Club Championships 2021: Molly Brown Take Wind-Swept Win Over Nemesis (Women’s Quarterfinal)

Nemesis end their deepest bracket run in years, while Molly Brown advance to a familiar semifinal matchup with Brute Squad.

Chicago Nemesis vs. Denver Molly Brown in quarterfinals at the 2021 Club Championships. Photo: Natalie Bigman-Pimentel -- UltiPhotos.com
Chicago Nemesis vs. Denver Molly Brown in quarterfinals at the 2021 Club Championships. Photo: Natalie Bigman-Pimentel — UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s 2021 coverage of the club women’s division is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

In a repeat of their Pro Championships matchup, #2 Denver Molly Brown took down #8 Chicago Nemesis, leading from start to finish for a comfortable final score of 15-5. With the wind gusting considerably in the afternoon quarterfinal round, both teams struggled to keep the disc from hitting the dirt, but Molly Brown’s powerful throwers were able to adapt more readily than Nemesis’. It didn’t hurt that Denver’s bye to quarters made this their first game of the day, while Chicago seemed to wear down as the teams battled it out in the sun and wind into late afternoon.

From the first point, Molly Brown never trailed, breaking Nemesis to start the game on an assist from Valeria Cardenas — just a few weeks after an elbow fracture had her arm in a cast — to Ari Nelson. After Nemesis responded with a hold, a pattern began that held through most of the first half: a Molly hold, a Molly break, then three back-and-forth holds before Molly broke again. As the first points went on, each team found a way to navigate the swirling wind, with the Cardenas sisters dominating in the handler space for Denver and Jenni Corcoran executing perfectly weighted cross-field throws for Chicago. Those exchanges brought the score to 6-3, and then the wind really started to wreak havoc.

Rolling winds were a real factor in this game, and both Molly Brown and Nemesis made adjustments accordingly. “For our strategy, we felt the wind, and so we threw a couple different junk looks that we had,” Nemesis head coach Ryan Watson explained. “Obviously wasn’t as effective as we wanted it to be, but at Pro Champs, we ran a lot of person against them and less junky looks, so wanted to mix it up because of the wind. But they were able to handle our looks, and their throws were definitely a game-changer today.”

Molly Brown’s O-line was impressive even when facing the dual opponents of Nemesis’ zone and the wind, not giving up a single break as Claire Chastain, Nhi Nguyen, Rena Kawabata, and Manuela Cardenas powered the Denver offense. But it wasn’t just the household names that performed for Molly Brown; team rookies made big contributions, too. “We have a new player to our team, her name’s Robin [Fassett-Carman], and she has been really crushing,” gushed Denver captain Melissa Devlin. “[She’s] taking on big matchups, having some big throws, and it’s been really incredible to see.”

Even with no break conversions by Chicago’s D-line, their O-line made enough successful holds to keep them in it in the first half. A very long point at 6-3 was punctuated by Sarah Lipscomb generating a big block in the end zone, then going deep for the Nemesis hold to bring it to within two. It never got closer than that, though, as Molly Brown held, then broke to take half, and the higher-seeded team rolled on from there.

The teams exchanged holds at the beginning of the second half as Nemesis ran a potent zone defense, only for Alika Johnston to come up with a possession-saving diving catch for Molly Brown to make the lead 9-4 for Denver. Nemesis’ offensive line got their last real gasp of triumph on the next point as their clean and crisp offense eventually made its way to Christina Sur to narrow the gap to four points. Then, Molly Brown took five straight breaks. Sam Peletier was a defensive monster in the second half, picking up multiple important blocks in the deep space both in and out of zone looks from the Denver side.

As the wind died down a bit in the latter part of the second half, Molly Brown cruised to victory. “I think this game goes a little bit differently if we clean up a little bit of our own throwing errors, mental errors,” reflected Nemesis captain Jacqueline Jarik, and while that may have made the difference in the margin, the game would likely still have been Molly’s: they were simply more clinical than Nemesis in taking advantage of the break opportunities they were handed, with the strength of strategy, execution, and performance to power through a windy second-day game.

Nemesis end their bracket run with a goal of finishing in the top half for the first time in a long time, which remains in their grasp if they clear a placement rematch with fellow Pool D alums #11 Pittsburgh Parcha to reach the seventh-place game. A spot in the semis remains elusive for now, but with a quarters appearance in 2021 to follow a loss in prequarters in 2019 (itself following more than one year of missing the bracket or the tournament altogether), the upward trajectory remains strong, and Nemesis have the veteran talent and tenacity as a program to continue to pursue it.

As for Denver, they go on to face a familiar Saturday opponent in #3 Brute Squad, who have knocked Molly Brown out in the semifinal round for multiple seasons running now. With all the wind in this game, it’s hard to know exactly how much the quarterfinal can say about how Molly Brown will perform, but if their offensive line can hold its nerve, they’ll have a real chance of taking the defending champions down — and they have won this matchup this year. Denver will need all the confidence they can get in this classic 2-3 game, as Brute Squad have looked strong all tournament, and remain largely the same team that have beaten Molly Brown in years past.

  1. Jenna Weiner
    Jenna Weiner

    Jenna Weiner is a reporter and contributing writer for Ultiworld, and considers herself a purveyor of all levels of ultimate. She's played mostly on the west coast but you're likely to find her at the nearest ultimate game available.

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