Unlike its name suggests, the Stanford Invite was not held at Stanford University, but rather in the town of Ripon, which lies about an hour and a half east of the campus. It was initially disappointing to have to travel to what seemed like the middle of nowhere instead of two of my teammates’ and my hometown of Palo Alto, where the tournament was held in the past. As it turned out, Ripon wasn’t so bad. The population of Ripon is around 10,000, yet somehow we had an old teammate that lives there and she kindly offered up her house to the team. We quickly discovered that Ripon had other things to offer, including endless almond orchards, possibly the nicest people in the world, and, fortunately for us, a brand new soccer complex with beautiful fields. We’d been warned about rain, but the weather was gorgeous on Saturday morning and throughout the weekend. 16 teams were split up into four pools, and we were seeded third in a very strong pool. Our first game was against our pool’s top seed, Washington. First-game jitters plagued us at the start and Washington hucked it for a quick first score. We hung in for a while, but couldn’t adjust to Washington’s accomplished deep game. They were able to stretch out the field again and again, handing us a 13-8 loss. In the second game of the day, we matched up against Berkeley, the second ranked team in the pool and finalist at the Santa Barbara Invite. We started the game with intensity and built up a 5-2 lead. Joule essentially neutralized Cree Howard, preventing her from gaining excess yards on us by forcing her to cut in every time, but Berkeley had other tools at their disposal. Our spirits were high at first, but we disappointingly let our lead slide away. The score was close for most of the game, but then Berkeley went on a hot streak to finish us off with a 13-8 win. Our last game of pool play was against North Carolina–Wilmington, a team ranked fourth in our pool, but above us in the latest NUMP poll. We had watched them beat Berkeley during our bye, so we knew that a win against them would put us into a three-way tie for second in our pool, which would come down to point differentials. The top three teams would move on to the Championship bracket. Before the game, Ros gave us a pep talk about what she called “drunken hookup defense” and “relationship offense”. The idea was that on defense, you have your hands everywhere grabbing at everything and it’s exciting, but on offense, you should stay calm and keep your composure because you know you’re going to score. The talk seemed to be effective because we quickly pulled away in the beginning. However, UNC–Wilmington refused to go down without a fight, and a fight it was. Even though the game was under the watch of two observers, we experienced more vicious contact in it than they did in the whole rest of the weekend. Two key players went down with injuries after opposing players collided into them. First, Ferris hurt her ankle. Lying on the edge of the field in pain, the first words out of her mouth were, “Was it a turn?” She was out for the rest of the game, most of this time spent waiting for the trainer to arrive. Later in the game, Ziggy went down with what we would later discover was a torn ACL, ending her season. We had expected the game to be a little dirtier than the others, but you can never plan for injuries like that. Despite the losses, we held on to our lead for our first win of the tournament with a final score of 13-8. This set up a three way tie for second place in the pool and point differentials placed us in third, which was good enough to move onto a pre-quarters match up against Western Washington. Perhaps this behavior should no longer surprise me, but Ferris toughed it out and played on her hurt ankle. Western Washington perpetuated the trend we saw from the other Washington team and favored the deep game. Alyssa Weatherford was a threat to throw deep every time she had a hand on the disc and they had several fast cutters that would chase her throws down. They swiftly pulled away before we began making adjustments to our defense and we couldn’t catch up. The score was the same as every other score that day, 13-8, and we were knocked out of the Championship bracket. On Sunday morning, we set our clocks forward and our sights on a ninth place finish. It would be a great day for me that I now attribute to be the turning point in my ultimate career when I first realized I could be a valuable member of the team. We arrived to dark, foggy fields covered in a thin layer of Northern California frost. After a valley sunrise, we geared up to play Texas. They scored the first point, but then we went on a long run, pulled far ahead of them, and never let our lead slip away. Seven first-possession scores helped us decisively win the game 13-3. Our next game against North Carolina–Chapel Hill was offensively dominated. With eight first-possession scores, we didn’t spend long on defense, but when we did, it was apparent that some of us were beginning to feel the fatigue of the weekend in our legs. The composure of the older handlers played a huge roll in our eventual 13-10 victory. This win sent us to the Consolation Championship, where we would play USC for ninth place. The game began pretty even, but USC began to pull ahead with the help of a few goals pulled down by Lindsey Cross. The wind picked up to a breeze and we switched our defense to a 3-man cup, but USC continued to find ways to move the disc up the field. USC wrapped up the game with a well designed open side cut off a dead disc, beating us 13-9. We finished 10th, dissatisfied after that last loss but true to seed. I was undaunted and bought a ticket to Nationals when I got home to prove it. Like Pres Day, UCSB took down Oregon in the finals. For another recap and some stats, check out Meeko’s only blog post.
