Thursday, November 12, 2009

Midwest Warmup Recap

The brand new 2010 edition of Wisconsin's Bella Donna (sans freshman Al Ellis and coach, Muffin Malocek, both absent due to hallucination-inducing fevers) headed down to St. Louis, MO for Michelle Ng and Holly Greunke's Midwest Warmup. Somehow along with a constant supply of bagels, bananas, peanut butter (creamy and crunchy, thank goodness), and sports drinks, the TDs managed to hold the weather at a perfect 70 degrees with just enough wind to keep things interesting.
After a brief battle Saturday morning with directions to the wrong park (luckily only a few streets away from the real deal), Bella arrived at the fields savoring a first round bye. Lines quickly formed at the trainer, bagels, bathrooms, and most importantly, around our prodigal Texan, Frances Tsukano. After hugs and reintroductions it was time to prepare for our first game (the trainer, while fantastic, proved to be extremely careful and thorough, meaning a few of us less-intact players missed morning warm-up).
Wisconsin debuted against 25-seed Grinnell, beginning on defense with a starting line of Jenny "I learned how to ride a bike before Jon" Gaynor, Georgia "Fury calls" Bosscher, Rachael "I hate wearing clothes" Westgate, Maria "I have an eight foot wingspan" Mahowald, Rebecca "Old man face" Enders, Sandy "I actually hate everything athletic" Jorgensen, and Aimee "I have the best attitude about everything" Speaker. This dominant line earned their score from Reebs to Sandy after a D from Speaker. From there the game went by lighting fast, with Bella racking up scores with hardly a need to set up an offense. The mental focus faltered for a moment on game point when Grinnell managed to sneak in a score after a couple of Wisconsin turns, however, some smooth offense from Bitterman to Bloodford ended the game 13-1 with only ten turnovers.
The quickness of the first game allowed plenty of time to restock on bagels and sample the various flavors of Vitamin Water (acai-blueberry-pomegranate = fantastic, if complicated). Fully refueled, Bella looked to take on their second competitor of the day, Wash-U B with guest stars Holly "I go through Fly withdrawal within an hour" Greunke and Michelle "I personally know 90% of the Ultimate community" Nggwooanhuhh. Once again starting upwind on defense, Gaynor, Joja, Maria, and Reebs led the fray, this time joined by Becca "I can lobster claw catch discs at my knees" Ludford, Michelle "Please stop getting me sick, everyone" Hofeldt, and Erin "Who knew I had a boyfriend" Newman. The line battled through a turnover and ended the point with Lil' Goldenhand getting a D and throwing the score. Bella continued to rack up points, with both Maria and Bitterman each ending +6 (!) with no turns. Wash-U B was led by Kate "Deuce" Wilson, a great player who also graciously hosted all of Bella at her apartment (thank you!). Final score: 13-4.
Ohio State was up next, giving BD their first chance to start a game on offense. In continuation of tradition, Gg started with Erin "I did WHAT to Doede??" Moran, Frances "How many ways can I get injured standing still" Tsukano, Jenny "Ranch dressing" Koll, Sydney "I've played four years of varsity ultimate, what'd you do in high school?" Dobkin, Laura "Beth" Bitterman, and Emelie "I can dance lower than you can" McKain. The O line proved they had a bit of work to do by starting out with two turns, but managed to score anyway after a D from Australia and a throw from Bosscher to Frengces. The game went by quickly, ending 13-1 with a total of 10 D's and only 9 turns for Bella Donna. The defensive line stats are frightening.
Wisconsin continued to play better and better, ending the day against 12-seed Kansas. The starting D line of Fran, Bitt, Jaynor, George, Mars, Reebs, and Stallion continued the trend of turning it over on the first point of the game, but again, managed to get on the board anyway. A few points later a ferocious cup ran down a back-of-the-endzone pull, pushing Kansas into a corner. After only a few passes Rachael got a hand on a swing pass, changing the direction of the disc and giving Gwargia enough time to run it down for the Callahan. Teamwork at its best! From there the game flowed to a 13-1 finish, giving Bella a 4-0 record for their first tournament day as a team.
After an encouraging huddle, a few veterans and brave rookies played a rousing game of "MILK," (in which the participants throw a rejected disc into the ground as hard as they can and then try to catch it one handed when it pops sporadically back up), which Speaker somehow dominated at, despite kind of sucking at most other random disc games. From there the team packed up and headed back downtown in search of sustenance. A few who didn't think free Chipotle on Sunday would be enough to get them through a weekend found refuge in burritos, chips, and guac, while the more adventurous settled for Noodles&Co. At least no one can say Bella doesn't take advantage of local food options, since afterwards everyone flocked to FroYo and overloaded their cups with various combinations of fruit, cheesecake bites, and jimmies (some for the second time in the weekend).
The team settled into a mellow evening, watching Little Giants and Mulan in a quick 1-2 punch of motivational children's movies. The leadership then took off to a fantastic meeting with other captains and coaches focusing on ways to expand, support, and popularize college women's ultimate. A lot of great ideas and connections were tossed around which hopefully will lead to improvements across the board; from small to large schools, new to veteran players. It was also found out that Bella got reseeded at number 2 behind Iowa State because of a one point spread between differentials, pitting them against the winner of Ohio State and Northwestern for the morning quarters game.
Sunday morning Bella packed up, refueled briefly at Starbucks, and drove back to the fields (the completely brake-less van simply retracing the probably much longer incorrect directions, not having bothered to get new ones). After an intense warmup on a nearby football field Bella moved out to meet Northwestern coming off a prequarters win.
