National Championships 2023: Scandal Acquitted As They Beat “Fraudulent First Seed” Allegations

Scandal flipped the script on their two losses to Phoenix back at Pro Champs when it mattered most, bulldozing their way into semis to the tune of a 15-9 win

Washington DC Scandal’s Kira Flores stretches for the catch against Raleigh Phoenix in the 2023 Club Championship quarterfinal. Photo: Rodney Chen – UltiPhotos.com

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DC Scandal will be making their first trip to the semifinal in over a decade after toppling Raleigh Phoenix in a game that many predicted would be the national final. Thanks to Phoenix’s stumble in pool play, the two teams faced off much earlier, and Scandal avenged their two losses to Raleigh at Pro Champs to advance to the next round.

There were a lot of questions around Scandal’s legitimacy as the first seed coming into the tournament. Granted, the case for them was stronger than the case against them, but it was still contentious considering how Phoenix had won two games over the DC team a little over a month ago. With this emphatic 15-9 win, there are no more arguments against Scandal’s place at the top of the pack. Now, the question becomes whether any other team at the tournament can keep pace with them.

Scandal must have known they needed to make a statement in this game. They came out swinging the moment the first pull let off, and that initial punch was a haymaker. After Jamie Eriksson’s pull put Phoenix on the back foot, they worked it carefully all the way up the field only to test alumnus Amanda Murphy in the endzone with a wide backhand, which she bid on fully to secure the block. From there, Scandal moved the disc patiently before isolating Eriksson in the deep space, allowing her to sky Erica Birdsong to set her team up with the first break of the game.

The team from the District weren’t done there. Phoenix sent out their secondary offensive line and once again, they worked it all the way down the field only to make a small execution error that Scandal capitalized on immediately. Despite the wind picking up, DC’s offense made a number of short passes to the front of the endzone before Lisi Lohre risked a pass through traffic into a sliding Keila Strick. If that wasn’t already adding insult to injury, Scandal replicated that break with another on the third point, this time setting up Sandy Jorgensen for the goal.

“We were keyed in on stopping their pull plays, which worked out well for us,” said Scandal coach Michael Aderhold about the team’s early success. “You also have to have the right matchups on each [of their cutters] so we spent time getting that right, too.”

Just like that, Scandal were up 3-0, and Phoenix’s sideline started getting nervous.

Even if teams try to deny it, momentum is a real thing in sports. It can suck the energy out of the room if you don’t have it, and can turn adrenaline into magic if you do. It’s safe to say the momentum was with Scandal.

Phoenix would spend the next few points getting their offense established, but it never was clean. Scandal kept getting break chances, and even when Phoenix stole a break back of their own, it was off a heroic diving grab from Lyla Stanland, not from confident offensive flow.

Scandal didn’t have those same problems. Even when their offense wasn’t clean, it was still moving. Part of that was having easy outlets in the form of Hannah Boone, Jamie Eriksson, and Allie Wallace, and most importantly, Sandy Jorgensen.

To call this a “vintage” Jorgensen performance would be a disservice. Sandy wound back the clock so far you’d think the spring was broken. She was skying World Games players, bidding past recent college stars, and generally making all the right plays to help her team win. This is a player that was a veteran on Scandal the last time they won Nationals… you know, 10 years ago. Her intangibles have aged well, and she had a case to be the game’s MVP when all was said and done. “[Sandy] had a phenomenal game. You cannot sleep on her at all,” said Lisi Lohre. “She’s been tearing it up in this division for over a decade. Take it from someone that’s had to play against her for a long while.”

Jorgensen wasn’t the only returning veteran that had an impact, though. Kami Groom was her usual self in the game, notching four goals, one assist, and one very impressive block while on the field. Considering the wealth of talent on Scandal, the fact Kami Groom is still producing at this high a level speaks to the quality of player that she is and her ability to make herself known when the stakes are at their highest.

You know Scandal were having an all-time performance when Claire Trop doesn’t top the list of best performers. That’s how good things were going for Scandal.

Phoenix weren’t without their own bright spots, but they were fewer and farther between. At 7-3 to Scandal, Phoenix’s zone baited Claire Trop into a huck the wind carried well out of bounds, allowing them to set up an offensive stand that would end in a Lyla Stanland goal to give them a well-needed break. Stanland was one of the few Phoenix players who was able to get open in the endzone, netting three goals by the end of the game.

Still, every time it seemed Phoenix were building some momentum of their own, Scandal would plug it. Right after getting broken by Phoenix to make it 7-4, Scandal let Marge Walker guide their offense through the windy conditions, setting up Trop to hit Kami Groom for one of her many goals.

Raleigh got to hit the reset button after half, and while they were down, they weren’t out. Dawn Culton made sure of that with a nasty layout grab that snagged the disc moments before the intended receiver could close around it. From there, Phoenix would work it down the field and set up Alex Barnett for a layout on the other end of the field, this time for a goal.

Raleigh were knocking on momentum’s door and asking to be let in, only for Scandal to slam it shut in their faces two points later with a break of their own after Theresa Hackett slapped down an off-hand backhand that was meant to sneak over her blind side. From there, Malisa Dang got going and powered a flick huck upwind to Eriksson for the break, putting Scandal up 10-5.

Dang really had an incredible second half, getting three of her four assists in that time and almost all of them on tough upwind throws.

The rest of the second half followed the same script as the first. Phoenix would make enough happen on offense to be dangerous, only for Scandal to answer in turn. A layout goal from Lindsay Soo, that was easily the play of the game, fired up their team to no end, only for Scandal to play small ball offense down the break side of the field before setting up a Trop goal from Kathryn Ritzmann.

At 14-9, it was clear Phoenix had run out of options. They attempted a prayer huck to get a fast goal on Scandal’s defense, only for Eriksson to get her hand in the way and make the throw uncatchable. From there, Jorgensen made two great plays, including the assist to Eriksson to win Scandal the game.

Considering the promise of the contest between the two teams before the game, the score didn’t reflect the quality expected from their matchup. If you watch the game, you’ll see a much closer battle than the score indicates, but it’s also clear that on Day Two of Nationals, with the stakes at their highest, Scandal were the better team.

Phoenix couldn’t help but be disappointed after being eliminated. “We struggled to find the ceiling we had established earlier in the season,” said captain Bridget Mizener. “But I’m proud of the fight in this team.” The team may have finished below their expectations, but no one can blame them due to the teams they ran into at Nationals. Scandal proved they were the top seed for a reason.

  1. Graham Gerhart
    Graham Gerhart

    Graham Gerhart is a Senior Staff Writer at Ultiworld, focusing primarily on the Women's and Mixed divisions. Graham graduated from the University of Cape Town in South Africa after playing 4 years with the UCT Flying Tigers. He now lives and works full time in San Diego. Follow him on twitter @JustGrahamG

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