2023 National Championships: shame. Survive to Advance to National Final (Mixed Semifinal Recap)

shame. advance to the final with a second straight universe point win

Fort Collins shame.’s Rory Veldman throws a low backhand past Seattle BFG’s outstretched Kaitlynne Roling in semifinals at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Rodney Chen – 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.

Weathering a late comeback, Fort Collins shame. outlasted Seattle BFG 15-14 in an incredibly spirited game. Both teams brought loads of positive energy from their sidelines and the fans who made the early trip to Canyon Crest Academy to support their teams.

BFG are no stranger to the stadium environment. They made the final at the other two TCT events this season, choosing to challenge themselves with tough matchups and living up to the challenge. “This year, we chose tournaments to win,” BFG captain Kaitlynne Roling said. “We chose the toughest tournaments no matter how far we had to travel, no matter how expensive. It’s making those decisions before the season as a team. We asked the team, ‘this will be more expensive, and this will push us and make us better.’ And almost unanimously, our team said ‘we’re doing it; we’re gonna go do the hard thing.’ Because we enjoy the pressure. We want the pressure. And that’s what’s gotten us here.”

Of course, shame. have been in this situation too, but before this season projected a less serious attitude. They publicly joked about their lack of a true offensive system, notoriously didn’t set goals for themselves, and occasionally drank White Claw on the sideline. This year, shame. played like they cared. By the time this game reached halftime and XIST had lost in the other semifinal, shame. were the only undefeated team left in the mixed division at Nationals and looked like the most complete team in the division.

Aside from the very first point (a BFG break), the first half was a clinic by shame.’s D-line offense. BFG kept giving them the disc and shame. simply wouldn’t give it back. Spencer Tibbs, Marilyn Reich, Nick Snuszka, and Jacob Juszak moved the disc in the reset space with tempo until a window opened up for a deep look. Aubree Dietrich and Snuszka owned the skies on fast break hucks, and BFG had little fight on the defensive end after their turnovers. BFG threw into poaches, dropped open passes, tossed throws too high in the wind.

Meanwhile, shame. looked like a well-oiled system team. “On the O-line, anyone can kind of play any role. So I think we like to trust that if they push us out, someone’s gonna get it, someone’s gonna step up,” shame.’s Matty Russell said after the game. “That’s what I like about shame., we’re not blindly trusting one person.” On the strength of their stellar team effort, shame. took half 8-3.

Across the sideline, the BFG huddle was focused at halftime. BFG proved already this season they’re capable of important comebacks; most recently, in the Pro Champs semifinal, they overcame a late three goal deficit to win. They’d need to do even more to advance to their third TCT final of the season.

“Our word today was take, and in the first half we were a little passive,” Roling said. “Take is a very action oriented word. And what we told the team was that if we want to take, we have to actually do it, we have to take with our legs, take with our brains and take with our voices. Because it wasn’t going to come easy. The first half, we thought it would come easy. And out of half, we just knew that we had to be proactive, we had to be actionable. And we had to actually do it.”

Initially, Owen Westbrook rather than anyone on BFG stole the show in the second half. As BFG put out their zone, the shame. offense was forced to work the disc patiently. Westbrook’s wide release points helped to find the open parts of the field and his hammers churned up yards over the top when the BFG cup collapsed closer to the thrower. He had one no-look hammer assist that had the sideline in jaw-dropping wonder. shame. rode their momentum to a 13-8 lead.

“We knew they’re gonna play some zone defense,” Russell said. “I think we knew what we wanted to do, create pressure and come out hard from the get go.” shame. moved quickly against the zone look but was patient, never taking a shot that wasn’t a viable option.

shame. were well on their way to a resounding victory when Westbrook dropped a pass. One mistake wasn’t a big deal, but the break BFG scored with their short field opportunity gave them new life. Including a stall nine bail out huck Sarah Pesch managed to catch for a shame. score, BFG would score the next six of the next seven points to tie the game at 14.

The first break gave BFG a renewed sense of energy, bringing their defensive intensity to a level that was missing in the first half. shame. had trouble even getting off their reset looks; their trouble around the disc was punctuated by a flying Tommy Lin layout callahan that brought the score within two. One Jennifer Ricaurte bookends later, and shame.’s offense officially looked rattled.

“We joke a lot like when you play teams this good the wheels are gonna fall off at some point,” shame.’s Rory Veldman said after the game. “There’s never a way to play a whole game the way we did the first half. At some point, the other team is gonna step up and make us do things we don’t want to do. They’re gonna take away those unders. I mean, they were laying out for everything. Their defense was incredible in the second half. And so really, it’s just recognizing that we’ve been here. We’ve been in close games. And we have to trust each other to get across the finish line.”

Clinging to a one point lead, and needing just one goal to clinch the victory, Fort Collins put their D-line out on offense, knowing their O-line could save the day should they need. Indeed, that need would be met as Joe Anderson dropped the centering pass and BFG tied the game when Alissa Soo’s breakside pass found Reid Koss.

Rather than hang their heads or sulk, the shame. sideline got louder. Anderson and Dani Tran led the effort, encouraging their team to continue to win matchups with their legs and sharing a collective sense of belief the team would pull through.

There was a bit of drama on double game point when Roling went horizontal in an effort to block a midfield pass to Veldman. The disc hit the turf, but Veldman was sure she made the catch and called a strip. The observing crew upheld the call, negating the would-be block. The second half of the possession was not as anxiety-producing for shame. – Matty Russell found himself with loads of space to collect a swing pass, and he smoothly released a backhand to Sam Goldstein into the end zone for the game winning score.

Though BFG fell short in the game, they can take pride in the fact they never quit. On the biggest stage they’ve played upon this season, they displayed trust in each other and love for their team. “We are a team that really takes pride in welcoming as many identities as possible,” Roling said. “This team was founded by mostly Asian Americans. To this day we continue to have majority, or if not a lot of, BIPOC people on our team. We have trans players. We have queer players, we have gender queer players. We have immigrants. This is really a team that wants people to know that you belong in the mixed division.” And today, win or lose, they belonged on the biggest television sports network in history.

With the win, shame. continue their run as the most complete team in the tournament. They will face Ann Arbor Hybrid in Sunday’s final in the biggest game in program history. After surviving a the gauntlet that was the top half of the bracket (featuring five of the top six teams) to make the final, shame. will put their undefeated tournament record on the line with the hope of chasing glory.

For many of their players, actually making the final after years of heartbreaking disappointment left the sideline in a giddy disbelief. “It’s surreal,” Veldman said. “I knew at US Open we were one game away from semis, and lost. And I kind of had the realization that…ESPN. Wow. That’s insane. It means a lot. It’s like, it’s a childhood dream.” shame. will continue their dream season on ESPN+ at 10am PT.

  1. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Philadelphia to experience real seasons and eat soft pretzels. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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