HSNI 2023: South Eugene Wins Back to Back Titles (Girls’ Division Recap)

Looking at South Eugene's repeat titles, trends from the tournament, and the All-Tournament line.

South Eugene’s Brielle Ramsdal makes a layout catch at HSNI 2023. Photo: Cullen Clark — UltiPhotos.com

After South Eugene (OR) won the girls’ division of the 2022 High School National Invite, we called their run “historic.” It was a remarkable debut. And while many artists, directors, and teams fail to replicate their first successful effort, South Eugene proved it wasn’t simply a breakthrough. They have set the standard. We thought it was a personal best, but they have turned it into the bar to clear for title contenders.

From the first pull to the last, South Eugene’s showing was mostly draped in dominance. The Oregon squad outscored their opponents 72-42 in aggregate across six games and never surrendered double-digit scores. Green Canyon‘s (UT) 12-8 loss in semifinals was as close as anyone got to South Eugene, and even that game was securely in hand by halftime. Their dismantling of Roosevelt (WA), the top seed and favorite entering the tournament, offered the final proof that they were undisputed and untouchable. Again.

In the final against Roosevelt, South Eugene roared out to a 3-0 count and, like an action hero walking away from an explosion, never looked back. Take the game’s first point: a pivotal block by Ella Khoury kept Roosevelt from a potential break, and Ollie Bunson turned in a signature defense-to-offense play, intercepting a short huck, running a quick give and go to get into power position, and sending a huck to Brielle Ramsdal for a score. Roosevelt could never really match South Eugene’s pace, led by Bunson, who kept the pressure on the Ryders during any transition by hustling to tapping the disc in, aggressively attacking upline space, and firing their dangerous deep shots. They piled up two goals, five assists, and two blocks. Mara Hindery-Glasinovic (three goals, two assists, two blocks) was a constant threat downfield, while Fluffy Jones (four goals, one assist) displayed versatility, playing both in the backfield and finding success going away from the disc.

It didn’t help that Roosevelt had to feel cursed with misfortune. Drops were rampant for the Seattle side, and as the margin widened and the mistakes stacked up, the frustration seemed to get to the team. Stars Chagall Gelfand and Chloe Hakimi were kept mostly kept off the stat sheet (a combined three assists and six turnovers) by a firm South Eugene defense despite no shortage of effort. While Roosevelt’s focus dulled during periods, they remained gritty on defense, tallying 25 blocks in the match. But South Eugene’s defense after the turn held Roosevelt’s break tally empty despite nine tries. Meanwhile, South Eugene’s offense was able to get eight clean holds, serving to swing momentum in their favor.

There’s no way to know how long South Eugene can maintain this pace as a program. Given that they graduated some of the best college recruits in the country last spring and came back just as strong, they’ve more than earned some trust in that regard.

Seattle Shuffle

The storied girls’ division programs of the Emerald City are one of the ultimate community’s crown jewels. Sevens different teams from Washington state qualified for the tournament, including five of the top six seeds. A pair reached the semifinals. Many of the tournament’s best players hailed from Seattle schools.

Conversely, a trio of Seattle teams (no.6 Northwest, no.11 SAAS, and no.13 Garfield) each went 0-3 on Friday and finished in the tournament’s bottom four. Nathan Hale (WA) needed a late run against Lone Peak in quarters to battle through; without that win, the Seattle weekend as a whole might feel very different. While, in aggregate, no youth community can quite match up to their breadth and accolades, this is more evidence that many of the country’s other areas are developing considerable talent of their own.

Home Cooking

We were only a few points away from both of the Utah teams fighting through from prequarters to semifinals, but Lone Peak (UT) could not hold off Nathan Hale in their quarterfinal to advance along with Green Canyon, who defeated Lincoln (WA). The environment created by those two games, played 20 yards away from one another, was one of the tournament’s most intense. Folks traveled back and forth between the two games as the Utah teams and Seattle teams clashed. With the Utah teams taking early leads, there was a synchronicity in the air.

