Some standout performances that shouldn't be overlooked.
October 21, 2022 by Jenna Weiner in Analysis, Recap with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2022 Club National Championships 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.
With 20 separate games livestreamed on Day One of the 2022 Club National Championships, fans of the sport were treated to an unprecedented level of video coverage to kick off the action in San Diego this weekend. Yet with so much on offer, one can hardly be blamed for missing some of the day’s biggest moments and performances, whether because they weren’t on a streamed field or because they weren’t part your chosen viewing experience on Thursday. Before these achievements are lost to the sands of time, we wanted to call out a handful that caught our attention and stuck in our mind.
Oregon Schwa’s Julia Sherwood
Having a World Games player specifically matchup against you during a game is a compliment in and of itself. Having that happen two games in a row — and having those players be Sarah Meckstroth and Claire Trop — is another matter entirely, but that’s exactly the pull that Schwa’s Julia Sherwood had on Thursday.
Despite describing herself as literally “like a cog in a machine” per Schwa coach Bobby Gough, both Phoenix and Scandal appeared to have specifically game-planned to play Sherwood, with that game-plan being to send out their best players to guard her. Said Scandal coach Ty Aderhold about the Trop-Sherwood matchup: “You can go to Claire and just say ‘okay, Julia Sherwood is someone we need to shut down — Julia Sherwood does a ton of their work for them,’ and say ‘Claire, go take it’ and she does and handles it pretty well. Julia got a couple on her but I think overall Claire played incredible defense on her and that is such a huge, huge luxury to have.”
To have arguably the best player in the division focus on slowing you down means that you have to be doing something right, and wow, has Julia Sherwood done something right. For a Schwa team that performed admirably against both Phoenix and Scandal, Sherwood was key even with Meckstroth and Trop trying to stop her, and her “cog in the machine” mentality was a large part of that effort. “[It’s] great for moments like these when we come in and she just has to try to outwork people who have gold medals around their neck[s],” said Gough. “She’s just a cog in the machine, and in a machine you’re trying to build evenly, it’s great when one of your cogs just can do all of these amazing things out of nowhere.”
Alexa Yadama’s Three Blocks in a Single Point
Sometimes you get to witness one player go absolutely nuclear on a point. That’s exactly what Yadama did in Riot’s game against Molly Brown during pool play. Riot came out on offense, only to give the disc to Molly Brown at about half-field. From there, Yadama made block after block after block to prevent her team from getting broken, eventually helping lead to a hold. It was one of the most impressive single-point showings so far, and it’s hard to see how it might be topped.
It’d be easy enough as the bottom-seeded team at Nationals to fade away after going down 10-2 in your opening game of the weekend, to decide that being at Nationals and getting to enjoy the San Diego weather as the North Central champions was good enough and phone it in. Pop, though, didn’t do that. Instead they pushed back, and went blow-for-blow with Scandal after that 10-2 low point to round out the game at 15-8. The positive run lasted into the next round, admirably hanging tight with Phoenix until 5-4 before finally giving way to a string of breaks to the pool top seed.
Then came Pop’s deciding game against Schwa for a place in the bracket and boy did Minneapolis give it a go. They hung in throughout the game as Stephanie Wood threw a third of Minneapolis’ eventual twelve goals (as part of a fantastic 5G/7A/2D Thursday performance) before making an inspired three-goal comeback to tie the game up at 12-12 and send it to universe point. With Schwa reeling, Pop were able to generate yet another turnover before Schwa’s Claudia Tajima ended their tournament with a layout-catch-block-to-assist, but there Minneapolis was in the end.
Pop was the only no.16 seed to score double digits on Thursday, the only ones to really put any kind of scare to one of the 4-5-9 trios, and will, in all likelihood, be back to put up a fight once more at Nationals next season just as they did today.
Sarah Lord’s Dominance with the Disc
Your list of players with double digit assists after day one: Valeria Cardenas (Molly Brown), Samiya Ismail (Brute Squad), and Sarah Lord (Grit). The long-time Scandal player, who somehow is still just a youthful 29 years of age, has stepped up in a big way for Grit this season. She’s offered veteran nous to a team making its first-ever Nationals appearance, a silky style on the field, and a clear ability to chuck the disc with the best. If you like goal-slinging handlers, Grit’s prequarters matchup with Brute Squad is appointment viewing as Lord and Ismail face off for a place in the quarterfinals.
