Northwest Challenge 2018: Friday & Saturday Recap (Women’s)

Defending champs Dartmouth have looked unstoppable so far this weekend.

Coverage of NW Challenge is presented by VC Ultimate as part of their season-long support of our women’s coverage. All opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at VC Ultimate!

SEATTLE, WA—Rain, sun, wind, and snow blessed the first two days of Northwest Challenge. Four teams persevered through the elements: #1 Dartmouth, #4 Stanford, #5 Oregon, and #2 UC San Diego. These four teams—all pool no. 1 seeds except Oregon— will face off in the bracket tomorrow, while the rest of the field plays consolation games that could still help or hinder their rankings. There’s no rest on Sunday when it’s late March.

Among 20 teams and one foot-sore reporter, here are the storylines or moments that caught my eye on Friday and Saturday.

Dartmouth Even Better Than Last Year’s National Team

Dartmouth’s history of coasting at this tournament was reason enough to doubt how they’d play this weekend, but Princess Layout broke with their own tradition and decided to clown on, well, everyone.

Julianna Werffeli and Jaclyn Verzuh have broken the sport of ultimate. Nobody can stop Werffeli from hucking to Verzuh, and nobody came within five feet of Verzuh when she decided to be open. They cruised through pool play and they shut down UBC 15-7 in their quarterfinal, winning with ease. Caitlyn Lee, Lily Eisner, and freshman Claire Trop were key pieces in most defensive maneuvers, and Trop is already a new favorite target for Dartmouth handlers.

Dartmouth’s path to victory tomorrow will be riddled with great matchups, from Butterfield vs. Verzuh to Dunham vs. Werffeli, and hopefully some Dena Elimelech vs. everyone. But their path seems inevitable after the past two days. The rest of the division may just have to wait out the rest of Verzuh and Werffeli’s tenure before hoping to win against Dartmouth again.

BYU Ruins A Weekend Or Two

BYU looked promising at Santa Barbara Invite and have been undefeated since that January outing, but this three-day tournament was their time to shine. BYU’s first game on Friday happened in the breaking sunshine right after the snow-rain nightmare that was Friday’s first round. They began running full speed in the newly calm weather, and they took Western Washington by surprise early while Western reeled from the storm, winning 15-9.

On Saturday, they proved that that win wasn’t a fluke by upsetting Carleton 11-8 and Washington Element 15-7. BYU is fast, gutsy, and has a strong core of skilled players who can boost the disc or get the layout block. Kendra Mitchell, Kaylie Caldwell, Jemi Ong, and Casstique Williams played particularly well this weekend. BYU’s tournament is over, but they may have done enough to earn a bid for the Northwest… if they decide to play Sectionals.

UCSD and Stanford Cruise Through Pool Play

The two-day format pools began their tournament today, but without much drama. Six of the 10 teams in Pools C and D are Southwest teams who know each other well, and the pools went almost entirely to seed beyond Cal Poly-SLO losing the three-way tie with Colorado College and Victoria.

UCSD and Stanford marched through their games. UC Santa Barbara gave UCSD a battle in the final round of the day, losing 14-11, but that was the closest game either UCSD or Stanford played today. Stanford looks sharp and dialed in on defense, and Shayla Harris is having a banner weekend even by her standards. UCSD continued to play their biggest contributors in blowout games, and their offense still looks effortless.

These two Southwest teams won’t have to face each other in the semifinals this weekend, but no matter what they know they’ll see each other in the final at Southwest Regionals.

Northwest Teams Look Promising, But Only Oregon Advances

For Canadian teams University of Victoria and UBC, Northwest Challenge is only their second regulation tournament. Victoria played better than their 2-3 record so far suggests, and their handling core looks solid. UBC started the weekend strong, but they lost their back-and-forth battle with Western Washington and they couldn’t stop Dartmouth in their quarterfinal matchup.

Whitman is also only playing their second tournament of the season after Stanford Invite, and they’re looking more confident and cohesive than they did earlier in the season1.

Oregon, Washington, and Western Washington all look the best they have all season. Nevertheless, Oregon is the only Northwest team who will advance into the bracket on Sunday. They just barely won a close game with Western Washington 14-11, and tomorrow morning they’ll get to test their signature containment zone against UCSD in a rematch of their double game point game at Presidents’ Day Invite. Notably, Hayley Wahlroos has played limited minutes throughout the weekend so far due to a foot injury. Oregon brings her in for crucial late-game points (where she’s still one of the best players on the field, injury and all), but she’s not at top speed.

What To Watch For On Sunday

8:30 AM: Whitman v. California

Whitman and California are both young teams with a lot of potential, elite coaching, and penchants for force middle defense. They played each other at Stanford Invite, where Whitman won 13-6. Whitman is currently ranked #20 in the USAU rankings, and California lurks just behind them at #23, which means pride and bid contention could be on the line on Sunday morning.

10:30 AM: UCSD v. Oregon

This game was a highlight reel starter pack when they played in La Jolla at Presidents’ Day Invite, and UCSD narrowly won that round. Tomorrow, watch for more big plays from each team’s stars: tricky breaks from UCSD’s Kelli Iwamoto, perfect touch hucks from Oregon’s Ella Hansen, layout blocks from Dena Elimelech, and casual hammers from Oregon’s Hayley Wahlroos. UCSD is nearly undefeated, while Oregon is more battle-hardened by the season so far. This could be the best game of the tournament.

All day: How Many Goals, Assists, and Hockey Assists Jaclyn Verzuh Racks Up

Jaclyn Verzuh’s influence was ubiquitous during nearly every goal-scoring possession for Dartmouth and it’s still not certain she even broke a sweat. Verzuh’s assist and hockey assist stats are more telling than her goal tallies for Dartmouth because she often catches the full-field huck just outside the endzone, where she’ll toss the disc casually to a teammate for the score. Verzuh is hacking the sport from within, and we are all just here to bear witness.

 


  1. In comparison to Bellingham Invite, which was much earlier, not Stanford Invite two weeks ago. 

  1. Katie Raynolds
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    Katie Raynolds took a break from Seattle ultimate to test out the Midwestern scene, but now she's back in the Northwest to investigate this "bubble" she keeps hearing about. She played for Northwestern Gungho, two seasons with Chicago Nemesis, and now plays for Seattle Underground. Katie serves as Ultiworld's Women's D1 College Editor, and is damn proud to cover women's ultimate. You can reach her by email (katie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@kraynolds90).

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