By: Frank Nam
San Diego, Calif. (Oct. 24, 2019) – The 2019 National Championships are underway in Del Mar, Calif., where North America’s top 16 women’s teams are facing off with eyes on national titles. Competition began today with pool play at Surf Cup Sports Park.
Fury demonstrated that they are ready to take on all comers after day one in San Diego. They went 3-0 without being tested, but they did start the day slowly by allowing Ozone to get to half on serve. That brief hiccup ended as they closed the game after allowing Ozone only two more points in the second half.
When asked what changed, coach Matty Tsang talked about two things. 1) On offense, they got into a better tempo by throwing to the first look that was open instead of waiting for a harder look. 2) On defense, they worked to cause more difficult looks and created pressure. Although Ozone had to throw many throws, in the first half, they looked very comfortable. That was not the case in the second half.
Traffic looked strong coming into the final game of the round after taking care of business with Nemesis and Ozone, but Fury took half 8-3. Although Traffic scored five more points in the second half, they didn’t get a break in the entire game.
Pool A ended with Ozone and Nemesis looking to stay out of the basement. It looked good for Ozone early on as they collected two breaks to make it 4-1. However, it became a game of runs as Nemesis took two breaks only to fall behind two breaks to make it 8-5 in Ozone’s favor at halftime. But in the second half, Nemesis reeled off five breaks in a row to make it 11-8 and ended the game with three more consecutive breaks to finish out the game 15-10 for the upset.
Pool B also did not go to seed after Phoenix lost the season’s rubber match against Wildfire in the day’s second round by a score of 14-9. It is worth noting that the calm winds of round one turned into the windiest round of the day before it died down by the second half of the second round. The number of turnovers for every game in the 11:45 a.m. round looked vastly differently between the first half and the second.
Molly Brown showed off their depth throughout the day, not relying on a handful of stars. They had 14 different players throw an assist and 14 different players score a goal. They went 3-0 on day one and didn’t look rattled by any team they faced.
The hometown team, Wildfire, upset both Siege and Phoenix to finish second in their pool. Brittnee Grimshaw led the team in goals while Emma Frankel let the team in assists. Their win against Phoenix came by a large margin, but their win versus Nationals newcomers Siege was anything but.
This was the best game of the day as Wildfire tried to stave off a three-way tie in the pool. The teams traded breaks in the first half to keep the score on serve, and when Wildfire started the second half with three breaks in a row, it looked like the game was going to fall for San Diego. However, the Bostonians had something else in mind. They went on a three-break run of their own. But in the end, it was a Dena Elimelech huck to a laying-out Amanda Albi that won the game for Wildfire on a break.
Although Siege finished the day at the bottom of Pool B, their coach Rosie Año was incredibly proud of the team. Coach Año felt good about making it to Nationals, but the team’s leadership was hungry for more. More than half of this squad is new to the team, and the culture their leadership created around being limitless and relentless is paying dividends now and will certainly pay dividends in the future.
Pool C went to seed and was bereft of serious drama on day one. The closest game came in the third round when Nightlock gave Scandal a scare in a game of runs. Scandal opened up with a hold and three breaks, and then Nightlock gave them a taste of their own medicine with a hold and a five-break run of their own. While Robyn Fennig tallied two assists and a block in Scandal’s run, Nightlock had many different players throw an assist or catch a goal in theirs. In all, eight different players contributed to their break run! Although the game ended in Scandal’s favor, don’t count out Nightlock as they have finished in the top eight for many years in a row.
Riot held seed and fended off a strong start from Scandal in the last round of the day. While the D.C. squad converted four breaks in the first half, they didn’t get another one in the second. When Riot coach Andy Lovseth was asked what changed, he mentioned the wind dying down and their deep game opening up. Hannah Kreilkamp and Shira Stern (two of their fastest players) both scored twice in the second half to give Riot a comfortable 15-11 win.
Iris tried to stay competitive in their final game against Nightlock, but they were unable to notch a victory there. Look for the team from Quebec to make some noise in the consolation bracket tomorrow.
The defending runners-up in each of the last two years, Brute Squad, came into Nationals with question marks, having entered ranked the lowest they’ve been in years. For the first three rounds of play, the questions remained. They only notched one forced turn versus Pop in the first round. When the wind picked up in the second round against Schwa, there were more turns, but for both teams, as Mother Nature wreaked havoc on all teams for that first half. The questions started getting answered a bit in that second half; Schwa only scored one more point.
However, many of the questions around Brute Squad really centered on the 6ixers, the team from Toronto that took two games from Brute Squad during the season. As luck would have it, they Brute Squad got another chance to prove themselves against the 6ixers in pool play. After the teams traded holds to start, Brute Squad vanquished the questions with a huge run that put them up 9-1. They broke again to start the second half, and even though the 6ixers were able to get two breaks at the tail end of the game, the outcome was never in question.
To the 6ixers credit, they played a much cleaner second half and overcame a number of uncharacteristic drops. The Toronto squad’s offense may have faltered, but their defense looked stingy throughout the day. Watching Lauren Kimura run an offense is a treat, but watching her guard handlers is a feast in footwork, anticipation and grit. The awareness of space and angles is precision personified.
In the last game of the day, Schwa and Pop battled to stay out of the consolation bracket. Pop’s Louise Beck did all she could with a two goals, three assists and one D game, but the Minneapolis squad could not convert any breaks against the team from Portland until the tail end of their contest.
Pop will join Iris, Ozone, and Siege in the consolation bracket tomorrow, while everyone but the pool winners will face off in the pre-quarterfinals. We will look forward to seeing which teams survive in bracket play and how the finished rankings shake out!