D-I College Championships 2024: Stanford Stun Vermont (Women’s Semifinal Recap)

From doubled up at halftime to a universe point victory: how Stanford's zone and stars prevailed in a rainy semi over title-hopefuls Vermont

Stanford’s Macy Vollbrecht and Anika Quon celebrate at the 2024 College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

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Just in case you hadn’t had enough excitement yet this weekend, both women’s semifinals were decided on universe for the first time ever in the modern era.1 Battling fierce wind and rain, both victors climbed out of four-goal holes to claim their chance to compete for a title. The first to punch their ticket, Stanford Superfly took down title favorites Vermont Ruckus in a a once-in-a-lifetime-if-it-didn’t-happen-twice-that-afternoon comeback.

The game opened in the pouring rain and wind with Stanford on defense. In typical Stanford fashion, Superfly came out with a zone – a smart choice in these conditions. Vermont, unfazed, dinked and doinked past half field, appearing to show their regular season focus on discipline had paid off. However, the first turnover came when Lucy Toppen chucked a hammer across the field looking for rookie standout, Ella Monaghan. The point continued with teams going back and forth, totaling ten turnovers from both sides. Eventually, Harper Baer found Georgia Walker-Keleher with a decisive backhand huck to end the point and put the first point on the board, Stanford up.

It was a turnover party in the first half, but Vermont was able to put together more scores due to their athleticism downfield and defensive pressure.

Playmakers Emily Pozzy, Toppen, Caroline Stone, and Kennedy McCarthy were able to navigate through the Stanford zone using small chips and swings. Rookies Tatum Cubrilovic and Monaghan were key connectors for the offense and made plays like veteran college players.

Vermont’s defense was all over Superfly’s downfield between zone and person looks. Nadia Scoppettone and Leah Silverman both played some of the best matchup defense of the entire tournament. Superfly dug themselves an early hole with a slew of dropped discs, turfed unders, and misthrown hucks. Vermont wasn’t much better on the turnover front – the first half boasted over 40 turnovers between the two teams. But Vermont claimed an 8-4 lead at half and the game felt thoroughly out of reach for Superfly, whose offensive rhythm was shaky in the first.

Superfly came out of half time like a team rebooted and reloaded. Their offense found their rhythm. Between cutters Sage McGinley-Smith, Harper Baer, Anika Quon (back from an injury that kept her out of the entire regular season), and Amelia Hawkins, Stanford boasted their own speed and talent downfield.

“What [Coach Jenny] told us is that during her freshman year on Superfly, they had been down 12-1 in a game where they came back to win 15-12, which is insane,” said Callahan nominee and captain Macy Vollbrecht. “Basically just telling us that it was up to us, and us believing in each other, to come back from that. We were totally and completely in that game and we just needed to take control.”

The story of their comeback was the play of Vollbrecht and Baer. The handler-cutter duo was asked to play most of the points of the second half. Vollbrecht ruled the deep space and was a field general on the turn, leading the field in blocks (five) and assists (seven). Baer was the do-it-all connector for the offense, winning unders and driving the offense with her throws.

Vermont’s offense, feeling the pressure of the defense and the moment, started to falter. They threw ill-advised hucks and swings straight into the teeth of the defense. Quon and McGinley-Smith showed their experience on the big stage, both earning big blocks in Stanford’s zone defense.

When Stanford took the lead at 11-10, it was their first lead since 1-0. But that lead would be short lived as Vermont got gritty the next point for a hold and then dialed up a break off a short field turnover. Superfly put in another tough hold with turns from both sides to force double game point with them pulling downwind to Vermont.

Despite the other points having multiple turnovers from each side, universe point was uneventful in that regard, though perhaps the most impactful occurred. A simple drop on the goal line from Vermont gave Stanford a short field, and two low throws later, scooped up by Baer and Vollbrecht respectively, Superfly found the winning pass to Quon, completing, as they call it, their “revenge tour.”

For Superfly, this win earns them their first trip back to the final since their 2016 title run, where they will face three time defending champions UNC Pleiades. Coming into this game as underdogs and mounting their impressive comeback, it feels like there is nothing that this team cannot do and the Superfly team shares this mindset going into championship Monday.

“It just became really clear that we trust each other and love each other so much,” said Stanford’s Amelia Hawkins. “We have what it takes and we all believe that.”

For a team with title aspirations, the loss in the semis left the Ruckus team feeling unsatisfied.It makes the loss sting even more when you consider they are playing without one of their best offensive cutters and zone players, Sophie Acker, who missed Nationals due to a knee injury sustained at Regionals.

“As for Sophie, it was just so heartbreaking and so, so unfair,” said Caroline Stone. “We needed her for our zone O against Stanford. She is such a selfless, persistent, and talented offender.”

Nevertheless, Ruckus have a lot to be proud of this season. They made systematic changes that helped them earn wins over UBC and UNC in the regular season. “It was such a crazy mental switch for so many people on this team, because we went from utilizing three to four players on the field to utilizing all seven – how it should be,” said Stone. “Players like Isa Berman, Lucy Toppen, Nadia Scoppettone, Leah Silverman, Sophie Acker, and Sophia Nolan stepped up astronomically this season to make these systems function.” This will hardly be Ruckus’ last gasp – their talented rookie class will only continue to lift the program to new heights for the next three years.

  1. UCLA-UCSB and Stanford-British Columbia did it in 2007 

  1. Grace Conerly
    Grace Conerly

    Grace has played frisbee for 9+ years. She's won some stuff and lost some stuff at various levels. Her most notable accomplishment is winning Triangle Ultimate’s indoor recreational winter league, 2019.

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