Only one of the two upsets came to pass, but the Utah community has to be proud of the effort their teams put forward. Sending the no.8 seed to the semifinal round, where they gave the future two-time champs their biggest challenge, and the no.13 seed to quarterfinals is worth bragging about. Perhaps it was the lack of travel or the sideline support — or comfort playing at altitude. But while other teams may have been a bit winded, almost every team both GC and LP faced brought more sets of legs to rely on. Green Canyon rostered 13 and Lone Peak 15, with just five seniors between the two programs. Somehow, despite Canyon’s Stella Anhder and Madi Seedall, as well as Lone Peak’s Melissa Swalberg, being asked to carry heavy workloads, they remained active and intense. These were not stars resting in the back of zones and jogging around the field to send hucks. It was remarkable to see their toughness.

The Wrap-Up

As mentioned elsewhere, Nathan Hale’s run to semifinals was in jeopardy, but they came back from a 7-6 halftime deficit with a dominating second half, outlasting Lone Peak. What we haven’t gotten into was that they nearly reached the final with another comeback, this time against Roosevelt. Trailing 13-9, stars Rowan Lymp and Alexa Jeantette-Coca both stepped up with big plays to get within one, 13-12. But measured offense and a Chloe Hakimi layout block snuffed out the run. While they completed plenty of other come-from-behind victories, they couldn’t pull off one last trick.

Lincoln had no shortage of talent, but their execution waxed and waned throughout the tournament. They could run a smooth and flowing possession keyed by early isolation, continued by great break throws, and finished by well-timed setups. But their deep game came and went, as if they never could really calibrate in the thin air. In pool play, they were able to just outmuscle teams with their talented roster, headlined by Ella Widmyer, Madoka Uo, and Ella Monaghan, but as the level of competition rose in the bracket, they couldn’t maintain their footing on the tightrope.

The Massachusetts duo of Four Rivers and Newton North put up strong showings in really different ways. No team’s zone was more central to their gameplay than Four Rivers’. By going all in, they clearly advanced in their understanding of the defense’s nuances. Oh, and they had the seemingly infinite presence of Eve Macek, who literally had around 100 blocks at the tournament while also being a core offensive performer. Newton North’s approach was balanced, and they played at one of the tournament’s slower paces. Their best moments often came when their handler group, led by Ellie Lemberg, could find Grace Vaughn in space to unleash her powerful forehand huck.

It feels like a gimmick to talk about the Melner triplets as the lede for Summit (OR), and maybe it was just three almost indistinguishable humans running around in cutoff tees that made it feel like they were everywhere, but they also practically were. There would be a deflection on a huck or a loose reset or a jump ball and one of the Melners would come flying in to make the play. The team sometimes got bogged down in disorganization, but they were one of the most aggressive hucking teams too, which seemed to bowl over some defenders.

Cleveland (WA) came to the tournament with some remarkably technically sound throwers. Anne Le and Cindy Nguyen were a joy to watch and a nightmare to mark. A universe point loss to Hale on a jump ball to a pile must have stung, but they put themselves in a position to potentially change their tournament in that match.

Lower Merion (PA) showed everyone they had some real tools with their performance in their first appearance. They had a number of positive contributors, led by Ava Terosky, Sam Merritt, and Myra Woerdeman. They never quit, making them nearly blowout proof, but were clearly physically and mentally taxed by weekend’s end.

Before Roosevelt reached the final, they got all they could handle from a resilient Edina (MN) team. They displayed a tough mental game and a lot of buy-in, but struggles with short field throwaways held them back at points through the event. Amelia Zdechlik was the most creative thrower at the tournament.

A pair of universe point losses to start the tournament put Northwest (WA) in such a tough spot to recover from. They had to face South Eugene to end the day and a last place finish in their pool locked them in to the bottom four. Scout Nelson was one of the division’s standout handlers.

SAAS (WA) couldn’t put it all together consistently, but their best moments looked as good as any team at the tournament — all the way to the top. Kyliah McRoy would track down a help block, Jenna Li would break the mark to Sophia Faucher, and the team could flow from there.

Madison (NJ) brought a very young team to the tournament and surely learned a lot from their games in a very tough pool. They put it to good use in a hard fought 5-4 win over Garfield in consolation.

Garfield (WA) leaned a lot on their veteran throwers, but they only had three seniors, and could certainly be back stronger in 2024. They had a bit of trouble with zones, which will doom you at HSNI these days, but they had defenses scared of their ability to send it long.

Ultiworld Subscribers: read on for the All-Tournament Line and Honorable Mentions!

Bonus Content for HSNI 2023: South Eugene Wins Back to Back Titles (Girls’ Division Recap) is only available to Ultiworld Subscribers

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  1. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the Business Development Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

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