As expected, Middlebury advanced, but Haverford flashed potential
May 22, 2022 by Hunter Lang in Recap with 0 comments
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For number one seed and defending champion Middlebury Pranksters, these early round have been all about taking care of business. Though their 12-8 quarterfinal win against the Haverford Sneetches was their closest game of the tournament, they aren’t particularly worried about their most recent win being the tightest.
The team’s biggest asset, says sophomore Liz Bowen, is their depth. If you look at Middlebury’s roster, the first thing you’d notice is how much larger it is than every other team in Milwaukee this weekend. And the Pranksters didn’t just bring a bunch of extra players to watch their stars win games; every player is playing meaningful points every game. This was especially true in their quarterfinal game, with stars like Claire Babbott-Bryan and Keziah Wilde only crossing over once or twice, while they ran fairly open lines the rest of the game. This strategy allowed the Pranksters to see tons of growth throughout the weekend from their young team, but it really started to pay off in the Haverford game. Unheralded players like Lily Laesch, who every Prankster that we talked to shouted out for her excellent cutting in this game, and freshman Liz Crawford were given great opportunities to excel. They took advantage.
What set these rookies up for so much success is the systems that Middlebury has taken so much time to perfect. “In the past, Ultiworld hasn’t really given us credit for how much of a systems-based team we really are,” says sophomore Keziah Wilde. “They see us completing deep shots and call us a deep looking team but, in reality, we run our systems through every player, and we trust every player to run them.”
The importance of these systems were evident, especially going upwind. With wind gusts that could push the disc across the field on a simple reset, Middlebury had to grind their way upwind, relying on short throws between the handlers and poppers who could find space. Back in the semis, this time against St. Olaf for the second time in six months, the Pranksters feel great about their chances of going back to back.
For the Haverford Sneetches, this loss is a great result. After losing 15-3 to two seed Eclipse yesterday, a similar mismatch was expected in today’s quarterfinal. But coach Jason Oswald was adamant that their blowout loss yesterday better prepared them for the best team in the division. The difference today, he said, was the energy the team came out with. They started strong and were able to get their offense moving upwind and downwind. The key to their offense was the throwing ability of Donovan nominee Riah Newfont, whose upwind hucks helped the Sneetches in the field position battle. Captain Lindsey Hua helped Newfont run the offense but was also a key cog in the Sneetches’ cup.
When asked what he and his team were taking away from their first Nationals appearance in years, he responded that “we learned we can compete against any team here and because we have such a young team, a lot of freshmen, this team is only going to get better.” That’s bad news for the rest of the division, as Haverford won 19 games this year. With the new knowledge that they can be Nationals contenders, that number is only going to get higher.