The T-Ladies left the nest for the first time this season two weeks ago to take on the competition at Stanford Invite – a historically significant and strong tournament. The tournament started off unfortunately sombre with some terrible news – 5 players from Carleton CUT were on their way to the airport when their car skidded on ice and was hit by a semi on the highway – 2 of the young men were seriously injured and 3 of them were killed. Both Carleton CUT and Carleton Syzergy opted out of the tournament this weekend and the entire ultimate community was rattled by this tragedy. The TBirds send our deepest condolences and our hearts are with all those affected by this tragedy.
Alongside this tragic news, the birds were also rattled by flight cancellations and delays that led the majority of the team to come in quite late. But after an extremely long day for the team, finally everyone was safe and sound in Redwood City, sound asleep, dreaming of layout d’s and beautiful break throws.
Our day started bright and early with an 8am game against friendly Northwest rivals, Western Washington Chaos. Chaos took the long road to Stanford Invite, winning the Stanford Open to qualify. And they definitely proved that they deserved their spot at the tournament – a team that had developed drastically since the last time we matched up at Bellingham Invite two months ago, Chaos brought beautiful break throws and an unstoppable junk-defense that the TBirds simply could not adapt to in time. Despite our best efforts and ending the game with 2 breaks in a row, our NW rivals defeated us 10-7 – it was simply too little, too late. Callahan nominee Callie Mah is a force to be reckoned with, a veteran player that has done a phenomenal job putting the team on her back.
Our next game matched us up against a new opponent, UC Santa Barbara Burning Skirts. 2nd place finisher at President’s Day Invite and a seasoned team dotted with stellar throwers and receivers, the TBirds fought a close and hard battle. We started off strong going 2-0 at the beginning, but it was difficult to stop hucks from the likes of Callahan nominee Lisa Pitcaithley. The Skirts played some catch-up and took a few breaks in a row to take half. Despite the Birds coming out of half strong and getting a break, we traded points until the Skirts scored to make it 10-9 for them, when a miscommunication regarding hard cap occurred. The miscommunication resulted in a 10-9 universe point win for the Skirts. Though we were quite disheartened by this mishap, there were a lot of great things to take out of this game – the Birds were starting to gel and making those connections, with some clean endzone and assists from baby-birds Judith, Emma and Mira.
Next up was another Southwest contender, UCLA Bruin Lady’s Ultimate (BLU). The TBirds came out firing and started the game 2-0, but started to let the Blu’s in as the game progressed. Despite some very nice and patient flow movement, the Blu’s tied it up at 4’s. Some sweet things this game – Ca$hy with a huge bid for the score, Man-D with a nasty footblock and a beauty hammer from Mira to Gera to take half. The Blu’s only managed to score 1 after half and the Birds took their first win of the day 9-6.
Last game of the day was against the Central Florida Sirens. Once again the birds came out firing, starting the game with a 2-0 lead, and took half 7-4. The Birds were looking patient and steady in the first half of the game, but something went terribly wrong in the second half. The Birds just could not complete and let the Sirens in – they went on a 5 point run to defeat us 13-9. A disappointing end to the day.
Day 2 started bright and early once again with our last pool play game at 8am against Sonoma State D’vine. The wind was picking up and some zone D was played by both teams. The TBirds started getting the hang of this whole marking thing and were able to stop some big hucks. Finding our flow, the Birds took half 7-3, where we learned a very valuable lesson from Coach Tas.
She wrote this very important equation nice and big on her clipboard for us to see. We kept this very important lesson in mind for the rest of the game and won 13-5. Sprinting helps.
Despite winning our last pool play game, it wasn’t quite enough to get us into the championship bracket. We faced up against another friendly Northwest rival, Washington Element, in 5th place semis. A team with some incredibly strong handlers – Shira Stern, Amanda Kostic, and Lucy Williams, to name a few. Unfortunately for them, Lucy was out with an injury and Amanda was playing through a broken/dislocated(?) elbow. One of their key cutters Barbara Hoover is also away and we’ll be seeing her at Northwest Challenge Cup in two weeks; Alysia Letourneau is also a huge threat in the lanes. Shutting down Element’s dominant handlers is absolutely key to anyone that faces up against them and the TBirds always have a fun time matching up against Element! This game we were faced with lots of zone as the wind was picking up – zone O is my personal favourite and I loved receiving Mira’s flawless hammers all weekend. Some great handler movement by Jess, Devra, Juju and Ca$hy led the Birds to break Element’s zone as we took half 7-5. Some big plays out of half by Steve McCann and Leah brought the birds to victory, 10-8.
Off to fivals we go! And we faced up against familiar foe UCSB Burning Skirts. Knowing a bit more of what to expect and finally gelling after a long 6 games together, the Birds were ready to lay it all on the line for the last game of the tournament. Similarly to the last game the Birds came out firing 2-0 to start. We kept our 2 point lead and took half with a break, 7-4. However, similarly to the game against UCF Sirens, something went terribly wrong in the second half as the Skirts went on a 5 point run to finish the game 12-10. The Birds finished the weekend 6th overall, going 3-4.
A couple takeaways from this weekend:
- Despite starting many of our games 2-0, we let in teams after half and let up way too many breaks. Being a younger team, we still need to develop that mental fortitude to finish games strong and fight until the very end. We seem to lose that momentum after half.
- Stanford Invite was our first real tournament, whereas for many other teams it was their 2nd or 3rd tournament of the season. The TBirds fared quite well when put into perspective, however, this means we have a lot of extra work to put in between now and the series.
- The depth of our team and the strength of our rookies really made a huge impact. Rookie handlers Judith and Jess were dominant and initiating cutters Leah and Steve McCann made big plays in the lanes.
- Our veterans really stepped it up this weekend, considering the huge turnover from last year (World Games bronze medalist Catherine Hui, Traffic players Rena Kawabata, Carolyn Churchland, Amanda Ho, Crystal Koo and Amira Maddison). Big plays by Zephyr players Ca$hy Lee and Christine Liu, as well as our captains Gera Stancheva and Devra Waldman.
- Missing at the tournament were senior players Laurel Jay, Terynn Chan and Lisa Wong. Laurel and Terynn are key handlers on the team and we really could have used their wisdom and experience on the fields. Lisa is dominant in the lanes and on defense and is great at finding holes in the zone, which we really needed in games like the one against Chaos.
Looking forward to the Northwest Challenge Cup. Lots of work to do.
– Amy Luo