Thursday, May 26, 2011
“The whole season rests on this: FIND YOUR SWAGGER.”
These were the prolific words of an esteemed CUT captain given to Eclipse early on in the 2010-2011 season. Our team goal of making it to DIII Nationals seemed to fit nicely within this adage and we adopted it as we embarked upon our regular season. Eclipse was going to be different this year; we were practicing harder, training for fitness, and throwing outside of practice. We focused on developing relationships within the lines and strengthening the connections between handlers and cutters. During winter term several GOP boys began coming regularly to practice, helping us workout the kinks in our offense and perfecting our defensive game. While we may not be the most experienced Frisbee team, we have speed and athleticism, assets that Eric Manley and Sam Tucker helped us capitalize on.
As we began tournament play, Leigh-Anne and I understood that we were leading a new team. We knew we had fostered a more intense environment and a greater dedication to ultimate but we had yet to test it. As it turned out every tournament proved our success and the success of Eclipse. We were undefeated against DIII teams and challenged strong DI school with our zone-defense and huge hucks. Placing 2nd at regionals, we had to reevaluate: we could do more than just attend DIII Nationals.
We arrived at Buffalo seeded first, the first National appearance in Eclipse history and the ultimate quest for swagger. In typical Eclipse fashion we started five of our six games down at least a break. Our first big test came in the semi-finals against Valparaiso’s tight zone. After trading points we began to work our way through their zone for a close-win and a bid to the finals. Williams had played well all weekend and we were excited to start the game. To our horror we went down 0-5. It was in this moment, thirty minutes into the finals game of DIII Nationals, that we found our swagger. Not a single person gave up, every Eclipser wanted that victory and we battled our way onto the board. The strength and grit shown on the field was a testament to the hard work of the regular season. Counting on the adaptability of the team, Sam Tucker explained a new “junk” defense that focused on poaching the lane and Eclipse was able to execute it within minutes of learning it to pull ahead. I have never seen, let alone been a part of, a team who played so relentlessly. The trust we have in each other was apparent. To win in such an incredible fashion defined our season. We had challenged each other to become more competitive and we had succeeded.
This year at Nationals we are hoping to broadcast the best real time updates to Ultimate fans ever. To do this, we must rely on the efforts from players and spectators at the fields. If you are at the fields and have a smart phone, you can contribute by using Leaguevine Mobile. Just open your phone's browser and go to m.leaguevine.com.
If you already have a Twitter account, Leaguevine Mobile will help you tweet scores by automatically constructing the tweet for you. You can quickly select the score and then it will create a tweet that looks like "Pittsburgh 2 - Colorado College 1" plus any comment you add as
well as a link that takes you to a page with all of the previous updates for that game. Your friends can follow along at home at http://leaguevine.com.
Please help contribute to this community by providing your own real time updates!
You guys have had to rebuild your program. Tell us a little about that process and the role you've played.
Our program has seen tremendous growth in the last two years. In 2008, we had a huge rookie class that has grown into a strong and talented core of vets. Coupled with taking on Dan Perry as a coach, the team began the building process. Dan coached Hydra for two years, and working with captains Brittany Taylor, Alex Weinberg, and Hannah Green, he set us up to do big things. In 2010, James "Shoes" Burke and David Allison took over as coaches, working with captains Shannon McVey and Devon Ericksen to continue the tremendous growth of the previous two years. This growth is due to the dedication of the captains and coaches, as well as the team's enthusiasm and hard work.
What are some of your favorite moments from the 2011 season?
Centex was a whirlwind of excitement for our team this year. It was a testament to how much we have grown not only in terms of skill, but in terms of mental strength. In our first year attending in 2010, our nerves held us back and we finished the weekend with only one win. A year later, we channeled any nerves we had left into positive energy, and that really shined through in every game, as we played competitively with some of the top teams in the country. Finishing in 12th place after coming in seeded 21st, we proved that we could compete on the national level.
How does it feel to go to Nationals for the first time since '04?
It feels like all of our hard work is finally paying off. Earning that third bid for the AC region was a tremendous feeling, and following through to make it to Nationals feels even better. Hydra had set its sights on Nationals ever since watching the UVA men's team, Night Train, compete in Columbus in 2009. Sitting on the fields in Columbus, Hydra decided to make Nationals a goal. Two years later, we've reached that goal, and couldn't be more excited.
