday numbers were limited by circumstance — Holy Family Catholic has played with a smaller roster all season. But that just means that the boys from Cincinnati have had plenty of time to play with each other and they demonstrated noticeable chemistry. The team as a whole seemed patient with the disc against zone defenses, waiting for open cuts to develop rather than forcing anything. US Junior National Team player Jordan Monnin didn’t disappoint with his performance — he had some monster layout Ds and grabs to help Revolution sweep their pool and hold off Hopkins in a crossover to maintain their overall two seed heading into Sunday’s bracket.

Neuqua Valley entered the weekend without a tournament victory yet this spring, having lost in the finals at both Rivertown Throwdown and Neuqua Knockout — to the two teams seeded above them. Watching them play together on Saturday, it was clear that the boys from Naperville were on a mission in Ames. Handler Dylan Power seemed unfazed by the windy conditions and made quick decisions with the disc. WJUC alternate Ben Swiatek was everywhere, always ready to make an open cut for any teammate with the disc. Neuqua ran away with both of their pool play games before knocking off Edina in the crossover to claim the top seed after the first day of play.

While the other three boys pools saw the top seed blow through their competition with relative ease, Indiana’s Center Grove High School did not enjoy the same Saturday success. The Trojans could not continue the strong play from earlier in the season that had earned them their top seed, slumping to a third place finish in their pool after disappointing losses to their in-state rivals Fishers High School and two-time defending Centrals champion, Hopkins. Instead it was the boys from Minnesota who took the pool and showed that they were indeed gunning for a third title. While they may not be the tallest team, Hurt makes up for that with their hops; not one player on the roster seems completely outmatched in the air, even against taller opponents. Sam Stillman in particular was impressive in the air as he collected a number of skying Ds. He and Ben Pavelka also showed strong handling abilities in the wind to lead Hurt.

Omega And eNVy Comfortably Fight Through The Wind

For the girls division more so than the boys division, the wind played a significant role in Saturday’s pool play results. Games were decided by which teams could maintain possession of the disc and score upwind. Unsurprisingly, each pool’s top seed excelled in this regard, asserting their dominance over their competitors — neither Holy Family Catholic nor Neuqua Valley gave up more than six points to any opponent on the day.

In every game they played, Holy Family Catholic Omega just looked better competing in the wind. They maintained possession of the disc going upwind very well, making it tough for their opponents to get their downwind points. Omega was relentless on the day — as they have been all season — working tirelessly to show they were at the tournament to win it all.

Taking second in Pool A was Great River Stars (formerly St. Paul Charter), another team who handled the wind well. The handlers, notably Eva Fischer, Emma O’Brien, and the left-handed Isabel Olson, had the right idea to swing the disc wide to tire out opposing cups, consistently completing the swings despite the fierce wind.

In Pool B, the Neuqua Valley girls proved that they too could handle the wind. Kara Coffel, Mindy Radike, Mary Sullivan, and Allie Swiatek all made major contributions to eNVy’s wins. Coffel and Radike got their hands on the disc often and were more patient and mature with the disc than many older players at the tournament. Sullivan always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, scoring a lot of points for her team. Swiatek is a spitfire and already one of best — if not the best –players Neuqua has right now. Only in 8th grade, she reads the disc very well and will dive at every disc she can.

Neuqua Valley Boys Set New High Point For Program

Sunday, the final ever day for High School Centrals, was a perfect day for ultimate: sunny with temperatures in the mid-50s and little wind — a rarity for Iowa. Without the wind, teams appeared more evenly matched and it came down to who could make bigger plays and keep up their fundamentals throughout the day.

In both divisions, dominant sibling sets looked to lead Neuqua Valley and Holy Family Catholic through the brackets. Holy Family Catholic employed sisters Maddie and Hayley Samson as well as Rebecca, Luke, and Jordan Monnin, while Neuqua Valley’s Ben and Allie Swiatek each played major roles for their teams. As the brackets shook out on Sunday, it appeared for a while as though those two schools were on parallel tracks to meet in each gender’s finals.

In the boys’ division, Neuqua Valley did their part, facing off against South High School in their semifinal. South was coming off a very close quarterfinal game against Hopkins, managing to knock off the defending champs on double game point, but tiring out their best players in the process. In the semifinal, they simply couldn’t keep up with a more well-rested Neuqua team, who had won their morning quarterfinal 13-2. Handler Alex Jacobson took over for Neuqua in the game, making great dump and strike cuts whenever needed.

