By: Emilia Garcia
It was a thrilling day of ultimate in Sarasota. These women’s teams commanded attention from start to finish on the second day of championship play. The pre-quarter and quarterfinal games were everything you hoped and dreamed ultimate could be, especially as a spectator. They had a little bit of everything: excitement, drama, heartbreak and raw/unadulterated feats of athleticism.
The pre-quarterfinals brought together eight teams vying for a chance to continue on in the tournament. The wind increased significantly on day two and was a factor for many teams.
Atlanta Ozone (7) faced against Portland Schwa (15) as both teams adjusted to the wind and traded evenly before Ozone was able to take half thanks to two breaks. Ozone then broke out of half and never looked back, securing a spot in quarterfinals. They finished 15-9 in large part due to the range of their handlers, Paula Seville and Katherine Wooten, who were able to move the disc effortlessly upwind and downwind.
The next field over featured Washington, D.C. Scandal (5) and Toronto 6ixers (8). The 6ixers got an early break on Scandal before the Sandy Jorgensen show started. She flexed her size and speed to generate multiple Ds followed by several bookends goals to give Scandal the boost they needed. The 6ixers were not to be outdone and closed the gap with several breaks, which included firing three goals in a row to take the lead back from Scandal. The soft cap pushed the game to 13, but the 6ixers could not put it away. Scandal, looking considerably better and more confident than yesterday, won on double-game point 13-12.
Minnesota Pop (11) and Vancouver Traffic (6) were set to square off against one another for the first time this season. Traffic’s around break throws proved too much for Pop as they took an early lead at 5-1. Traffic continued to keep up the pace and finished the game 15-8.
Similarly, in the Nightlock (9) v. Underground (13) game, Nightlock jumped out to a 4-1 lead followed by a 4-2 run to take half. Underground could not really recover; they tried to rally late in the game but fell in the time cap. Nightlock stood the victor at 13-10.
Four teams well-rested, four teams with tired legs, tricky wind and high heat presented perfect elements for a thrilling rollercoaster ride. The quarterfinals did not disappoint, providing great entertainment this year.
San Francisco Fury (2) faced off against Traffic (6), and Fury came out with fire and intensity. Anna Nazarov and her D line stifled Traffic with unrelenting zone and tight person defense. Fury also proved that wind is not an issue for them as they threw for completions upwind and downwind. They made quick work of Traffic, taking half 8-3. Fury’s mixture of zone defenses created break opportunity after break opportunity for converted goals. Traffic could never find their groove against the zone, which led to dropped throws, overthrown discs and on-field miscommunication. They went on to only score two more points after half. Fury won handily 15-5. They looked poised for the semifinals, and they are definitely proving they are the best team on the field.
Most of the higher-seeded teams broke for leads in the beginning of their games, and Boston Brute Squad (2) was no different against Nightlock (9). The first four points of the game belonged to Brute Squad, who capitalized time and time again on unforced errors. Liên Hoffmann was tremendous as she fiercely attacked on defense, garnering six Ds. Boston also did a great job of closing out the game, winning 15-6 en route to the semifinals. They left no doubt they are looking to three-peat.
The next two games were a thrill to watch for anyone who was lucky enough to be able to see them.
Scandal (4) was looking to continue their momentum and give Denver Molly Brown (3) their first loss and edge them out of contention for the semifinals. However, Molly proved too much for Scandal early, and they found themselves down considerably. The game would have had an even more significant margin had Molly been able to punch in more of their red-zone break chances. As Molly still commanded the lead, Sandy Jorgensen went to work, putting the team on her back again to get crucial Ds and miscued, lofty 50-50 discs that allowed D.C. to cut the lead to one and finally take over 7-6. The next point proved crucial for Molly to stop Scandal’s 4-1 run, but it turned into a marathon of a point with seven turnovers. Enter Manuela Cardenas and a nasty, lightning-fast layout catch block to give the disc back to Molly and the needed morale to hold. Scandal took half, but Molly got another much-needed break in the second. On a pivotal point with the teams tied at 10s, Jesse Shofner helped run down a huck to Jorgensen in D.C.’s end zone. Shofner tracked the disc the whole way and used all of her 5’1” frame to explode tremendously for a full-extension layout D. That was what Molly needed to put Scandal away as the game was capped, 13-11.
On the other side of the complex, Seattle Riot (1) found themselves down to Ozone. They had an early advantage in the game, 3-1, but it slowly disappeared and Atlanta never let them lead again. Ozone only led by one until Sophie Darch and Katherine Wooten worked seamlessly upwind to increase the lead to two. Riot then found themselves down by three when Kelly Johnson tried to throw a high backhand on the goal line for a hold which was eaten up by Cate Woodhurst. She went on to get an assist to Emily Lloyd who made a saving layout grab for half. You could feel Riot’s uneasiness and tension as they tried to regroup and settle, but Ozone was proving superior in the wind. Paula Seville, Woodhurst and Wooten, dominated in the wind, putting big backhand and forehand hucks up with ease. Riot never got their offense flowing smoothly; they were pushed wide and smothered by zone defense and the dominating Kate Travaglini. Riot also struggled to convert on the Ds they did get. Points grew long as turnovers accumulated, and precious time was ticking away. Riot did mount a comeback in the capped game to 14, but the hard cap horn blew during the last point, and Ozone was left standing the victor. Ozone took down a 17-year legacy, as Riot had not missed the semifinals since 2001.
Fury will face Ozone, with Brute Squad taking on Molly Brown in the semifinal round. Will there be another upset? If teams played like they did today and wind becomes another factor, all bets are off.
**It is also important to note that all teams who reached the semifinals also automatically