D-III College Championships 2021: Defense Powers Portland to Final Over Carleton (Women’s Semifinal Recap)

Carleton Eclipse recovered in style from an early 3-0 deficit, but couldn't quite fend off Portland on either side of the disc.

Carleton Eclipse vs. Portland UProar in women's semifinals at the 2021 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rodney Chen -- UltiPhotos.com
Carleton Eclipse vs. Portland UProar in women’s semifinals at the 2021 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rodney Chen — UltiPhotos.com

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The top four seeds in the D-III women’s tournament put on dominant performances through Saturday, rolling through their opposition in their pools and in the opening round of bracket play. By this Sunday’s semifinals, we were left with a matchup of the tournament’s second and third seeds, #2 Carleton Eclipse and #3 Portland UProar.

Portland pulled to start and quickly racked up three breaks on the back of their powerful defense. They stifled Eclipse all over the field, forcing a second-throw turnover on the first Carleton possession of the game. On the turn, Jaclyn Wataoka’s offensive skills were key to working the disc up the field and into the end zone. Wataoka went on to pick up the game’s first two assists.

“I think we’ve preached from day one that we came here to focus on us,” said the Portland coaches. “We came here to focus on our game and to be the best version of our team that we can. Yes, we went up 3-0, but we always knew that we had to finish the game.”

On the other side of that 3-0 run, Carleton finally notched their first successful possession of the game. Following a foul on a shot to the deep space, Carleton established control of the disc in the red zone; a much-needed conversion followed, with Tess Barton throwing the assist to Colleen Milligan despite pressure from a bidding defender. From there, the teams would exchange long back-and-forth points to bring the score to 4-2 before Carleton achieved a break of their own to bring the game closer. After Portland’s second turnover of the point, they found a bidding Grace Hague in the back corner of the end zone.

A quick run of holds followed. Kim Dorr and Jaclyn Wataoka’s work for the Portland offense helped the team find a groove, and Carleton matched the energy quickly, with Harper Brooks-Kahn and Grace Hague leading the way. The score would ride along to 6-5 in Portland’s favor before another blow from Carleton would eat away the last of their early lead.

After Portland worked the length of the field and looked in position to add another goal, Rose Newell made an outstanding come-from-behind bidding block to gain possession for Carleton. Eventually, Dana Fried found Harper Brooks-Kahn for Carleton’s second break, which tied the game 6-6. Eclipse seemed to have recovered from their uncertain start, and a competitive game was on. Portland would respond with a hold and then a break of their own; Jaclyn Wataoka got open on a deep shot and flipped the assist to a streaking Kim Dorr, recovering the lead for Portland to take half 8-6.

Coming out of halftime, a turn-filled point eventually ended in a Portland hold, with Kim Dorr’s speed giving her the separation to receive a huck in the end zone with no defender in frame. Portland quickly followed up with a fresh defensive approach, a poaching look that initially put Carleton’s offense in disarray. The chaos yielded Portland a number of break opportunities, but UProar never quite converted, and — powered by Alex Rowell’s big step-out backhand to Colleen Milligan — Carleton claimed another hard-fought hold to bring the game to 9-7.

The teams traded their way to 11-8 Portland before Portland made off with a pair of consecutive breaks that pushed the lead to 13-8 and set the momentum of the rest of the game in unstoppable motion. Soon, Portland had secured a 15-9 victory over divisional powerhouse Carleton, as well as a place in tomorrow’s final.

Throughout the game, Carleton struggled to get much consistency going on offense. The team seemed unprepared for the level of defensive pressure they saw from this Portland team. Even so, Grace Hague and Alex Rowell proved themselves as elite playmakers. “This was the first time we have gone down by this much all season,” said Carleton’s coaches. “We didn’t win the game, but we did come back and made it competitive for much of it, and that’s something to be proud of.”

As for Portland, the outcome of this game never felt in doubt for long. In particular, the power of Jaclyn Wataoka in the handler space and Kim Dorr in the cutter space were too much for their opponents to handle, but contributions from across the roster carried UProar to a signature Nationals win for the program.

“Julianna Galian is having a breakout tournament for us,” said Portland coach Beckie Zipp. “This is the best I’ve seen her play. Something I think that tends to get ignored are our handlers who don’t turn over the disc. Kristen LeBar is playing like a club level O-line player. She doesn’t turn it over, she makes great decisions.”

With Portland’s power on offense and defense proven against one of the division’s best teams, they advance to a final against the other D-III women’s semifinal winner, Middlebury Pranksters.

  1. Zakk Mabrey
    Zakk Mabrey

    I helped start my HS intramural ultimate club as a junior at North Central HS in Indianapolis. At Indiana Wesleyan, I served as club president for three years, and was a captain. Now graduated, I live in Indianapolis, run D-III Midwestern Invite, and help with various other tournaments and ultimate projects within the state, while writing for Ultiworld. Catch me on Twitter @tnlzmabrey

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