How did Regionals go? Anything special or noteworthy?
Regionals was exciting, nerve wracking, and satisfying. We knew what was at stake, but took the weekend game by game, never mentally getting ahead of ourselves. An exciting part of the weekend was playing UNCW in the semis. Seaweed is fast and athletic, but we played with a level of heart that was not reflected in the final score. Especially exciting to watch was rookie Mary Kelly dominate in the air against some of UNCW's most talented players. Sunday's biggest challenge, however, was playing Maryland to take us to the game to go. Maryland is a talented team who tested us mentally and physically. After a rough first half of trading points, we slowed the game down in the second half and found our flow, taking the game 15-8. The game to go against NC State was fun to watch and fun to play in. Abby Clement set the tone with a layout D in the first point of the game, and our offensive flow led by Maggie John's skilled throws as a beautiful sight to see.
Any injuries sustained at Regionals? Any personnel losses or gains?
Hydra had the misfortune of losing captain Shannon McVey to a knee injury after Regionals. Shannon is a talented and versatile cutter whose presence will be sorely missed on the field.
Taking any precautions or special preparations for nationals?
We are taking extra care to get acclimated to the altitude by holding practices in Boulder on Wednesday and Thursday.
How did the team approach this season? Was this one different than in years past?
Deanna: Dedicated to conditioning (training camp, workouts outside of practice), developing new recruits/rookies, focusing on key strategies to carry the team at tournaments, learning proper throwing skills across the board, and building a "fraternity" of players. Teams in the past relied on a small-ish core of players; this year the squad goes deep.
Cassie: We definitely approached this season with a more competitive mindset than in years past. We adopted this mindset before the season even started, picking up two assistant coaches with TONS of experience, Brent Reeb and Rodger Oakes, to join our returning head coach, Deanna Ball (who also has TONS of experience). Before the season began, we had a returner-only week of conditioning and a weekend training camp to get everyone on the same page before we started to bring in new players. By the end of the week, the word “Nationals” was floating around amongst everyone on the team. It was evident that this was what we would be working toward all season. During a team meeting about halfway through the fall season, we asked everyone, “Do you really want to make it to Nationals, or do you just think it would be cool to make it to Nationals?” I’ve only been around for two years, so I can only truly speak for last year. But I think in the past, the general feeling on Fever was that it would be cool to qualify for Nationals, but we never really expected to make it. This year, we definitely had expectations. We cracked down on attendance, added another mandatory practice, and went to more competitive tournaments. After the kind of work that we put in this year, I knew that a loss at Regionals would be heartbreaking. So I’m glad we didn’t have to experience it!
How did Regionals go? Anything special or noteworthy?
- Wind was calm on Saturday but increased as the day went on.
- Playing Pitt in the first game was pivotal for Fever--it set the tone for the weekend. Getting the first up-wind score (to make it 6-4 OSU) was huge.
- Edinboro was a skilled team that seemed to never let up.
- OU was a conference opponent in Fever's pool so Fever had playing experience against them.
- Penn St losing to Case put Case in the bracket against Fever on Sunday (conference opponent again).
- Playing the 5 seed in the pool after a bye in the last round on Saturday allowed key starters to get a lot of rest.
- Swarthmore gave Fever a Sunday morning, first half battle, but once Fever broke serve (6-4 OSU) they never looked back.
- Fever was never down more than 1 the entire tournament; Fever took every half.
- Margin of victory for Fever was never less than 5 (finals 15-10; other closest was Pitt at 15-8).
- In the finals, Penn St was gased but fought throughout. Fever turned to their man defense as Penn St's throws in the non-factor wind were too good for zone defense. Fever went on a 8-2 run when the score was tied at 6's to take half and move to a 14-8 (game point) lead.
- Long throws from Lauren Doyle, Janine Walker, Cassie Swafford, and Ivana Rosenblatt gave Fever a tough-to-stop long game.
- Key receivers: Kristen Smiach, Daniela Bova, Karen Hines, and Cassie Swafford
- Zone defense (Fever) on Saturday (in the wind) was virtually unbeatable.
Deanna: We're trying to add some new things so as to not be predictable; but also focused on doing the things we do really well.