We mistakenly drove 100 miles out of our way towards San Antonio on our way to Austin for Centex, and maybe we should have just stayed there. There’s no way around it- Centex was a disaster for us. A week in Surfside for Spring Break left us with one casualty before the tournament even started and there would be many to come. Ferris had a busted-in tooth, but toughed it out and played on the Vicodin she had been prescribed by a dentist she found in Austin. We began pool play against Ottawa in a strong, gusty crosswind. The two teams traded points in the beginning of the game, and we were up 3-2 after five very long points, but it was all downhill from there. It was a game of field position, so we forced a lot of deep throws, many of which fell incomplete. However, Joule did well catching in the unpredictable wind and came down with some spectacular grabs. Our zone defense was effective at first, but Ottawa was able to break it down later on and we fell behind in the end. We lost to the eventual tournament champions 11-6, but this was the closest score they would see until the finals. Our next game was against Western Washington. After seeing them in Ripon, we knew their greatest threat was the deep game, which we anticipated would be debilitated by the strong winds. They instead worked the disc up the field with shorter throws and were able to run away with the game 15-8, a greater margin of victory than our previous game. We faced Dartmouth in our last game of pool play. The wind was calmer than the hurricane we had experienced in the morning, but was still strong enough to affect most throws. We threw our four-man cup at them and were able to severely minimize upfield throws, often causing Dartmouth to turn the disc over on a swing close to their own end zone. I started experiencing some lateral knee pain early on in the game, but kept playing because it wasn’t that bad. Unfortunately, it was more serious than I thought, and I aggravated it so much that I couldn’t move left during one point while I was playing in the cup and had to take an injury. It was a reoccurrence of ITBS that I didn’t fully recover from until a couple months after the end of the season. Bonds was huge on defense, managing to get a hand on the disc wherever she was on the field, helping us snatch our first victory of the weekend. This would also be our last victory. Long points against formidable opponents clearly were taking their toll on our bodies. In our game against Colorado for a spot in the quarterfinals, we were beginning to get low on numbers. Dada was fighting a knee injury and Ferris had been whacked in her injured tooth, so they both had to sit out. Our healthy players were fatiguing faster with so few subs and Colorado easily beat us 15-6 with their higher intensity level. Losing so severely to a regional competitor was a let-down, but the team still had the spirit to go out and celebrate Bonds’ and my 21st birthday, which was that day. Tambler bought us our first legal beer and we rocked out to a live band at the Tiniest Bar in Texas with some of my favorite people in the world. We called it an early night since we were serious about doing well in the consolation bracket, but I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday celebration given the circumstances. In terms of injuries, Sunday was even worse than Saturday. I thought I felt a little better in the morning and cleated up, but had to walk back to our sideline halfway through the warm-up lap. Sir Robin was too sick to play and Meeko was hurting everywhere on her body except possibly her left forearm. We suffered a few tough losses to Claremont, Arizona, and Michigan State, all teams seeded far below us. The 11th seeded team finished 32nd, otherwise known as dead last. Out of a roster of 20 players, nine were active by the end of the day on Sunday. It was difficult for the team to play without the talent of a few of the top players on the team, including both captains, but the situation provided a unique opportunity for other players to step into leadership roles on the field and gain valuable experience. One of the few positive thoughts we took home from Centex was that this excess game experience could be advantageous for our younger teammates to develop into big time players. In a much different bracket, UCSB found themselves once again in the finals after an amazing comeback victory over Wisconsin, but this time, Ottawa took the win and came away as Centex Champions. A lot of good stuff about other teams and a little bit about how big of a disappointment we were can be found in the Huddle feature on Centex.