High School National Invite 2024: Day One Recap (Girls Division)

The competition, the conditions, and the camaraderie.

Newton North vs. Edina in girls division play at the 2024 High School National Invite. Photo: Matthew Brooks – UltiPhotos.com

Rockford, IL. — As day one of the 2024 High School National Invite comes to a close, it is safe to say that the Windy City lived up to its name. Teams from Washington to Massachusetts to Alabama converged in northern Illinois on a sunny but windy Friday for pool play preceding bracket play and the crowning of the champions tomorrow. All four top seeds remain undefeated at the end of the day despite upsets in the lower seeds.

Great First Impressions

South Eugene (OR), the top seed, journeyed from the Northwest to face little competition in their pool. Holding all of their opponents to four or less points, they dominated consistently throughout the day. Washburn proved to be their biggest struggle, forcing South Eugene to stop and reset themselves, but still could only score so many. Standout playmaker Lizzy Nelson demonstrated excellent field control and downfield looks, utilizing Samaya Madrone’s ability to cut to open space to work the disc down the field.

Lincoln (WA) saw a similar lack of competition as they made a case for why they are such a highly-ranked team. Oregon’s Summit put up nine points but Lincoln still came out on top. Fast and consistent disc movement and strong field awareness allowed them to easily beat both cup and person defenses. Senior Julia Hanson had multiple crucial blocks and sophomore Yuli Basinski helped end the game with a point for Lincoln by catching the disc between her knees.

It will be interesting to watch these top seeds, including Roosevelt and Nathan Hale, face tougher competition tomorrow and have to adjust to challenges rather than being in full control.

Other standout teams from pool play include no. 5 Green Canyon and no. 9 Northampton. Green Canyon’s (UT) roster was not short of players willing to bid, as their games saw layout highlights from Olivia Koch, Kylee Cox, Morgan Huband, and Carly Nash, among others. Koch and Cox as handlers were efficient with smooth throws despite the strong wind, and led their team on a strong four-point run against Northampton after being down multiple points. That run saw exciting layouts and hucks, including an endzone bid to score from Koch. Northampton’s (MA) team spirit carried them through three tight games, drawing energy from coaches wearing dinosaur costumes and an extremely active parent sideline. During their game against Edina, points took up to fifteen minutes to finish but Northampton kept their energy going to lock down on defense and close out with a score. Senior Olive Polson-Filas took to the air to keep possession alive, maintaining strong control of the field while fellow senior Tatum Hathaway dominated the cutting space.

Highlights from lower seeded teams kept the entire day interesting. Strath Haven’s (PA) Alice Rieger – just an eighth grader – started their game against Northampton with a layout and continued to impress. No. 12 Washburn (MN) saw highlights from players like freshman Kumari Okumura. Okumura had multiple points and blocks, skying older players and reading the defense incredibly well to find open space. Riley Gage was a consistent and reliable leader for Washburn throughout the day. Radnor (PA), missing two of their captains due to injuries, relied on Rona Liu-Zhong and Olivia Cohen Freue to lift the team up and keep their morale high. Both players had excellent days and deftly carried the weight that was placed on their shoulders.

Teams played with high spirit and intensity despite what the wind and weather threw at them, quite literally. The top four seeds are safe until the quarterfinals, as prequarters begin at 9:00 AM. The wind should be much less, but as Illinois weather goes, periodic rain is in the forecast.

Windy City

With average wind speeds of 20 mph and gusts up to 33 mph, teams from around the country got a firsthand experience of the Windy City, or close to it. Tents went flying, chairs toppled over, and of course, discs were sailing into fields they didn’t belong in. With really no other choice, teams found ways around the weather to reach the end zone. Whether it was through spirit, layouts, or ambitious hucks, each team had their own style of play in the wind.

Cups were common throughout the games, being a way to contain the disc and try to force higher throws. Lone Peak utilized a four player cup against Radnor, effectively cutting off yardage gain and forcing repeated tough throws that caught the wind. Similar tactics were used by South Eugene, who contained Garfield’s offense, and Strath Haven, who forced Lincoln to rethink their game plan.