Bella made quick work of the first half, bringing it in at 8-0. Never complacent, they came out pumped for the second half (middle to FINISH!), with Bosscher tallying the first layout D of the weekend on an under cut. From there Northwestern started finding their game, even managing to break the Wisconsin O-line for 13-4. However, the Bella momentum had been rolling strong all weekend, and the game ended 15-5. Frances managed to score 6 goals and McPain and Bossch each had 4 assists. Mck and Jaynor tied at an impressive +5 overall.
Madison stayed on the same fields, waiting for the SLU alums to finish their game. Most of the SLU alumni were on the team last year that twice beat Bella on universe point. A very quick-moving, scrappy team, the SLU girls are athletic and make incredible catches, with Kara O'Malley leading by example and playing almost every point. The game started with Bella on D, but unfortunately the line was unable to convert and St. Louis became the first team all weekend to score before Wisconsin. Not to be outdone, Bella scored two in quick succession after Bitt fired up the team with a clutch footblock. The next point ended almost immediately as Bittewman-what's-yow-fiwst-name managed to grab a swing pass in the cup for Bella's second Callahan. However, SLU's handlers sliced through Wisconsin's next D attempt and then got a break of their own off a trap zone. Bella 3 - SLU 3. 4-3. 4-5. 6-5. 6-7. Finally, Bella took half 8-7. The game of two-point runs would have to stop for either team to emerge victorious. Hard cap went on at 9-9, meaning universe point, with Bella on defense going upwind. A strong line of Frances, Bitt, Georgia, McKain, Rachael, Maria, and Sandy took to the field to grab the ticket to finals. A D was earned, but squandered on a miscommunication. Bella then amped it up to dominating proportions, pressuring the SLU offense with the tightest man D in the Midwest, earning a throwaway near the Wisconsin endzone. A Diamond was called and executed perfectly, with Bitterman somehow juking around SLU's best defender to catch the game-winning throw from Joja. Bella had won their first universe-point game! Laura Littlebits had an absolutely dominant performance with 3 D's, 2 assists, and 4 scores without a single turnover: +9! Officially setting a new standard for every player on the field.
Fired up and excited, Bella brought it in and prepared themselves to play Iowa State, coming off their own universe point win against Wisconsin-Eau Claire (9-8). Iowa State has perennially been a Midwest dominator, in 2009 breaking through to College Nationals for the first time. Their strength runs through Jasmine "Jazz" Draper and Christine "Animal" Rosen, both dominant players who make ridiculously athletic catches and D's look easier than finding dollar beer nights in Madison. The game was pushed back 15 minutes to make up for both semis going to hardcap, giving Bella some extra time to come together and decide to dominate, everyone committing to playing their specific role so as to be 20 strong the entire game.
Bella started on D, but were unable to convert after two turnovers and Iowa State went up 0-1. Another 3 Bella turns in the next point put Woman Scorned up 0-2. Things slid even a little further downhill on the next marathon point as Bella fought upwind, but lost the point after 6 turns (not without 4 legitimate D's, however). A fired up O line then scored downwind from rookie Julie "Just took the title for most stylish on the team away from Sarah Offutt" Chen to Bitter. Iowa State answered back again after another hell point (Bella racking up 5 turns). Finally the Wisconsin ladies decided to give up on the whole "turn the disc over" strategy and amp up the D (Gaynor leading things with a handblock), scoring the next 4 in a row to bring it to 5-4.
Iowa State punched in one more to keep things close, and almost scored the next after two unfortunate turnovers by Madison. However, Lil' Bitt decided to take things into her own hands: the rest of the team worriedly watched as the disc was thrown toward an open offender in the endzone. Bitterman suddenly arrived airborne from halfway across the field to hit the disc away with a sick layout D. Not to be outdone, Jenny "Cooler" Gaynor kept things interesting by getting her own mile-high layout D, also against an open offender in the endzone. After this succession of ridiculously talented defense, the line had no choice but to score, bringing it to 6-5, BD. During that point Iowa State's Christine Rosen took an injury sub because of severe cramping, dealing Woman Scorned a large blow both to their game flow and to their confidence. Wisconsin, on the other hand, was only continuing to peak, scoring the next 5 in a row with only 1 turnover. The rest of the game seemed anticlimactic, with Iowa State scoring only 2 more times, and Madison finishing the game on a roommate connection from McPain to Urn Moran. 15-7, and Bella's first official tournament victory!
Free Chipotle rejuvenated the Wisconsin energy as the girls prepared for their 6.5 hour drive home. Final thoughts on the weekend:
  • Michelle Ng runs a pretty sick show. Loving the updates and quick delivery of information.
  • Iowa State and Eau Claire have a rivalry comparable to the Packers and Vikings. No comment on which is which, though one could equate Robyn to Favre, minus the multiple retirings and switching of sides.
  • The Bosscherbella van is officially retired after limping home and thankfully not blowing up. A toast was given in its honor. You may post condolences below.
  • Courtney Kiesow has a gorgeous voice, just don't expect to be able to hear your name called on the sideline. She's not as quiet as Holly was though, so I guess our coach selection is improving in volume.
  • Bella's rookies are terrifyingly good. Their confidence is on the up and up and they're already making plays rivaling the veterans.
  • There should be a FroYo in Madison, mostly so Shira can be blissfully and unequivocally happy more than once or twice a year.
  • And finally and most importantly: Wisconsin is officially starting a Legacy of Hurt. I would recommend getting on board, it is going to be awesome.