Notre Dame and Michigan played a dramatic final game in the winds of the Great Lakes, and both eventually advanced to the College Championships.
May 9, 2017 by Guest Author in Recap with 1 comments
This post was written by guest author Ben Murphy, coach of Michigan Flywheel
For better or worse, understanding what happens at Great Lakes Regionals always seems to start with the weather. Leading up to the tournament, rain was in the forecast. Fortunately, it ended up blowing through Fair Oaks before the tournament started on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the wind that carried the storm through faster than expected continued with significant force throughout the day Saturday, blowing sustained winds across the field at speeds of 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.
It was in those conditions that Notre Dame Womb and Michigan Flywheel claimed the region’s two bids to Nationals.
The wind was a key driver for strategic decisions, and throwing in the wind was a strong predictor of team success. At times, gusts were significant enough that games that may have been ultimate, but were more akin to two disc golfers playing tug of war. On Sunday, conditions were calmer and the game play resembled the sport we all love. The other main difference between the two days was that some schools were missing graduating players on Saturday but not Sunday.
Notre Dame and Michigan Battle in the Final
In the final, #6 Notre Dame Womb defeated #13 Michigan Flywheel in a game featuring several runs. Michigan started on offense and got one break on their first defensive point. Notre Dame responded with three breaks in a row to go up 5-3. Michigan held and got a pair of breaks back to take a 6-5 lead, then Notre Dame scored four in a row, including a hold out of half, to go up 9-6.
The teams traded holds before Michigan broke twice once more to tie the game, 10-10. The soft cap horn blew, and Flywheel broke again for the lead. Notre Dame held, forcing double game point. It was the same do or die situation the two teams had played two in their past two matchups: at their 2017 Conference Championships and in the Great Lakes Regional semifinals the previous year. Michigan won both of those previous games.
A strong Notre Dame pull pinned the Michigan handlers deep, and an early turnover gave Notre Dame a short field. They completed a pass over the Flywheel defense to Player of the Year candidate & Callahan nominee Julia Butterfield for the winning score.
Throughout the game, Butterfield was a downfield target for Notre Dame, and she consistently brought down discs in traffic, beat defenders deep, and got open coming back to the disc. The game seemed like a battle of equals, but Notre Dame rose to the top on the back of Butterfield’s ability to improbably come down with anything thrown her direction. She won matchups in the air and played the best game of any one player in the final.
Michigan Advances Against Impressive Chicago
In the second game to go, Michigan took on Chicago Super Snatch in a rematch of their first game from Saturday morning pool play. In calmer weather, the game featured more opportunity for both teams to show a variety of strategies. Michigan started on offense and got broken on the first point thanks to a Chicago huck. That was the last break Chicago would get, as Michigan held on their second try and then rattled off four breaks in a row to lead 5-1. The teams traded to half, 8-4 Michigan. Coming out of half, Michigan broke twice more, and with a 10-4 lead, the game felt over at that point. The two teams exchanged holds to a final of 14-8, and Michigan sealed the second berth to the National Championships.
At Regionals, the headline is always about the teams that qualify. But this weekend, the real news was that the University of Chicago1 broke seed and surprised some opponents. Chicago took second in Pool A on Saturday via a narrow 5-3 upset of Northwestern that ended on a tremendously long point (time estimates for the point varied from 60 to 80 minutes). The rest of Pool A went to seed, with Michigan winning the pool undefeated, Chicago second, Northwestern third, and Purdue last. In Pool B, Michigan State upset Indiana in pool play and the rest of the pool went to seed, with Notre Dame winning the pool by yielding only four goals to opponents all day Saturday.
both women’s and men’s teams, actually ↩