As much as it is physically difficult, throwing in the wind is emotionally taxing. Some teams did a better job of keeping their spirits up than others; notably Northampton, who danced every halftime and were spurred on by their packed sideline of parents. When asked for the poll below about who was the ‘most frisbee’, Northampton players said they are “all frisbee together”, highlighting their unity and sense of family. Their spirit couldn’t be blown away by any gust of wind. Mira Schneeweis-LaRene lifted Garfield’s morale during tough games, displaying the importance of strong leadership during difficult weather and/or scoring situations.

Long-distance throws are risky in high wind, but when the opportunity arose for a downfield shot, teams were more than happy to take it. Garfield’s Nor Luloff showed off her cannon, rifling throws from the handler space to teammates downfield. Samantha Flynn Rollin threw a full field huck for a Washburn point early on in their final match against Garfield. The hucks didn’t always, or even often, work. Edina, missing star players Amelia Zdechlik and Harper McIntyre, put up a variety of hucks that either caught the wind or sailed too far. Radnor and Northampton saw some of the same issues. Even despite difficult conditions, these teams rallied to communicate and improve throughout the course of the game.

Strategically, Northampton’s handlers clustered closer together, focusing on shorter throws with mindful release points to reduce the risk of erring throws. Each team found different ways to combat the wind, proving their fortitude and determination to play to their full potential.

The Title of ‘Most Frisbee’

Along with being an inclusive, physically demanding, and exciting sport, frisbee also has become a mindset. The values that set ultimate aside from other sports have transcended the sport and now define and guide the players themselves. Players on each team1 were asked to come to a consensus about who on their team they thought embodied the sport of frisbee the most and then the elected player was asked to rank how ‘frisbee’ they think they are. This can mean many things, and it varies for many people. Being ‘the most frisbee’ does not have to mean the player is the best. While it could, it primarily highlights who emulates the spirit of frisbee and a love for the sport. Ranked from lowest to highest comparing the ‘most frisbee’ player from each team, the list is as follows:

13. Cassidy Miller, #69, Summit, 15/20

Cassidy Miller, a junior on Summit’s ultimate team, rated herself a 15/20 on the frisbee scale, claiming that she consistently spends too much money on tournament merchandise and loves to meet people on other teams; however, she feels that she does not have the frisbee aesthetic and it wouldn’t often be assumed that she plays ultimate. With all of these qualities in mind, her teammates said, “She puts her body on the line and wears her heart on her sleeve every time she sets foot on the field”.

12. Tara McBride, #49, Lone Peak, 15/20

Senior Tara McBride rated herself a 15/20 on the frisbee scale after being voted the “most frisbee” by her teammates. Her teammates selected her because they said she was one of the best players on their team and has also been playing the longest, remarking that she could play forever and never seems tired.

11. Ollie Bunson, #31, South Eugene, 16/20

Ollie Bunson, a senior on the team, gave themself a 16/20 on the frisbee scale, claiming there is “always more frisbee to be played” and more to improve on. Their teammates selected them for this reason among many others, claiming that Bunson embodies the spirit of frisbee and “goes crazy”.

10. Riley Gage, #17, Washburn, 16.5/20

Washburn sophomore Riley Gage rated herself a 16.5/20 and seemed surprised to find out her team voted her as the “most frisbee”. Her team cites her whole family playing as a reason for this. Gage is a very versatile player who reads the disc well in the wind, making her a well rounded choice.

9. Fiona Scibelli, #17, Northampton, 17/20

Senior Fiona Scibelli was chosen by her team after a lot of discussion. With considerations to many players such as Willa Polin, Clare Kurtzmann, Tatum Hathaway, and Olive Polson-Filas, the team came together to choose Scibelli. Scibelli then rated herself a 17/20 because her number is seventeen, making it a fitting choice. However, the team came together and decided that they “are all frisbee together”, exemplifying the closeness of their team and how supportive teammates can be of each other.

8. Katie Stack, no. 11, Strath Haven, 19/20

Junior Katie Stack was voted “most frisbee” on her team with the rationale that “she breathes frisbee.” Stack then accepted and agreed with this statement and gave herself a 19/20 on the scale. As a versatile player who was always there for her teammates, Stack dominated on all ends of the field and was an integral part of Strath Haven’s success.

