July 28, 2015 by Tim Schoch in News, Recap with 9 comments
They took to the fields last night before a cheering crowd to match up against what may be their most challenging opponent of the tour: Seattle Riot.
And the game did not disappoint. The All Stars held off a late Riot comeback to win 15-14 on double game point.
The first point was indicative of the first half in general for these teams, and the mix of nerves and rust showed as the first pull went up. The Tour played suffocating handler defense and Riot’s deep set stack prevented them from getting much cutter movement downfield. The All Stars were able to force a few miscues, but after trading turns, Riot held to start the game.
The Tour, receiving for their first offensive point as a team, quickly showed their speed and skill with the disc, putting on an offensive clinic down the middle of the field. Finding open cutter after open cutter, the disc made its way to Jesse Shofner who found Jaclyn Verzuh for the Tour’s opening goal.
After their beautiful first point on offense, the Tour’s offense looked more like what you’d expect for a team that had only had one practice together. That said, their defensive skills were on display as they were able to lock down on Riot’s handlers throughout the game and dictate against Seattle’s cutters.
Shofner led the charge on defense with Hannah Leathers, both playing fantastic defense down the stretch. It makes sense that a team made up of elite college players would be able to play shutdown defense as they almost entirely stuck to person-to-person. Their defense may prove to be terrifying by the time they reach the East Coast if they can work in some poachy sets or develop the chemistry to effective switch-and-roll.
Riot was able to reclaim an All Star break after a miscommunication from the Tour’s cutters and some lane poaches by the Riot handler defenders. Lauren Sadler made a highlight reel layout grab after an errant pass from Rohre Titcomb and then dished for a goal and a Riot break to put them up 4-3.
Even though the first half was highlighted by some of the big names on the Tour, everyone on the all-star team showed they deserved to be there. Tied 5-5, Rebecca Brereton was able to get up and over Jillian Goodreau for the block. Brereton was dominant downfield as the All Stars moved the disc to Dori Franklin who hit her Colorado Kali teammate Megan Cousins for the goal and the Tour’s crucial go-ahead break.
On and off the field it was clear that the All Stars were enjoying every moment of the game. From rushing the field regardless of the score to casually joking on the sidelines, this team was having fun and it showed as they took an 8-7 lead into halftime.
Receiving the pull coming out of half, the Tour capitalized and extended their lead to two points as Qxhna Titcomb found herself on the receiving end of an inside break from Lisa Pitcaithley. The All Stars quickly marched the disc through the Riot defense that was showing no signs of urgency to pressure the Tour.
This lack of urgency became more apparent as the All Stars rolled out of half time going on a 4-2 run, grabbing the reigns of the game at 12-9. But Riot, who had admittedly been playing open lines more or less throughout the night, was not prepared to go down that easily.
As the game neared its final quarter, the crowd—which had been active but not very loud throughout the game—began nearly endless chants of “I believe that we will win” to inspire the same belief in their hometown players. These fans (combined with nearly a thousand people watching the live stream) were good numbers for the first game but ones that will hopefully grow as the Tour progresses.
Even with the crowd at their backs, it didn’t look promising that Riot would be able to make up the ground they needed, but Riot had a roster of nearly double the number of players as the All Stars. Those limited numbers started to wear on the Tour late in the contest.
Needing just three more points, the tired All Stars began to lose focus and make mental mistakes that turned into turnovers. Those became opportunities for a revitalized Riot squad who brought it the score to within one, 12-11. Bookends by Kelly Johnson highlighted her exceptional play on both sides of the disc down the stretch.
Led by the consistent backfield of Steph Lim, Qxhna Titcomb, and Alika Johnston, the All Stars regained their focus, cementing a 14-11 lead that looked insurmountable.
But as the cheers of “I believe that we will Riot” crescendoed, Riot held onto that same hope and fought through the stifling Tour defense to reach the end zone and punch in a game saving hold. Now needing three breaks to win, Riot turned to two of their mainstays—Johnson and Rohre Titcomb—to lead them to victory.
Johnson controlled the offense as she seamlessly transitioned from main cutter to reliable backfield presence and back while Titcomb comfortably showed why she is one of the best throwers in the game by swinging the disc past any mark.
A mix of fatigue and a lack a true chemistry made each point more and more nerve-racking for the Tour as they missed multiple opportunities to seal their first win. Miscues and the pressure defense that Riot had been lacking all game gave them opportunities to score to make it 14-12, 14-13, and then, finally, 14-14.
Pulling on double game point, Riot steamed down the field only to be met with the same beautiful offense that had started the game for the Tour. The All Stars refound their rhythm and preceded to calmly use the middle of the field as they moved closer and closer to the endzone. Lim fired a crisp flick to Jaclyn Verzuh who turned up field and saw Pitcaithley for the win. Alika Johnston threw her arms up in celebration as Pitcaithley approached the floaty pass and with one hand bobbled the disc, bobbled again, and reached out in desperation at the disc that bounced onto the turf.
Riot quickly began running their effective handler weave. They eventually found Johnson up line, but her flick huck sailed out of bounds.
Again the Tour marched the disc up the field to Qxhna Titcomb outside of the end zone. Fittingly, the mastermind of this whole tour was able to find Shofner for the goal and the win.
In a thriller, a group of college all-stars was able to knock off the defending world champions and start their journey on the best foot.
In their first game, the Tour showed just how exceptional they could be but also how much room they had to grow. Every player on the team was able to consistently get open and throw to any space on the field, but their offense still needs to get on the same page with so many new moving parts.
The Tour continues tonight. Although the game will not be livestreamed, check the All Star Ultimate Tour Youtube channel for the tape-delayed video of the game and the rest of their games in the next month. More information about the Tour can be found on its website.