She just jumped over everyone.
May 29, 2017 by Katie Raynolds in Analysis with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s reporting on the Women’s 2017 D-I College Championships is presented by VC Ultimate as part of their season-long support of our women’s coverage. All opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at VC Ultimate!
Julia Schmaltz, Texas’ tall athletic cutter and captain, was already a target heading into the weekend. She was the statistical leader in goals before the semifinal, with 25 goals in six games. But nobody was prepared for the scoring clinic she put on in their semifinal match against Colorado.
Ultimate is truly a team sport – someone once eloquently called ultimate the most perfect sport because you were required to work with your team in order to score. As a result, outlandish statistics in ultimate are rare. One player doesn’t get 100% of a team’s blocks, and one handler rarely throws more than 60% of goals1.
During today’s semifinal, Julia Schmaltz scored 10 of Texas’ 14 goals. She scored the last eight points for Texas in a row (spanning more than the entire second half). She was the most dominant force on the field for every point she played, and she played 21 of the game’s 26 points.
“There’s a tremendous amount of trust on this team,” Schmaltz said. “Sometimes the plan was to look deep, sometimes it wasn’t, and in a high stall count, this is the turn we want. I know [the] handlers are going to put it somewhere I can catch it.”
Schmaltz’ job in Texas’ system is to linger deep in their stack, ready to take three long driving steps deep when the handlers strike into power position. When they don’t shoot, she’s always open under for easy yard gains. Defenders don’t dare shift to guard the under on her. At 5’10”, her stride and agility is unmatched in the division except by fellow heavyweights Han Chen, Courtney Gegg, and, of course, Jaclyn Verzuh.
Schmaltz opened the game by scoring Texas’ first break at 2-0. Texas set several zones throughout the game and Schmaltz pulled far back in the deep space in their four person cup zone. The defense let Texas rest their starting seven – who played for most of the game – and Schmaltz’ presence deep discouraged Colorado from sending hopeful shots to their best deep cutter, Nhi Nguyen.
After a marathon point — where Texas burned four red zone opportunities before Kali broke — the real Schmaltz show began. She scored a second attempt goal after a pass from Texas handler Dre Esparza popped off another cutter’s hands. She threw Texas’ next goal to a streaking Shiru Liu. In their next offensive point, she made a key block in the endzone before exploding deep to make a toe-the-line grab for the bookends score. To cap off the half, she and Esparza ran a fast break down the field to break for half 8-6. Oh, and she scored that goal, too.
Colorado drew out a smart game plan for covering Schmaltz. They put their best aerial defenders on her – Nhi Nguyen and Megan Ives – and whenever possible, they packed two or three defenders around Schmaltz on deep shots. Nguyen and Ives both had nice plays against Schmaltz, but the blocks were mere picket fences in front of the freight train of Schmaltz’s momentum in the air.
“She had an unreal game,” said Nguyen of Schmaltz after the final. “She’s a great player.”
Exclusively targeting Schmaltz with hucks was not the designed offense for Texas, but having her on the line gave Liu and Esparza an escape hatch from high stalls or trapped sidelines. Her consistent eye contact with the Melee handlers meant she was always ready to save the day.
And save the day she did. Schmaltz caught every point Texas scored in the second half. Her utter, world-ending dominance wasn’t planned, and it happened gradually — in fact, Schmaltz herself didn’t realize she’d done it until her post-game interview. But point after point, she either had separation to run onto scores, roofed her defenders, or just jab-stepped in the endzone to create open windows.
Schmaltz will likely match up with Dartmouth’s Jaclyn Verzuh today in a powerhouse rematch from the Stanford Invite final. Schmaltz is ready for the rematch; she’s been waiting for it all season. If her semifinal performance is any indication, fans are set for a duel for the ages.
except Han Chen and Angela Zhu who are remarkable exceptions ↩