7. Mira Schneeweis-LaRene, #19, Garfield, 19/20

Mira Schneeweis-LaRene, a Garfield junior, was voted for by her teammates because of her ability to work a frisbee down the field and also keep the spirits of her team high. While down by a substantial amount against South Eugene, she helped bring up the team’s morale and acted as a good leader for her team. Schneeweis-LaRene gave herself a 19/20 on the scale and claims that she thinks it is fitting because the earliest memory she has is being hit in the mouth by a frisbee.

6. Helen Bates, #82, Jackson Reed, 19/20

Senior Helen Bates was picked by her team with enthusiasm and, when asked why, they all said, “Just look at her.” Her teammates also claimed that Bates consistently has a disc with her and loves to watch Instagram reels about ultimate frisbee. It was also remarked by her teammates that she knows all of the rules to the game, including the irrelevant ones, which she accepted with pride before ranking herself a 19/20.

5. Chloe Hakimi, #1, Roosevelt, 19.5/20

Hakimi was the instantaneous answer from her Roosevelt teammates, who didn’t hesitate to name the junior as their choice. With a self-rating of 19.5/20, she described herself as “pretty high up there”, although she thinks there is always room for improvement. Hakimi helped lead her team to a 3-0 finish on the day, balancing spirit and skill to earn her the “most frisbee” title.

4. Harper McIntyre, #30, Edina, 20/20

Although unable to play this weekend, senior Harper McIntyre demonstrated why her teammates chose her as the “most frisbee” by being cheerful and uplifting throughout the entire game. McIntyre’s teammates elected her because they claim she has frisbee running through her veins. They also said she reads the rule book before she goes to bed every night. Agreeing with her teammates, McIntyre gave herself a 20/20 saying she “only has frisbee friends and only dates frisbee guys.”

3. Lizzie Madden, #17, Decatur, 20/20

Citing her style, hobbies, and family connections, Lizzie Madden’s team voted her to give off the frisbee aesthetic. Her mom is a coach and her sister is a manager, connecting frisbee to family. With an affinity for outdoor activities and a love for five-panel hats, Madden’s aesthetic perfectly fit her team’s idea of the stereotypical frisbee player. Madden rated herself a 20/20, but after finding out what other people had rated themselves, she wanted to change her answer to a staggering 50,000/20.

2. Sofia Dillon, #19, Radnor, 21/20

The confident rating from Radnor’s senior and captain is a result of her “disc is life” mindset. Dillon is unable to play this weekend due to injury, which she describes as all too common because she “puts her life on the line” for the sport. Her teammates seconded these descriptions, highlighting her willingness to go for any disc as well as her leadership. Dillon’s 21/20 rating shows her confidence in her frisbee self between her skills on the field and impact from the sideline.

1. Milo Brown, #16, Lincoln, 20,000/20

Milo Brown, a senior on the Lincoln team, takes the title of “the most frisbee” ultimate athlete after ranking themself a 20,000/20. With a unanimous vote for Brown from everyone on the team, many players claimed that “frisbee is their life and it’s their family”. Brown even said “I am frisbee, frisbee is me”, emphasizing how much they embody what it means to be “frisbee” and how greatly they care about and love the sport.

  1. Nathan Hale, Green Canyon, and Newton North were unable to be contacted but we are sure they have just as spirited of players! 

  1. Ariana Golemis

    Ariana began playing frisbee in 2019 for Neuqua Valley High School. She captained the NVHS team for two and a half years. She also played on the Illinois Youth Club Championship mixed team Hypnosis for two years, captaining them in her last year on the team. Ariana currently plays as a handler for the University of Minnesota women's team, Matrix. Along with playing frisbee, she enjoys sports photography and writing articles for Ultiworld.

  2. Quinn Kahle

    Quinn Kahle started her ultimate frisbee career playing on the U20 Mixed YCC team, Illinois Hypnosis in 2021, and then again in 2022 and 2023. She currently plays on the University of Florida women's team, Fuel.

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