I’ve been meaning to write about the all the tournaments we’ve played in this season, but since I’m so behind and it’s more fun to write about winning, I’m going to start with the Stanford Open and write about Sectionals next. The tournament began for us well before we arrived at the fields on Saturday morning because all week we had been discussing with each other and reflecting on our own about we needed to do to bounce back from Pres Day and poor play across the board. Unlike almost every tournament we ever play in, we all knew that we had a realistic shot at winning the Stanford Open if we played up to our abilities.
We aimed to leave in the late morning to avoid LA traffic, but we hit traffic when we got to San Clemente. We found out later that the freeway was closed for a couple hours because of a grenade on the side of the freeway. Once we got past the grenade traffic and stopped at Taco Bell, it was smooth sailing to Turlock. Our hotel rooms were huge and since B-Team lost so many girls in the last couple weeks leading up to the tournament, we had way too many rooms and didn’t even need all the floor space. Even some rookies got to sleep in beds. We’re spoiling them too much.
In the morning, we decided to follow a Puget Sound van to the fields instead of figuring out how to get there ourselves. It was a poor decision. We found ourselves in a five car caravan on First Rd. instead of First Ave. in the wrong city and had to make several U-turns, but we eventually made it to the fields. We laughed at how we would be playing on an open field surrounded by farms, and that was before we heard the rooster cock-a-doodle-doo-ing all day. It was supposed to rain on Saturday, but we didn’t feel a drop all day. As it turns out, a 70% chance of rain means there is a 30% chance it won’t rain. It was still pretty windy and it was hard to keep track of which direction the wind was blowing in because it constantly was inconstant. Upwind and downwind directions changed all day and the wind picked up more in the afternoon.
We played Santa Cruz first, coming out with a lot of fire. We went up 4-0 before they started scoring. We looked and felt good, but it was the same case in our first game against Davis at Pres Day that we let up in after a good start and ended up losing. Despite a lull in the end of the game, we were able to hold on to our lead and won 11-8.
Next, we played Arizona. The first few points were long and ugly, but we established a small lead over them. Their biggest threat was LP, who touched the disc a lot and had good hucks that she’d used against us in Santa Barbra. We tried to prevent this by having our farthest defender on their ho-stack poach deep, so we’d have two girls to their one whenever they took a deep shot. It was effective when they were stagnant, but they were able to complete some deep throws after they moved the disc around a little and we were disorganized. Hard cap went off when we were up 8-7, but they scored downwind and took it to universe, just as they had in Santa Barbara. On universe, we had no trouble working the disc up the open side and I believe Ashley threw Ultra the score to win the game 9-8.
After spending our bye eating circus animal crackers and applying Kung Fu Panda temporary tattoos, we warmed up again for a game against Whitman, who won DIII Nationals last year. It was an especially fun game because two of their best players went to high school with me, including one that played basketball with Bonds and me and is one of our good friends. Between the two teams, there may have been times when we had six Paly players on the field at once. The wind had picked up and we threw our zone defense of them. Joule got a couple of big hand blocks including at least one on their goal line. Again, we started with a lead and the game was never close. We won 10-7.
Our last game against Pacific Lutheran was our easiest of the day and secured the first seed coming out of our pool. We won it 11-5.
There were some close games in our pool but not a single upset. In the other pool, the first seed was Davis and they lost all four of their pool play games. A three-way tie between NC State, Sonoma State, and Claremont was settled by point differential and NC State took the top spot. The top teams from the lower pools were San Diego State, Oregon State, and Cal Poly-SLO, with San Diego State looking especially dominant.
After our game, we watched Berserk play Stanford-B and helped them out since they didn’t have any coaches with them for the weekend. Stanford-B won and coincidentally, that meant we would face them in the pre-quarters on Sunday morning.
Even though we didn’t allow Stanford-B to score until the second half, the game was just ugly. Points were way long than they needed to be because our offense was messy so we had far too many turns. Our defense was fine and we won 13-3, but it was a game that we shouldn’t have been scored on in because every one of their points came after at least two or three turnovers on our side. Like we had done when we lost to other inferior teams, we played down to their level. That game cast doubts for me about whether we’d be able to make a run for the Championship because I knew we wouldn’t have a shot if we continued to play like we did when we came out.
Fortunately, we were able to pick it up in our next game against Humboldt. We were able to establish flow and looked like a whole new team. Unlike Saturday, there was no real wind, so taking deep shots was an option we brought into play. We played hard throughout the game, promising each other that we would save our usual lull for the shower after our games, and won 12-6. After we won our quarterfinals game, we found out from the TD that none of the other three semifinalist teams wanted to go to the Invite, so our place was secure. From then on, we were just playing for free shorts and glory.
Our semifinals matchup was against Sonoma State. We’d seen them on Monday at Pres Day and beat them 13-2, but they had been playing without their dominant cutter, Maggie Ruden, who had hurt her shoulder that weekend. They proved that they were better than the team we obliterated at Pres Day. We already knew Brinn Langdale was their big handler who held their offense together, but Ruden made lots of big plays as well, including a couple of lay out D’s. It was a much tougher game than the first time we saw them and we won 13-7.
On the other side of the bracket, NC State beat Claremont. After a week of trying to fathom why NC State decided to fly across the country to play in a qualifier in Stevinson, I talked to a couple of players on the team about it. They told me that they thought the tournament was at Stanford and wanted to see some west coast teams. That answer still wasn’t good enough for me but I let it go.
Our finals game may have been the best game we’d played up to that point. It wasn’t flawless, but we played like we really wanted it. Our defense forced their best player to get frustrated and throw at least five bad hammers on a high stall count. I only remember one that was caught. Like almost every game we played that weekend, the finals game was capped. We held onto a moderate lead all game and won 12-8.