October 24, 2013 by Keith Raynor in News with 5 comments
As Scandal and Fury went through warm ups on the lined turf field, trying to build a level of comfort with the growing wind and the bright sun beaming in from the downwind endzone, someone noted Scandal struggling to complete passes. Basic throwing drills seemed to puzzle the DC throwers as tosses flipped over as they neared their intended target. Meanwhile, Fury ran through 3 on 3 and give and go drills comfortably. The contrast spoke of nerves infecting the underdog.
After a turnover heavy opening point, the Scandal offensive line was able to find pay dirt, but neither team really looked settled in. Fury’s offense took the field and, just a mere three throws later, celebrated their first goal.
It was the last time Fury looked in control of the game.
The next two points saw both defenses get the disc, only to give up the short field and the offensive hold. Then Alicia White helped make it 3-2 in Scandal’s favor with a nice grab to save a possession.
Finally, something gave. Fury captain and veteran handler Ness Fajardo sailed a short throw and offered Scandal an invitation to break just a few yards outside of the end zone. They gladly accepted. A perhaps flustered Alex Snyder, who had been battling a leg injury and seeing limited play time leading up to the final, gifted another possession to the Scandal defense, who greedily punched in another break. DC captain Opi Payne looked fired up as a Jessie O’Connor layout score gave her squad a 5-2 lead.
While Fury and Snyder responded on a beautifully set up IO flick break, it was not an effort sans more turnovers. On the game’s 9th point, Cree Howard snagged an athletic lay out, but a few moments later, a dump miscommunication led to a Snyder drop. After the Scandal offense took a timeout 10 yards outside of the Fury end zone, Kath Ratcliff wrapped a backhand around a baffled Howard to hold. Howard and Snyder, both Team USA World Games players at the top of the women’s game, were challenged with facing down early mistakes.
The rest of the half passed without another Fury score, but did include a Howard turnover, multiple Lauren Casey turnovers, and a very visible loss of focus and energy from the losing team. Opi Payne ended the half with an upline score from Alicia White, giving Scandal an 8-3 lead at the break.
The concept of a rattled Fury was a foreign one. After all, this was the same Bay Area group that had completed ultimate’s greatest comeback in the 2008 final. Staring down a five point deficit from an often streaky team who they had defeated before should have been paltry in comparison.
Scandal, however, came out of the half fired up and applied even more pressure. Following a Fury huck turnover, Payne immediately picked up and launched a deep shot to Sandy Jorgenson, with the disc tailing towards the far sideline. Through some superhuman footwork, Jorgenson managed to both catch the disc and remain in bounds. Moments later, White left her feet to go huge for a break to open the half for DC.
From that 9-3 score, the game slowed down a bit. Both teams trotted out zone looks – Scandal handled Fury’s poachy junk better than San Francisco fared against the Scandal four man cup – and Fury found ways to capitalize on some Scandal mistakes. Alex Snyder put together a strange sequence of turnovers that she got back with fantastic and intelligent dump defense. Each team turned over red zone scoring opportunities. Mercier and Ratcliff continued to play excellently while the Fury handler group struggled against Scandal’s feisty defense.
The game ended would a strange sequence that perhaps exemplified the game. With Scandal in their four man cup, Fury worked the disc horizontally to the force side. Lauren Casey swung the disc to an open Cree Howard, who turned to look upfield, only to be called for a turnover. Howard was standing quite clearly out of bounds. It wasn’t long before Sandy Jorgenson found Quinn Farenwald in the end zone for 14-7 and a Scandal win.
It wasn’t as close as 14-7 indicates. Scandal was in total control of the game. The upwind/downwind setting allowed them to use their athletes, power throwers, and impressive defense to dominate field position. The first half was littered with Fury short field turns and Scandal red zone scores. Jorgenson threatened deep all game.
“This condition was great for what Scandal did, and their players made plays,” said Fury coach Matt Tsang. Ghesquiere agreed, adding, “That’s been our game rain or shine. We really want to stretch the field with Sandy and then take advantage of the holes that come underneath it.”
“This year, we’ve been a very mentally tough team. Every time we’ve fallen, we’ve taken that as opportunity to learn from our mistakes,” said Payne of the team’s mentality, after the game.
“Scandal has been working really hard and last year was when we actually started building for this. Just really excited that this group of girls did it together,” said White.
Scandal had some great performances, but it was a team victory that sealed the deal. Contributions came from many players, but the team’s mentality and energy made them feel like a unit for the final’s duration. Fury didn’t splinter apart, but the team as a whole was unable to respond, growing tentative and seemingly unfocused.
“We knew we could do it,” added White, “We had good matchups for them and we have a good system that we built.”
Winning a championship is about all the pieces coming together at the right time. Scandal had the personnel, the strategy, the leadership, and the conditions, all at once. That gave them the opportunity to win. What allowed them to take it, however, is different.
“To knock off this team, it’s a testament to what these players put their willpower into,” said Ghesquiere, “As much as the story might be about tactics or something like that, the real story is about heart.”