A Nailbiter of a Game Between Atlanta Ozone and Seattle Riot
This might have been the greatest game of the women’s division that went under everyone’s radar. Atlanta Ozone came into the tournament not expecting to win a game in pool play — they admitted as much in their intro interview. For a team that is gearing up to for their future, they certainly showed that what they have in the present isn’t anything to scoff at, either.
Ozone started out the game getting two early breaks to go up 3-1, and even after Riot regained their composure, Ozone went on a second break run to take half 8-5. They maintained their cushion to 13-10 before the wheels came off.
The hero of this game for Ozone was Soju Hokari, who was getting blocks left right and center, helping them gain and maintain leads all throughout the game. It was a lot more balanced on Riot’s side, although they got some heroics from Jamie Erikkson and Julia Snyder, along with a host of other players. It wasn’t until the final point of the game that Riot managed to take the lead, and even then, Ozone had a chance to win it all. Both of these teams are on the up-and-up. They’ll be dangerous in a year or two.
Claire Trop’s Monster Stat Line
It’s no news that Claire Trop is very good at this whole “playing ultimate” thing. To not be far away from putting up a triple-double in a weekend would already be considered an impressive weekend for almost any player in any division. To get there in just one day — tallying 6 goals, 9 assists, and 7 blocks on Thursday — she’s setting up to have a statistical tournament for the record books. With an extra game to come as Scandal has to play in the prequarters round against a solid Chicago Nemesis team, it won’t be a surprise to see Trop hit the triple-double before the weekend even arrives.
Traffic Confirming they’re Northwest’s Best
On a day when Traffic’s two Northwest rivals — Schwa and Riot — were taken to universe by the bottom seeds in their pools to just survive to the bracket, the Vancouverites blew out both Nemesis and Parcha by identical 15-7 margins to comfortably take second in their pool. There wasn’t any real drama to Traffic’s day as their depth of talent was too much for Pool A’s bottom two teams.1
The contributions didn’t come from only a few players either; nearly every Traffic player contributed some counting statistic over Vancouver’s three games, whether goals, assists, or blocks. Sarah Norton led the teams in goals with six, followed by Sophia Chan and Sarah Eklund tied at five, while Katherine Ortega, Danie Proby, and Denise Su led Traffic with four assists apiece. This is a balanced, dangerous team, and they’ll be favorites in prequarters against a Schwa team they’ve beaten thrice already this season. Win that and it’ll be a Canadian rubber match against 6ixers, Northwest against Northeast, battling it out for Northern Neighbor supremacy in the women’s division.
Nightlock’s Rachel Chang
It’s becoming increasingly clear that young players these days are more and more club-ready in their first few seasons than has been the case in the past, but 17-year-old Rachel Chang is something special. Not since Kennedy McCarthy has a player so young been the focal point of a Nationals-caliber offense. Chang was the most comfortable person on Nightlock with the disc in hand, and was ready and willing to go every-other if it was going to help her team. It’s worth keeping an eye on her going forward, especially with U24 tryouts around the corner.
Grit’s Offense Playing Too Fast To Stop
Quick! Off the top of your head, name the pool third seed that scored the most points against the top two seeds in their pool on Thursday? Ok, so it was no.9 Portland Schwa, but Washington DC Grit wasn’t far behind. The secret to their success was their tempo. In a pool with both 6ixers and Flipside, Grit was maybe the fastest offense at the tournament. No team was looking to end a point early quite like Grit. Players like Sarah Lord, Meghan Bartlett, and Madison Cannon had quick triggers, which set their team up for success. Lord was particularly effective, notching a full 10 assists on the first day of the tournament despite going up against some of the best defenders at the tournament. It was only when Grit had to slow down that the cracks started to show. There’s no reason for them to apply the brakes now.
Penny Wu’s Throwing Prowess
Much has been written and much will still be written about Penny Wu’s throwing capabilities, and for good reason. At her first-ever Club Nationals, she threw eight assists over the course of day one, more than double her nearest teammates and good enough for fifth in the division. And it’s not just her throws to teammates that have been impactful for Nemesis, as Wu is the primary puller for Chicago when she’s on the field and her pulling skills have fundamentally altered the way Nemesis plays defense.
“Penelope Wu has changed the way that our defense lines up and matches up because of her pulls,” said Nemesis veteran Anna Thorn. “When she is able to place the disc in very vulnerable positions for their offense, it sets us up to succeed, it gives us a level up.”
Nhi Nguyen Skying The World
There were innumerable amazing plays throughout the division on Pool Play Thursday, but this one by Nhi Nguyen launching into orbit might just have been one of the best.
It’s no shame being made to look pedestrian by the mighty Fury. ↩