D-I College Championships 2024: Day Three Centering Pass (Women’s Div.)

After three rounds of drama-filled bracket play, only Stanford can deny a UNC four-peat

Vermont’s Emily Pozzy throws past Mika Kurahashi’s mark at the 2024 College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

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Welcome to Centering Pass, Ultiworld’s articles covering tournament news and event stories you need to know.

VERONA, WI – Following a frenetic day of action across the field complex, it will be Stanford Superfly facing off against three-time defending champs UNC Pleiades for the national title after both storied programs came back from four-goal deficits to win 14-13 on universe point. For much of the second halves of both semifinals, it seemed as if the final would instead be contested between Vermont Ruckus and Colorado Quandary, but in the end Pleiades and Superfly could not be denied.

Stubborn Stanford, Unbowed UNC

In the early going, nothing was going right for Stanford. In wet and windy conditions, Superfly gave up a series of break chances to Ruckus that the New England champions were more than happy to take advantage of. It didn’t take long before Vermont established a 6-2 first half lead, one they maintained to the tune of 8-4 at the halftime break.

After getting a chance to reset, though, the vaunted Stanford defense kicked it up a notch and pulled themselves back into the game with three straight goals to start the second half. Macy Vollbrecht was outstanding as she led Superfly with seven assists and five blocks, while Anika Quon continued her impressive return from injury with a 3G/2A/3D statline. Ruckus were able to reclaim a lead late in large part due to the efforts of Kennedy McCarthy (2G/4A/4D) and Isabel Berman (2G/1D), but it was Vollbrecht who had the last word with the game’s final two assists as Stanford advanced to the program’s record-extending fourteenth final.

Although UNC did have to make their aforementioned comeback from four goals down, unlike Stanford they held the advantage at the break against Colorado, up 8-7. Tenuous lead though it was, Pleiades were still in position to build from there en route to a fourth-straight final appearance. However, much in the manner that Stanford had done just 30 minutes prior, Colorado came out the much better team in the second half, and in short order went on a 6-1 run to take a commanding 13-9 lead.

Faye Burdick served as Quandary’s primary finisher against Pleiades as she tallied a quintet of goals along with a pair of assists and blocks, while Clil Phillips and Stacy Gaskill provided the defensive stopping power that fueled Colorado’s second half surge. Being the defending champions they are, though, UNC weren’t going to go quietly into that good night. After two meat-grinder marathon points punctuated by a soaring Theresa Yu layout catch, it was effectively all UNC down the stretch. They added three more goals to end it, with Dawn Culton finishing Colorado off in style with arguably the play of the season to secure the final goal and keep Pleiades’ title defense hopes alive.

Full recaps for both semifinals are forthcoming, and subscribers can watch both semifinals in our video library.

Carleton Comes Close, Tufts Toppled Late

Following their pool-topping performances in Pool D, you’d be remiss not to think that UNC, with their title-winning pedigree, wouldn’t continue to cruise into semis as they’ve done the past three seasons. And yet, Pleiades’ universe point win over Colorado in semis was their second game of the day to come down to that final decisive point. Led by the indomitable Tori Gray (2G/3A/3D) and the pinpoint throws of Mia Beeman-Weber (4A), Carleton Syzygy pushed UNC to the brink only to fall short on universe, 11-10. Theresa Yu (5A) and Sarah Combs (6G) were Pleiades’ standouts as they nursed a narrow second-half lead down to the wire.

UNC’s semifinal opponents Colorado were also in danger of dropping their own quarterfinal as Tufts Ewo held a late 13-12 lead before giving up a final 3-0 run, letting Quandary escape 15-13 winners. After knocking off the top seeded UBC Thunderbirds in pool play, Ewo were determined to make the most of their opportunity and raced out to a 3-0 lead before Quandary could catch their breath. Emily Kemp added to her tournament-leading goals tally with a quartet of scores against Quandary, and Lia Schwartz showed off her throwing prowess with a half-dozen assists to power the Tufts offense. Even with those stellar performances from some of their star players, Ewo faded down the stretch and Faye Burdick’s near perfect game (2G/5A/2D/1T) helped ensure Colorado would make it to a third-straight late-bracket showdown against UNC.

In the other two quarterfinal matchups, Vermont and Stanford both controlled their destinies from the start against UBC and Oregon Fugue, respectively. Ruckus jumped all over the Thunderbirds early as they took a 5-1 lead and never looked back, while Superfly opened with an only slightly more modest 4-1 advantage. Whether due to injuries to key players (UBC) or relative inexperience (Oregon), neither underdog team could make the comeback surge necessary to overcome their early deficits.

Recaps of the quarterfinal games are published in the Ultiworld liveblog.

Chalk Wins Out In Prequarters

As the heading says, the day’s opening round only offered chalky results as every higher-seeded team won and in largely dominant fashion. Oregon stomped UC San Diego 15-3, Colorado rolled over UPenn 15-5, and UBC beat UC Santa Barbara 11-9 as they led wire-to-wire. The only real upset alert during the round was in Carleton’s game against Michigan as Flywheel held a 7-5 lead in the latter stages of the game, only for Syzygy to rip off five straight goals as the favorites went on to win 11-8.

Recaps of the prequarterfinal games are published in the Ultiworld liveblog.

  1. Jenna Weiner
    Jenna Weiner

    Jenna Weiner is a Senior Staff Writer, a co-host of Ultiworld's Double Overtime podcast, and considers herself a purveyor of all levels of ultimate. She's played mostly on the west coast but you're likely to find her at the nearest ultimate game available.

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