Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sectionals, April 19, 2008

Early morning. Reconsidering my decision to drive – way too tired. Finding myself far too warm in cold gear, jeans, thermal, and borrowed Bella jersey. The forecast all week long had been cold, wet, and miserable, and I planned to be that way for at least part of the day. I had a moment of panic thinking about the cleats I had left behind until I remembered that I wouldn’t actually be playing (they really need to extend that “eligibility” thing). The bucolic Wisconsin countryside slipped by as we made the forty-five minute drive down to Whitewater, Wisconsin for Lake Superior women’s sectionals.

We arrived before just about everybody and found field #7 on which Bella would be spending the day. Trash bags were spread across the dewy ground so everyone except McKain could cleat up without soaking their pants. Bella cars arrived in quick succession and soon the field was full of throwing pairs dressed in intimidating black shorts and jerseys. Despite Kari’s need to “stand out” in gray shorts, morning drills looked unified and smooth. As Lawrence arrived, Bella (having arrived so ridiculously early) took a break to go the bathroom, eat some fruit, and make fun of each other. The mood was relaxed and easy as the sun broke through the clouds. Team huddle, team cheer, team tunnel for the starting seven. 9:00am: Kate Arnold’s cow bell rang out. The games were about to begin.

Bella Donna vs. Lawrence

Georgia Bosscher began the game with a huge pull through the still air, sending Lawrence deep into their endzone as Bella tore down the field on fresh legs. Courtney Kiesow’s mark proved to be too much pressure, and Lawrence threw it away. Loopy backhand from Elizabeth Vu to Georgia for the score. Georgia’s next pull took off out of bounds, but she redeemed herself with a run through D on an early swing pass. Bella transitioned into offense without a pause, and Courtney found Laura Bitterman for the score. The points continued to rack up with deep, wide open cuts. At one point, Courtney chose not to huck to a wide open Frances Tsukano despite encouragement from the sideline and practiced the short game more instead. A few passes later, Jenny Koll recognized that Frances was still completely open deep and sent it high and outside for the score. In the next 3 points before half, Emily Orner came up with a sweet run-through D and Frances bailed out an errant swing pass with a huge lay out catch. At 6-0, Bella was in full control. The point to take half was textbook; the stat sheet comments concurred: “FLOW – sick. Vu to Bit to Leah.” After their seven point run, Bella huddled up just as focused and intense as they had been at the beginning of the day – determined to avoid complacency.

Coming out on O, once again Bella’s flow was unstoppable. They worked it down the length of the field to Eyleen Chou who toed the line for a would-be score; a pick called the disc back. The next throw was placed too far for the cutter, directly to the Lawrence defender. This was the first point of the game to drag, although huge unsuccessful offensive and defensive bids kept it exciting. Bitterman ended the point with a pass to Jackie Mich who played a game of flutterguts with herself before stopping rotation for the score. After that point, the women from Madison decided to finish the game as quickly as possible with sick hucks (McKain to Court & Georgia to Fran), another D from Emily Orner, and decisive flow. The last in a string of great continuation cuts, Elise Mann put the disc to Laura Bitterman who pulled it down for the 13-0 finish.

Bella ended the game with only 4 unforced turns which speaks to the hard work they’ve put in getting to know each other and their offensive patterns. Their team defense generated throw-aways in this game, but they knew they’d have to be more aggressive on under cuts if they wanted to continue getting breaks for the rest of the day.


Bella Donna vs. UW-Milwaukee


After a short break to strip off layers and eat a few more pink bagels (what flavor was that?), the team once again came together like the Planeteers – uniting their powers to save the world… or at least beat Milwaukee. Another team tunnel pumped the energy of twenty into the veins of seven, and Bella took the field. Milwaukee turn off the pull, Eyleen to Emelie McKain, score. Despite the slight cross-field breeze, it seemed this game would be just like the last – clean and efficient. That, however, proved to be NOT the case. The next point included a floaty huck-away, swirly cuts, and a sweet D by Kristen Brenner (although the conservation of greatness rule forced her to drop the next pass). In the end, dreads prevailed as Georgia popped a short backhand to an open Brenner. An equally frustrated Milwaukee came out hard on the next point. Their cutters burned the Bella defenders down the line, and they quickly worked the disc to the red zone. Fortunately for Madison, they were unable to finish. A drop-fest ensued on both teams. During the marathon point, Erin Moran made a huge bid for a poor pass but was unable to save the turnover. Finally, Carrie Eaton decided everything had gone on long enough, made a huge catch D, and threw to Elizabeth Vu for the score. The same line stayed out, and as I was marking the stat sheet apparently Milwaukee turned the disc and Vu found Courtney in the endzone. Points continued to vary in length and efficiency. Defense became increasingly intense and at times completely shut down Milwaukee’s offense. Eyleen dominated one point with strong, committed cuts and a huge huck to Bitterman who skied her defender for the score.


Halftime came and went. Madison’s defense continued to get breaks and monopolize on them. Maria Mahowald and Emily Orner got up and over their defenders to stick throws that were headed out of bounds. Kari Rongstad intimidated handlers with her active mark, forcing throw-aways and even chalking up a stall. Bella showcased their depth with scores and assists coming from almost every member of the team. Milwaukee could not recover their fire from the early points of the game, choosing instead to rely on desperation hucks. Despite a few last minute surprises (e.g. Speaker’s blade-dump) Madison closed out the game 13-0.

