Monday, May 16, 2011

Smith College LunaDisc: Small School, Big Heart

As we look forward to the D-III College Championships this weekend, we take a look at Smith College LunaDisc. Smith took the second spot out of New England to qualify convincingly for the Championships. The last time they even made it as far as Regionals was 2006. So what has changed this year? And who is this team from Northampton, Massachusetts?


Current co-captain Clarissa “Liger” Lyons credits last year’s captains Kiersten Mailler and Jessie Magyar with helping to shape the identity of this year’s team. Under their leadership, the team became serious about practices and practice attendance, and set personal as well as team goals. Lyons also credits their coach, saying, “Our coach Dale (Casey Krone) has been with the team for six years, and has continued to grow and develop with the team. He has been supportive and successful in building new players through focusing on individual development early in the season. He supports us and gives us strategy, but encourages input from everyone and is always looking for feedback.

This year’s team is incredibly young, and strong leadership and coaching have helped to shape this group of talented players. There are only two seniors- co-captain Annie Baierl, a standout handler and defender, and third-year player Alexis Roehrich, who is a competitive diver in the fall and winter. Lyons is only a sophomore and her leadership and offensive skillset have helped Luna navigate its way back to the top. Another key player, junior Amber Sinicrope, has been a key addition to the team, bringing extensive experience from the highest levels of the juniors, college, and club divisions. Her skills on both sides of the disc have brought another dimension to Smith’s game. The team also boasts ten freshmen on their roster, only one of whom has had any previous ultimate experience. And if all of that isn’t impressive enough, five third-year Luna players are studying abroad this spring, so Smith will be a force to reckon with in years to come.

While watching Smith play, you will note what a close team they are. Lyons said, “In the fall we established the mullet philosophy for LunaDisc: business in the front, party in the back. We want to stay positive in all scenarios, play with focus and intensity on the field, and at the same time always know that we play this sport because it’s fun--because we love being on and off the field with this group of people. You don’t have to watch Smith play for more than a point or two to agree wholeheartedly that they live out their team philosophy to the fullest.

Luna has taken their development seriously and has worked hard on their zone defense this spring, even bringing local elite women’s team Brute Squad in to lead a clinic. They have also taken the time to develop a potent horizontal stack offense, and the work they have put into their offensive and defensive sets has paid off for them with some key wins this season. Lyons keeps a great perspective on all of it, saying, “
As a young team, we focus on taking one point at a time, no matter who we are playing. We are still learning what to expect from ourselves: from tremendous sideline support to digging deep running long points in the cup.

The leaders of this team seem to have set expectations high in the right areas. While it isn’t realistic to expect a team comprised half of first-year players to execute perfectly on offense, Smith does everything that is within their control right. They run hard on defense, they chase everything down on offense, and their sidelines are deafening. Their veteran players do an exceptional job of taking control on the field, while helping their younger teammates to succeed. The way they do this exemplifies the concept of team- every player doing what they do best to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Lyons points to High Tide in Georgia as a pivotal tournament for the team. They had a universe point loss in the A-bracket quarterfinals, their highest finish ever at the tournament, and bonded over making team dinners and group jam sessions. Paired with great chemistry on the field and a break from the cold New England weather, the team couldn’t have asked for much more. They built upon that performance at Keystone Classic a couple of weeks later, winning the first three games of pool play easily, before coming from behind to beat Towson on universe point and earning a spot in the championship bracket on Sunday. The next morning, Smith took down 2010 D-I College Championships Qualifier Middlebury in a game that showcased their heart, scrappiness, and desire to win. According to Sinicrope, that game helped the team realize that they had a serious chance at qualifying for D-III Nationals.

Luna has shown that they can play with the top teams. Lyons provided this recap of their Series experience thus far.

We had many highly competitive and well-spirited games throughout the weekend. Despite the frustrating loss against Williams in the finals (up 8-3 at half), the game was a valuable learning experience as we gained “big game” playing time. The comeback win against Wellesley in the second place game was our highlight of the weekend. We faced the situation of playing a team we had beaten the previous day after losing in an exhausting and close game in the finals. A week earlier at conferences we had lost handily to Amherst College in a duplicate scenario. After going down 12-8 we stormed back to a 16-15 universe point win. Proving that we could fight back and rebound from a tough loss was an extremely important lesson that we will take with us as we head to Buffalo for Nationals next weekend.

The team brings high hopes and full hearts to Buffalo this weekend. If you want to watch a team that reminds you of all of the reasons why you love this game, pull up a chair and camp out on their sidelines. You’ll be in for a treat.


  1. This was a great post to read. We had a great game against Smith at Keystone, and it's always great to see teams developing over time. This really undersells what Amber Sinicrope means to the team, she is surgical.

    Best of luck to Smith at DIIIs.

    Ryan Vance
    Coach, Towson

  2. Thanks Ryan. I agree with your comment about Amber... more of my thoughts here:

    Thank you for bringing your girls to my tournaments this year. Appreciate all of the support.

  3. Thanks for a great post, Michelle! I passed it on to our alums & the athletic director, etc. at the school. The creation of DivIII has really helped us...the realistic opportunity to continue advancing has been seriously motivational for us this year, and I suspect has been for many other DivIII schools as well.

    Ryan, thanks for your comments. I wish we'd been able to play out that Keystone game instead of getting capped before half. Hope we'll see you on the field again next year.

    Amber is Awesome, no doubt. She is amazing to watch on the field and she's really helped our whole team bring up the level play tremendously, it's amazing how she finds ways to help support her teammates.

    Smith College