Any injuries sustained at Regionals? Any personnel losses or gains?Deanna: We've had 1 player down with a broken finger, but that came before Sectionals. Fever's conditioning seems to be paying off--the team has not sustained any injuries that have required reduced playing time.
Taking any precautions or special preparations for nationals? How are you prepping physically/mentally?
Deanna: Like it's time; I would have said "surprised," but in reflecting on Fever's season, it's beginning to make a lot of sense. :)
Do you guys see yourselves as an “underdog” going into the College Championships?
Deanna: Many players will give and go, and many players are willing to strike long. There is good chemistry with this team. Fever also has an incredible ability to step up the defense--both in zone and man. Fever has strong rookies that can help give starters needed rest.
How did Regionals go? Anything special or noteworthy?
Give it a listen here.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
|British Columbia Lady Thunderbirds, 2011 National Qualifiers|
We are attempting to get as much coverage posted as possible, but Robyn is getting focused on playing this weekend, and I have my hands full with trying to help run this event. We will still be posting stories as we receive them, but there will be significantly less commentary from us, and for that we apologize. We also have a D-I podcast coming your way and we have high hopes for getting that posted tomorrow. Thank you for understanding, and we hope you are enjoying our coverage!
Our next feature is about the Iowa State University (of Science and Technology!) Woman Scorned. This team has been a great team to watch develop over the years. Their depth is phenomenal, and the foundation for a great program has truly been laid. Getting the opportunity to play against/alongside these players over the years has been fantastic--a true reward. Grad Student handler, Lindsey Gapstur, answered some questions about the team and her experiences with Scorned. For a more detailed look at the team, PLEASE check out their awesome blog. Gapstur, is a pivotal contributor to the blog and to the Twitter role. Woman Scorned Blog
How does WS approach development of new players?
When I joined the USC Women’s Frisbee Team, the Hellions of Troy, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I joined the team in the fall of 2007 with the encouragement of a few amazing veterans who put a lot of effort into recruiting young athletes in order to really build the team. There weren’t even enough returners to field a whole line and at Regionals the previous season, the Hellions had finished out the tournament with only 6 players. Determined to make the women’s team a permanent and successful program, the captains recruited a coach, Frankie Rho, and a bevy of assistants. Together, they started from square one, training a large group of rookies and a few returners in a new system that would eventually lead to a 5th place finish at Nationals. I am proud to have captained the Hellions for 3 years and to be able to look back on those years and appreciate all of the laughs, frustrations, wins, losses, lessons, and friends that are wrapped up in the journey.
Although credit can and should be given to many people including the captains, players, alumni, donors, assistant coaches, and guest coaches, the single most important part of the Hellions’ rise was our head coach, Frankie Rho. When he came in to coach during my freshman year, he recruited a talented group of assistant coaches to focus on different aspects of the team and the game. Frankie’s ability to create a strategy that would transition with the team was a key to our success. He started with the basics, teaching fundamentals and strategies that would serve us well no matter what offense or defense we were running. He set reasonable goals and focused on personal improvement, always focusing on the process and not the results. Successes and failures were never measured in wins and losses. My sophomore year, I became a captain and became a part of determining the goals for the following years. The team’s strategy and players evolved with our highly-set sights, and we changed our focus to winning games, proving ourselves in our region, and becoming mentally tough enough to compete within the elite sector of women’s ultimate.
Playing in the Southwest Region was a huge challenge. Attending local tournaments meant meeting up with some of the best teams in the country on Saturday morning in pool play. I remember playing against UCLA as a freshman and just being blown away by the skills of players like Taz, Kix, and Gizmo (to name just a few!). We often felt like those games were more like practices in which women at the top of the college game demonstrated how the game should be played. Frankie always reminded us that we could achieve the same things that they did, and that the way to do it was by making sure we kept dump-swinging, running hard, working on our throws, staying on our toes, and other fundamentals. Looking back on those games, it was a huge encouragement to put up numerous points against those teams because it really did show us that if we were good enough to compete with National-caliber teams, we could be an elite team ourselves. Mentally, we always had a leg up because we were forced to play against the best of the best. We never thought that we didn’t deserve to be on the same field as them.