Bella huddled up to rehash the game and learn something from their 18 unforced errors. After renewing their resolve to value the disc and run harder, they grabbed more bagels and fruit before heading off to spend their bye watching the Hodag Alumni game. Although the game was exciting and well-fought, the most entertainment came from Emelie McKain climbing on Georgia in a ridiculous Cirque de Soleil-type event called body traversing. Drew Mahowald videotaped the feat; I’m going to work on getting it posted. I don’t care what Georgia says.

Bella Donna vs. Marquette


Back on field 7, the Madison women ran through some drills before circling up to focus on the task at hand. Gusts of wind flew intermittently across the field; the sun blazed in the sky. Bella rolled through the first point and then the second with Jenny Koll sprinting deep for a full field huck from Georgia. The third point of the game was also smooth and efficient . . . for Marquette. Flowing out of a vertical stack, they simply worked the disc down to the endzone and found open hands. Indignant, the Bella seven stayed on to redeem themselves. After quick work down the field, Sarah Offutt had her choice of three open cuts in the endzone, choosing Carrie to pull in the score. The freshmen padded their stats with Kristen assisting Erin to bring the game to 4-1. Marquette gave up on Courtney’s next big huck, leaving Jenny Gaynor to run half the field by herself for the score. Bella D continued to manufacture breaks as Bitterman used her ridiculous speed to run through a Marquette swing pass, giving Madison the opportunity for a beautiful O2 score. Poised to take half, Georgia momentarily forgot how short 95 yards is and sent the disc into a ditch behind Marquette’s endzone. The slight pause in the game seemed to put Bella back on their heels. Also, I think the disc landed in something sticky in the ditch: Marquette caught everything (Frances-esque). They continued their disc-grabbing ways all the way into the endzone. 6-2. Again, the seven who had been scored on demanded the right to salvage their reputation and sprinted back to the line. Bella eventually took half, but the easy feel of the morning was beginning to dissipate.


Out on O after the half, Courtney immediately put up a huge backhand into defense but recovered the turn with a D of her own. Old-school “Papa Ley” was called in the endzone, and McKain hit Maria just like they’d practiced back in Madison. On the next point, the sideline erupted as the disc tipped off Maria’s finger and she threw her body after it for a huge layout catch. Bella edged closer to game point, and Emelie McKain racked up Ds, adding a stall to the list. The team continued to work their textbook offense and brilliant swing movement; turns seemed to result more from hesitation than from poor decision making. With the count 11-2 and the wind picking up, Bella came down in a zone. After a few passes, Marquette succumbed to the pressure, off which Vu sent a huge inside-out flick to Georgia in the corner of the endzone. Even with their backs against the wall, Marquette continued to fight. They turned the disc early by passing into Georgia’s defense, but were given a second chance after a throw-away. This time they capitalized on Bella’s mistake, taking the disc down the length of the field for their third point of the game. A new Madison seven received the pull, punching it in quickly to finish 13-3, Madison.

Bella Donna vs. UW-Eau Claire

An Eau Claire parent videotaped the game and made some montages:



Thanks for the Wisconsin clips!



The same Eau Claire parent took almost 1,000 pictures of the game, so you can get a flip-book effect if your computer is fast enough. I'll post the most exciting ones here, but feel free to check them out.

I had hoped to finish all the sectionals write-ups before regionals, but it just didn’t happen. I had stalled a bit, hoping that Carleton would completely underestimate SOL in Decorah, giving the temporary-tattooed women the edge they needed to take the second bid to nationals. Robyn Fennig said of her team,

"That's how our season went. Being the unknown team from god knows where. ("Eau where??") I liked coming in, under the radar, being extremely underrated, and finding our way in the backdoor "one away from natties" game. I'm pretty confident that we made some of the best teams in the nation work their asses off to beat us. We don't roll over and die the way the other teams they face do. We put up a damn good fight, and keep fighting until that last hard cap horn blows and the point is done."

I didn't take as many notes this game because I was running up and down the sidelines, so the pictures and video will have to give you all the specifics.


Someone is probably going deep.

Jenny Gaynor and Frances Tsukano making Bella look good.

Elizabeth Vu with a swing to Emelie McKain - love the form

Georgia Bosscher winding up - torque!

Courtney Kiesow doing what she does - making ridiculous catches look easy.

Score! So many open options in the endzone!

Emelie McKain: Central Region Freshman of the Year (official title pending...)

The laws of physics do not apply to Georgia Bosscher.

Robyn Fennig with a huge catch D on a misplaced dump pass.

The game was exciting with points trading back and forth. In the middle of the game, Eau Claire tied it up at 5s and then went on a three point run to take half. 5-8, Eau Claire. Wisconsin was not happy. After half, Bella came out firing. With sidelines as the most dominant 8th player yet, the women in black stormed back with a huge five point run and took the lead 10-8. Eau Claire, tenacious as always, put in the next two just before the soft cap. Tied at 10s, game to 12. At this point the Eau Claire men had filled the sidelines; the air was filled with the sound of voices and tense with the sense of imminency. Although SOL is a phenomenal team, there is a reason that Bella has consistently been in the top 10 all year: they have what it takes to finish when it matters. They prepared for moments like this and at this point in the day, were barely tired. After all, they had spent countless weeknights running sprints at the shell and weekend after weekend traveling to top tier tournaments. Focus, legs & hands.... all they needed to win.

And they did it. Bitterman to Frances, then Georgia to Courtney. 12-10, Wisconsin. The best ending to a sectionals tournament that I have ever seen. Next step, Decorah...

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well you know, I do have the pictures up on facebook... of the 'cirque du soleil' act by georgia and emelie...

just a sidenote! ^_^

April 27, 2008 12:31 AM  
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