National Championships 2023: XIST Lay Down the Law (Mixed Quarterfinal Recap)

Defensive intensity powered XIST to a second half comeback over Lawless and a semifinals berth

New York XIST celebrate at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 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.

New York XIST are on the biggest hot streak they have had all season. On Day One, they won pool B and only had three breaks total scored against them. They found ways to have a strong start in their games and took advantage of their opponents’ turns. While the trajectory of their quarterfinal against Arizona Lawless looked slightly different, the results remained the same, as they won 14-12.

Things started off clean enough to not see a turnover until the fifth point in the game. Lawless decided to get a bit creative with their defense to try to stifle XIST’s offense with a zone look. It worked and Lawless got the first break of the game to take a 3-2 lead. In one of the messiest points of the game, complete with poach blocks by XIST, a bobble, and toe-ins, Daniel Thorton secured XIST’s first break to get the game back on serve.

Not wanting to mess with a good thing, Lawless found success with their zone for a second time, forcing XIST to miss a reset and allowing them to get a second break. And then a third. Sacrificing two breaks in a row to go down 6-4 did not sit well with XIST, and when Cara Sieber found holes in the zone, it proved they should not be counted off yet.

The game would then see a series of holds (not all of them clean), to get things to 9-7. Of course, within this time we would get many standout play from XIST’s Nina Finley and Genny De Jesus and Lawless’ Shelby Petty and Travis Dunn. Finley stepped up on defense to make plays. De Jesus continuously made cuts to get open and used her speed to her advantage. Shelby Petty made big grabs left and right. And Dunn, well… did just about everything.

“In the first half, our D getting a couple of breaks to bring us back into the game and take half. Our defense was just a bunch of ballers this game,” said Kody Lippincott about what fueled Lawless’s success in the first half. “We see it in the stats: when our D gets the ball, we don’t turn it over which feels good, very disciplined.”

Perhaps XIST saw how well the zone worked for Lawless to get breaks, or maybe they just decided to switch things up because they knew they needed to rebound if they wanted to a shot of getting back in the game. In their second D point of the second half, XIST set a zone. With perfect defensive positioning, Josue Alorro hunted down a block and, after a few throws, found Hannah Garfield to start reducing their point deficit. After one more hold a piece, XIST’s defense became even hungrier.

“I was the one that gave the halftime speech, and the coaches agreed, the speech should just be centered around love. No strategy. No talking about the wind. No talking about the opponents, just talk about the love that’s in the program,” said Genny De Jesus. “I think that was just the reminder we needed. Sometimes we can get really focused on strategy and I think every elite team can do that, but the coaches have a really good finger on this team. We’re able to see we just needed that reminder and we were back in it.”

When Lawless unleashed a huck that floated out of bounds, XIST took advantage of the turn and tied the game back up at 10s. They didn’t stop there. Finally adding more intensity and pressure on their defense, they forced Lawless to give up multiple possessions and rattled off two more breaks.

Although XIST tried for a third, a block by Melissa Dunn and a score by Travis Dunn stopped their short scoring run.

“It was definitely a mental game. At that point, we needed the mental toughness to hold on O and get our D back out there so we could bring the hype on D,” said Lippincott. “We needed to score whenever we got the disc on D and we just couldn’t quite put enough of those together. They just played really strong in the second half for sure.”

Unfortunately for Lawless, it was getting to be too late in the game to come back again. With more depth in their legs, XIST kept their feet on the gas and an increasingly tired Lawless were never able to tie things back up before the cap went off. Matt Lemar hit who else but Genny De Jesus for the game-winning goal to advance to the semifinal.

“I think the edge that we have here is XIST truly is special in the ways that we care about each other, in the ways that we pour hours into each other, equity, and all these things,” said De Jesus. “I think the edge we have is that we don’t care about the outcome as much as we care about the team. In every program I’ve ever been a part of, that feeling is stronger than literally any other team.”

  1. Laura Osterlund
    Laura Osterlund

    Laura picked up a disc her senior year of high school and hasn't put it down since. She played on the mixed/open team at Bethel University where she graduated with a journalism degree. Based out of the Twin Cities, MN, you can find her engaging in all levels of Ultimate: working with Minnesota Strike, playing mixed club, and grinding at local ultimate and goalty leagues. Her ultimate accomplishment - besides helping start a women's league (coming spring 2024) - is winning Z league with Big Blue.

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