Pool D delivered an absolute beaut between Central Florida and Whitman.
May 28, 2016 by Daniel Prentice, Katie Raynolds and Keith Raynor in Coverage, Recap with 0 comments
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Oregon 15-8 Colorado College
In the final round of the day, Oregon Fugue defeated Colorado College 15-8. Oregon held control for most of the game, going up 11-3 before Colorado College could score again. Players deeper in Fugue’s roster had the chance to boost their stats sheets, and Oregon won with their legs and their energy. More than any team in the division, they understand the value of efficiency.
Strata threw a zone, and their patience gave them a break late in the second half. Strata’s sidelines were upbeat and excited, and Patty Weicht was a breakout cutter downfield. But together, Strata’s best efforts weren’t enough to contain Hayley Wahlroos and Jesse Shofner. And in fitting fashion, Wahlroos found Shofner for the final point, 15-8.
Dartmouth 15-3 Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh may have come in hoping for a different outcome, but from the first two breaks there was no doubt: Dartmouth was going to run away with the game. They were better, faster, and stronger at every turn of the game. Angela Zhu was in control of the backfield; she threw eight of Dartmouth’s fifteen goals and scored one. Jaclyn Verzuh’s stats belie her dominance on the field — she was far from the leading scorer, two goals in the second half and she only had 3 assists — but she was the midfield. She facilitated movement through the break side, and she had several point-saving Ds on Pittsburgh’s deep shots.
Dartmouth’s pressure put Pittsburgh on their heels from the first pull. Linda Morse worked hard to create movement, but Danger attempted too many deep shots to a waiting Dartmouth player.
The score almost became meaningless; Danger would lose possession, and Dartmouth would get to work. Their sidelines were exuberant, and with good reason — Princess Layout was putting on a show. Jaclyn Verzuh sat on shoulders, Julianna Werffeli broke ankles, and Piper Curtis burned through the downfield.
The rest of Pool B should be very nervous tomorrow.
Stanford 15-4 Southern California
These teams are neighbors, and they’ve played each other more than enough. So they came into this game with a good sense of humor. After a five minute first point, the game belonged to Stanford. After a USC hold, the #3 seed went on a 5-0 run and never slowed down. Stanford rested their top players, and USC followed suit. They played rookie lines, they celebrated their plays, and they reveled in being the #19 seed playing their regional big sisters.
Whitman 11-10 Central Florida
In what was undoubtedly the best game of the women’s division — if not entire field — today, Whitman and Central Florida played an absolute classic to conclude a thrilling opening day of College Nationals. The game, which went to double game point, featured a lot of mistakes, even more mind-blowing plays, and two teams that left it all on the field in a battle for what was likely to top Pool D.
The game could not have started better for Central Florida. The team’s zone was as tenacious as it has been all season. The zone’s front four, led by Alexa Wood as the chase, suffocated the disc and shutdown virtually all throwing lanes early in the game. UCF’s offense was not even functioning particularly efficiently, with a fair amount of throwaways, but the team still jumped out to a 7-3 lead.
At that point, though, even if Whitman did not immediately change the scoreboard, the momentum of the game began to shift. Wood, crucial to the team’s defense as well as its primary downfield cutter on offense, aggravated a knee injury and the team wasn’t quite as effective on either side of the disc without her.
At 7-3, UCF actually had a great chance to break for half, but Mia Griner was unable to reel in an audacious, cross-field, blade flick that would likely have codified the narrative or the game. Instead, Whitman worked the disc right back down the field for the hold. The ensuing point was when the game began to palpably change.
The point was riddled with turns from both teams, and if it did not actually last twenty minutes, it certainly felt like it did. While Central Florida held for that point to take half, the physical toll the point took on the team was obvious.
Even after half, the Sirens seemed drained. The injury to Wood certainly was big, but the entire squad looked exhausted for much of the second half. The team struggled to get open downfield or find resets and at points the offense devolved to high-stall punts to Janina Freystaetter or the less-than-100-percent Wood. Whitman took advantage with two breaks out of half to close the game to 8-6 and were right back in the game after just a few points.
UCF returned with a clean hold, thanks largely to an incredible, falling backwards catch for the score on a pass a few steps behind Freystaetter, and appeared to have stemmed the tide. But Whitman came right back with four straight points as the Sirens’ offense completely lost its cohesion. At that point, Whitman had stormed all the way back from 7-3 down to take its first lead at 10-9, and with the game to 11, few would have given the Sirens any chance at that point.
But Central Florida showed their steel, largely fueled by the sheer will power of Janina Freystaetter, who reeled off incredible play after incredible play in the game’s latter stages. It did not appear to make much sense, either. She seemed as gassed as anyone on the field, but time after time she found enough energy in reserve to chase down a disc from behind that should have been out of reach, or explode forward to intercept a pass to a receiver that had appeared open a half second before.
She managed to pull off a hugely important block at 10-9, after UCF had already turned it a couple of times. UCF finally mustered the energy to punch in the hold and stop the bleeding, forcing double game point at 10-10.
From there she made the biggest play of the game. After playing like the walking dead for large part of second half, UCF’s zone somehow managed to come out with the same intensity it had shown in the game’s opening points. For a half dozen or more throws, Whitman could not get the disc out of their own end zone. When the Sweets had finally found a hole to move the disc down the field, Fresytaetter at the last moment launched herself into the air, as if shot out of a cannon, reeling in a jaw-dropping catch block in the game’s biggest moment.
The Sirens were unable to score from that position, but Freystaetter had one play left in the tank. This time, the Sirens’ stud was beat down field on a deep shot that would have been the game-winning score for the Sweets, but she somehow made up the ground and again made a humongous block.
The only problem for UCF was that Whitman’s Claire Revere managed to answer all of Freystaetter’s great plays with one of her own. In the second half, even though the two did not cover each other, it felt like two heavyweights fighting for a title belt — especially on the last two points of the game.
Revere and the Sweets had one more play in them, though. After yet another Sirens turn on double game point, Revere found her trusted target Marlena Sloss with an inch perfect backhand huck for the win.
Both teams played the game as if it was a semifinal game, pushing themselves to their physical limits, and in no two people was that more than case than in Freystaetter and Revere. It was truly a joy to watch.
On the nature of an intense double game point, Whitman coach Ben McGinn mentioned the fatigue both teams were facing, and the way a team wins a point like that. “The game plan is to make them work, and obviously by the end of the game that left two teams out there pretty tired. It’s just about grinding out a universe point like that, so it’s pretty amazing to see our team fight through and be lucky enough to take that one home.”
Revere discussed the mental turning point for the team, as the team regrouped at half. “We have body groups or pods, so we got with those and checked in at half time, kind of got ourselves back in a better mental space, decided that we wanted to come out and fight, make it a game. We’re here to have a good time, but also prove to ourselves what we’ve worked all season for, so that includes fighting when we’re down 7-3 or whatever the score may be.”
When the game was said and done, neither team’s tournament fate was determined. The game was not even technically for the pool. Though highly unlikely, a disastrous Saturday could render the Whitman win over UCF completely meaningless. But this game embodied the desire and excitement of College Nationals, and beyond that, it was an awful lot of fun to watch.