Edina edges our Holy Family Catholic in the semifinals. Photo: Nick Lindeke -- UltiPhotos.com
Edina edges our Holy Family Catholic in the semifinals. Photo: Nick Lindeke — UltiPhotos.com

In the other semifinal, Revolution started out strong with Ben Reutener repeatedly putting up hucks for Jordan Monnin to come down with. When Edina tried zone, Luke Monnin found his brother in the middle of the field with a hammer to break through and give Holy Family Catholic a 5-2 lead. After a readjustment and with the return of their seniors, Edina staged their comeback, picking apart Revolution with cross-field hammers and fantastic inside breaks. Timeouts were called a little too late in the game for Holy Family Catholic, allowing Green Lantern to complete their comeback and earn the hard-fought 10-9 victory.

By this point, Neuqua Valley had made the finals in both divisions — but only one of the teams would be victorious on the day. In the boys’ game against Edina, both teams came out fighting. Neuqua Valley staked out an early lead at 3-1, but Edina came right back to tie it at 3-3. Neuqua then proceeded on a four point run that Edina couldn’t answer. Dylan Power showed off his skills for Neuqua, serving as the main handler and playmaker. Green Lantern’s Sam Hammer had some great skies throughout the game, but it just wasn’t enough. Envisioning a second straight come-from-behind victory, Edina tried to keep their spirits up, but eventually Neuqua won the game with a monster layout from Ben Swiatek. When the disc went up, it didn’t seem posisble that anyone on Neuqua could get it to. But as he had done all weekend, Swiatek chased it down and made a play. He lay on the ground with the disc raised in the air as his teammates piled on, celebrating Neuqua Valley’s first Regional championship in the last ever Centrals tournament.

Holy Family Catholic Girls Cap Dominant Season

In the girls’ division, similar teams played out a similar story: one semifinal game was a blowout and the other a nail-biter.

In the first, Holy Family Catholic completely dominated Hopkins, shutting them out 13-0. Throughout the game, Omega was just able to move the disc faster than Hopkins’ defense could handle. Holy Family Catholic’s play style was also new to Hopkins, as no team in Minnesota is like Omega. HERT was clearly frustrated, but they kept up their spirits and complemented their opponents as they came off the field. While it isn’t reflected in the score, there were some great throws by Hopkins’ handlers and captains Lilly Shapiro and Addie Sedoff. 

In other the semifinals game, Great River School was looking to avenge their universe point loss to Neuqua Valley in the same game last year. Again, the Stars kept it close all the way through the very end of the game. Without the wind, Great River looked strong and had tall girls — notably Christine Siebels-Lindquist and Anna Clements — who knocked the disc down and skied their opponents. Having earned a quarterfinal bye through winning their Saturday pool, Neuqua Valley were well rested for this, the first game of their Sunday. eNVy took an early lead and seemed in command of the game, but Great River proved to be Neuqua’s toughest opponent yet. The score was knotted at 10-10 a little before hard cap as Neuqua punched it in to go up one. Hard cap went on and Great River toughed it out to tie Neuqua at 11s. With a finals berth on the line, Neuqua received the universe pull and made it a quick point, finding Allie Swiatek in the end zone.

Holy Family Cathoolic stood tall in the girls division. Photo: Nick Lindeke -- UltiPhotos.com
Holy Family Catholic Omega stood tall in the girls division. Photo: Nick Lindeke — UltiPhotos.com

In the girls’ championship game Neuqua Valley was ready to defend their title against last year’s runner up, Holy Family Catholic. Despite losing handler Kara Coffel to a head injury, Neuqua came out strong against Holy Family Catholic getting the first point of the game. From there, Holy Family went on an unanswered five point run, with Maddie and Hayley Samson successfully running Omega’s offense. Neuqua Valley were caught off guard and couldn’t quite recover, frustrating the team. After tacking back with a couple of points, they were held by Holy Family Catholic at four points for most of the rest of the game, only managing two more near the end. Maddie Samson kept her team strong and assisted on Omega’s last couple of points. Hard cap went on and Holy Family Catholic won the championship 11-6.

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