I was a captain through most of the transition from being a middle-tier team at Regionals to Regional Champions. One of the most important parts of this transition was learning from mistakes, both as a team and on a personal level. My freshman year, we were lucky enough to try new things without any repercussions. We didn’t have anything to lose so we were able to huck whenever we wanted, try new positions and strategies, and learn through failures without getting down on ourselves. As we improved, we had to reign in our decision-making and build our mental game. We all still made mistakes, but we made fewer of them and the ones we did make stung a lot more. For me, the most difficult aspect of the transition was trying to become a better player as well as a better captain. I often found myself being so worried about warm-up drills, sprints, defensive strategies, rookie throwing form, practice plans, paperwork, questions and e-mails that I forgot to step out on my hucks or work on my backhands. As a team, the hardest part was constantly accepting all of the changes that were being made. Each semester brought greater demands with more of everything: commitment, practices, sprints, responsibility, tournaments, dues, e-mails, fundraisers, workouts, plane tickets, expectations, defenses, offenses, and even coaches.
The shape of the season evolved from year to year as our expectations grew, but the general structure by my last 2 years was set. In the fall, there were two main goals: recruitment and personal growth. We ran an IM league to teach basic skills and recruit athletic freshmen. We created social events to pull girls in, show them how much fun ultimate is, and make them feel like part of the community. We did “dorm storming” to put up flyers and talk to freshmen who might be looking for a new sport to play. Each veteran was given a “buddy” to Facebook, e-mail, invite to lunch, throw with, and specifically keep up with in order to make sure that no rookie slipped between the cracks. On top of putting a special emphasis on recruitment and retaining rookies, returners were all encouraged to focus on specific skills that needed work as well as to branch out and try new things. Cutters were required to handle at practice and handlers had to run deep. Defensive players had to learn how to be chilly and work the disc on O while O-line players started running in the cup. November was tryout time and we made hard decisions regarding who would make the A team and who would be on the B team. We then set the expectations for each team, sent everyone home for break with workouts and personal things to work on, and prepared for the season. In the spring, we set goals for each tournament and set roles for each individual player. Roles were a huge part of our strategy and really helped each Hellion feel like a part of the team. Each player was 1/21 of the team and without her, the team could not succeed. There was an emphasis on mental toughness, execution, and results. By the time Conferences (or Sectionals back then!) rolled around, we knew we could no longer make any big changes to our strategy. Therefore, we focused on tweaking what we already knew and really perfecting all of the little things. We already knew everything we needed to, we just had to execute, execute, execute in order to perform well at Regionals and Nationals.
College Nationals is unlike any other experience. There are a lot of things I could say about my experiences regarding how much fun I had, the feeling of walking on to those fields, and how amazing it feels to win games at such a high level. Yet, the things that I think really get down to the nitty gritty of it are the things that I hadn’t expected. For instance, playing only 2 games a day is WAY more difficult than playing 4 in a row. Often, we’d play a game at 9:00 AM, and then another at 4:00 PM. Staying mentally prepared, fed, out of the sun, hydrated, and keeping your muscles warm is trying on both your body and your mind. Instead of always feeling rested, it was difficult to get really pumped up, and then bring it back down, eat, nap, and then get ready to get pumped up again. Secondly, the first year I played at College Nationals, we didn’t win a game. There was nothing more disappointing than finally making it to the big show and then feeling like you didn’t deserve to be there. Intellectually, we knew we did deserve it – we worked hard, we beat good teams at Regionals in order to qualify and of course, someone has to end up at the bottom of the pack. But still, it was a terrible feeling. Part of the difference between that year and the next when we finished 5th was our mental game going into the tournament. The first year, we felt like getting to Nationals was the big accomplishment. The second year, we expected to be there and our actual goal was to win games and place at the top and that made all the difference when we were facing teams that we had lost to the year before. We were mentally and emotionally prepared for the wins and losses and we didn’t let them affect all of our other games.
