Hydra cannot stop Whitman deep game.
May 29, 2016 by Daniel Prentice in Recap with 0 comments
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Whitman won its first ever semifinal matchup in dominating fashion, 15-9 over Virginia to advance to the National Championship game.
The game began in much the same way that Whitman’s quarterfinal matchup with UBC earlier in the day began. The Sweets came out right away with a break on the game’s opening point. A simple Virginia drop led to a Brenna Bailey to Nina Finley score. The point was indicative of how the two teams would play for the rest of the half – Virginia committing a number of simple execution errors and Whitman mercilessly making them pay for them.
Whitman went on to break on four of the next five points, establishing a 5-1 lead. Virginia finally cleaned up its offense at that point and the teams traded holds into half, but by then it was really already too late. In addition to Whitman playing much more cleanly, the first half made it apparent that Whitman simply had a greater wealth of elite players and significantly more speed and athleticism.
The team has made an emphasis on starting quickly all tournament, but it has especially come together for the Sweets in the last few rounds of play. For Whitman, the ability to start games well comes from the team’s processes before the game even starts.
“I think for us it’s so much about these process goals we’ve set for ourselves and just focusing and getting mental energy,” said Sloss. “The little things really build us up and let us all really focus once we get to the field, have a really strong warmup and just play our game once we step onto the field.”
The great start in this game had a lot to do with Whitman’s high level of play and focus, but Virginia appeared to be a bit nervy and certainly did not play with the same synchronicity that it had throughout the rest of the tournament. The big, early deficit only mounted the pressure on Hydra for the rest of the game.
“They played amazing today. They were firing on all cylinders. We obviously had trouble stopping their deep game, especially in the first half and they had a couple amazing layouts catches,” said Virginia head coach David Allison. “It’s just a little bit of a buzzsaw. They’re doing that and they’re hitting it almost every time; it’s really hard to stop.”
Virginia righted the ship a bit after getting lapped in the game’s early stages, but were never truly able to match or bring down Whitman’s level of play. Nina Finley and Claire Revere were incredibly dangerous through the air while Linnea Soo and Marlena Sloss eviscerated the Virginia downfield defense. Sloss, in particular was absolutely unstoppable deep. Even against teams that were focused on taking away Whitman’s ability to attack down the field, Sloss bent UBC’s and Virginia’s defense to her will, constantly gaining huge amounts of yardage to put the team in the red zone in the blink of an eye.
“She’s got great timing to go deep,” said Whitman coach Ben McGinn of Sloss. “She’s also — this season — improved tremendously in the air. She’s always been incredibly fast, but improved her ability to go up and get the ball. She also has great chemistry with these throwers,” McGinn elaborated. “Most of them, she’s been playing with for three or four years.”
“[Playing with them] is awesome. It’s amazing,” said Sloss of her team’s handlers. “I know their throws really well and they know what cuts I’m gonna make, so it works really well. This chemistry has been building all season. It’s always there at the start of the season but it’s just gotten stronger throughout each tournament. Our cutters know our throwers really well and our throwers know our cutters really well.”
That chemistry is what allowed Whitman to attack deep with such ferocity and so quickly take advantage of an opponent being out of position defensively against Virginia as well as the entire tournament.
The Whitman offense was so dominant against UVA, in fact, that they were not broken until the 23rd point of the game. Of course, they did not have all that many chances to be broken due to the number of points they started on defense, but that, too, was a testament to how calmly and effectively the Sweets played with the disc in their possession.
More than anything, Whitman played with the intensity needed to win a big game like a national semifinal, but they did not let the moment get to them either. They found the right balance to achieve complete control of the moment. They will look to do that again on Monday in what will immediately surpass this semifinal as the biggest game in the program’s history.