Cornell Wins Back to Back ME Championships (2019 Metro East Women’s D-I Regional Recap)

Cornell took down Ottawa in a taut final.

Cornell's Rachel Hidek looks past her Ottawa mark at Metro East Regionals 2019.
Cornell’s Rachel Hidek looks past her Ottawa mark at Metro East Regionals 2019. Photo: Alec Zabrecky –

Ultiworld’s 2019 postseason coverage of the D-I Women’s division is presented by VC Ultimate, the official gear outfitter of the Premier Ultimate League.

Additional reporting from James Greeno.

The Metro East was the last of the women’s division to decide who will represent the region in Austin, TX. While it was slated to be one of the first tournaments to start back on April 27th, the opening pull was pushed back to Sunday the 28th after heavy rains closed the fields on Saturday. That gave teams enough time to eliminate half of the eight team field and get to semifinals.

But once the four remaining teams all gathered this past weekend, they played out the final two rounds of Metro East Regionals. Cornell emerged as the champion with a title-clinching run under dire circumstances. Their 10-9 victory over Ottawa in the final, on their home turf fields in Ithaca, NY, earned them another trip to Nationals.

Cornell Claws to Nationals With Comeback

Down 9-7 in a game to 10 is a difficult origin point for a trip to the College Championships. But that unlikely outcome was willed into existence by the Cornell Wild Roses, who scored three straight to defeat the Ottawa Lady GeeGees. The victory earned Cornell a second consecutive Metro East championship, making them the first repeat champions in the region since Ottawa in a three title stretch from 2011 to 2013.

The two teams are very familiar with each other, having met three times previous to this matchup, including twice as Western Metro East Conferences. “These teams know each other well. They play each other in tough games every season without exception,” said Cornell co-coach James Greeno. While Cornell owned the 2-1 edge in the season series, the Ottawa team they found in the Regional title game felt different. Typically, the GeeGees were led by the shot-taking and shot-making of Cassandra Jaffray and Anna-Martine Doucet. But the aggressive handler play was replaced by patient sideline to sideline swings from Jaffray, Doucet, and Gwyneth Ross.

“Normally they like to run-and-gun — they like to go North, not East/West — they are very good at it and we have come to expect it,” said Greeno. “But for this game they adapted.”

Combining their skill with their pressuring matchup defense, Ottawa was able to get a two point lead going into the half, 8-6.

By controlling the game’s pace, Ottawa had earned another advantage: the time. Soft cap blew before the first goal of the second half, which went to Cornell, making it 8-7 in a game to 10. The Canadians quickly held to get themselves a point away from a Nationals berth.

And they got clear looks at it. A Cornell huck went awry, and Ottawa completed one of their own. The ensuing scoring pass looked like it would send the GeeGees to Austin, but Cornell’s Dena Behar swooped in for the interception. The Roses earned the hold on the second try. Then, Ottawa cut through a junk look from Cornell, forcing a transition. But Raina Kamrat got a layout point block to get the red zone stop, popping up to launch a huck to Sami Smalling. Just like that, it was 9-9, each team equidistant from the regional title. A narrowly overthrown Ottawa huck gave Cornell the chance they needed, and they seized it, moving up the open side before a throw to Behar gave her room to break around for the season saving assist.

The experienced core of the Roses had high expectations this year, and have built a strong case for their club as the modern rulers of the Metro East. While Ottawa holds the 4-3 advantage in titles since 2011, three of those came at the beginning of the post-redraw era. In many ways, this is the defining rivalry of the region, and for the time being, Cornell holds the upper hand in it.

Quick Hits

  • Columbia had a real shot at winning the region, but fell to Cornell in a semifinal filled with momentum swings. Pandemic took a 5-2 lead, but gave up a 6-1 run to carry a two goal deficit into halftime. Pressed at 12-9, they tallied three straight, but a hold put Cornell up 13-11 and the hard cap ended Columbia’s comeback bid. A surprising pool play loss to Yale put Columbia in position to have to play Cornell in semifinals, and it’s likely they have a few points they wish had gone differently over the last two weekends.
  • Even after losing their Conference final, it’s clear you can never count out Ottawa in the Metro East. They’ve reached the final seven times in the nine seasons since the redraw. It feels like they always have one (or two) of the region’s premier throwers and this season was no different.
  • It was a successful season for Yale, although it ended with a 13-9 loss to Ottawa. They were forced to play without star sophomore Yara El-Khatib, and dug a deep hole before unsuccessfully endeavoring to climb out. But their 10-8 pool play victory over Columbia showed the team’s grit. The margins in the region are thin and Yale could be in the mix again in 2020.
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