I could write and write about my experiences at USC for thousands of words and still never be able to communicate exactly how I feel about such an amazing 4 years. I learned a lot about the game, people, and myself through these experiences and I would never exchange them for anything. Since I cannot explain all of these experiences and lessons, I will share one of my favorite memories to give you a glimpse at why the Hellions are so amazing to me. We had a policy at USC in which if you were late to practice without informing the captains in advance with an approved excuse, the entire team would run sprints for your lateness. Many teams, I assume, have a very similar policy. It was a way to encourage accountability and make sure that teammates held each other responsible for their actions because those actions affected the entire team as well. I was always happy to see the girls heckle each other when they had to run sprints for each other because someone was too tired from staying up late at a party the night before to make it to Saturday practice on time or someone repeatedly couldn’t leave enough time to make it to practice and cleat up on time. The heckling was part of the accountability and sometimes some of the Hellions would be noticeably annoyed that they were running sprints for someone else’s mess-up. But one of my favorite days was when one of the Hellions showed up REALLY late for practice, but the reason wasn’t because she just couldn’t get her act together. The reason was something personally upsetting – I think that her long-time boyfriend had just broken up with her and everyone knew it. I have never seen a happier group of people line up on a line to do sprints. They were doing sprints to be supportive of their teammate. There was no heckling, no animosity, no blame, no disappointment. It was just team. That was one of the days I will never forget – and one of the reasons that I am proudest to say that I am a Hellion.
If I could leave college leaders with just a few pieces of advice for their own seasons, I would say just a few simple things. First, set difficult, but achievable goals and then create a strategy to reach those goals. Secondly, listen. Listen to what your players need, listen to what your coach has to say; listen to other coaches, other schools’ leaders, your club team’s captain, NBA coaches on ESPN, etc. Take in all of that information and try to use it to create a system that is unique to you and your team. Third, try to create a network or become involved in a network that already exists. The main reason why USC was able to build itself up as a program so quickly was because of all of the support that we received from coaches, other schools, articles, and the ultimate community on the West Coast and across the country. We never would have made it as far as we did without all of the people who were willing to help us, encourage us, and donate their time and money to us.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
10. She is a fellow minority.
9. She played college ultimate in California.
8. Girl can jump.
7. She has an iPhone.
6. I wrote her an email encouraging her to play Molly Brown last season and then she dominated my team in an important pool play game at Club Nationals.
5. She has been called "Screamer" instead of her actual nickname "Screech."
4. She took time out of her busy schedule to hang out with me when I visited Boulder for a job interview.
3. She helped me get my bed and desk from American Furniture Warehouse to my house in her brother's truck when I moved here.
2. She called my fall tournament "Virginal Fusion" in an email to the team. Close... but not quite right.
1. Ok, in all seriousness, she had a tremendous impact on USC's rise to the top of the college women's division. Check out the feature I will be posting shortly for more about this team!
** I may or not be posting this list in an attempt to meet stringent requirements laid out for me to earn the possibility of wearing jersey #10 (Lindsey's number) this season.
I have known Carolyn Finney since her rookie year and it has been a privilege to watch her develop into one of the best players in the college women's division. Finney is an incredible player and leader, and has led UCSB back to the top of the division yet again this season. She has played and led alongside top players such as Andrea Romano, Katie Barry, and Kaela Jorgenson, and this year, she has taken the team's destiny into her own hands. In this feature, we ask Finney some questions, and then ask her former teammate and co-captain Kaela to answer some questions as well.
First, some questions for Finney...
1. How long have you been playing ultimate?
2. Offense or defense?
D for sure! I think the focus of D on the Skirts is what has made our program successful over the past few years and the part of the game I think is most fun. Man D, zone D, junk D whatev.
3. Describe your game in 5 words.
4. Favorite memory with the Skirts
The Skirts has really consumed most of my life over the past 4.5 years there are so many great times, but I would have to say winning the Collage Championship title in 2009 with my closest friends, and having so much support from everyone in Santa Barbara and Alumni around the country was awesome.
And now some questions for Kaela...
1. What is Finney's strongest asset as a player? As a leader?
2. Describe your time with Finney on the Skirts. How has Finney changed UCSB ultimate?
3. What sets Finney apart from the other people you've played with?
4. What memory of Finney defines her in your mind?
5. Give us 3 adjectives to describe Finney.
6. Tell us one thing about Finney we likely don't know. Feel free to embarrass her. ;)
|Pav skies the pack at Regionals 2011.|
|Jackie Fane laying out for a score|
|Katelyn Cobelens gets horizontal.|
|Jenna Dahl throwing through the mark|
|FUEL: South East Regional Champs 2011.|