An exciting weekend in Atlanta is capped by wins from powerhouse high school programs in both boys and girls divisions.
April 19, 2016 by Eric Williams in Coverage, Recap, Sponsored with 3 comments
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Abundant cross-regional match-ups happen often at Paideia Cup, one of the aspects that gives the tournament its unique magnetism for teams to travel far and wide. Although this year’s tournament saw very few upsets, there were some tightly contested match-ups and most games provided players, fans, and family with great entertainment and memories.
As I walked across the brand new Lakepoint Complex to get food, refill my water bottle, or go to the bathroom, I always felt the need to just stop and watch. No matter which field I passed, great ultimate was taking place, no matter the seed, no matter the division.
Top Seeds Hold In Saturday Pool Play
Saturday in the girls division saw the top seeds mostly dominate. Holy Family Catholic Omega cruised through their day, giving up on nine total points through their three Pool A games.
Paideia Groove looked equally strong through the first two rounds in Pool B, before running into Neuqua Valley ENVY. With both teams sitting at 2-0 on the day, the final game of the day would decide the pool winner — and it did not disappoint, as it turned out to be the closest game of the first day in the girls division.
Groove and ENVY went back and forth, trading great defensive stops and turns. At 7 all, Neuqua had the disc right at Groove’s endzone line but were unable to convert their best break opportunity of the second half. While Kara Coffel and Molly Frank gave Neuqua multiple chances to win down the stretch, Paideia ultimately got the lone break in the second half, holding on for the 9-8 victory.
In the boys division, Pool C went mostly to seed, with Neuqua Valley’s 12-11 victory over Grady the only upset of Saturday. Amherst played solidly all day as well, going undefeated and proving their initial seed at the top of Pool D to be accurate. The rest of the pool, however, saw far more drama.
It didn’t take long for the excitement to kick in as Paideia’s opening round game against Hopkins HURT immediately tugged at the home team’s heart-strings. Gruel built a 9-6 lead, only for HURT’s defense to come alive late, breaking four points in a row. Paideia finally held, but was unable to follow it up with a break of their own and found themselves in a tough spot, down 10-11 as hard cap approached, needing to tie the game quickly on offense to earn a chance at universe point. If that wasn’t hard enough, they had to do it going upwind with 10-15 mph gusts. With a great pull and fantastic initial cover, HURT’s defense suffocated Gruel from the very first pass and snagged a Callahan score right at the hard cap horn.
This exciting play proved to be the high point of the day for Hopkins, as they were unable to keep up with either Holy Family Revolution or Amherst Regional Hurricanes and failed to win another pool play game.
Paideia, on the other hand, rebounded from the early loss with a tight 12-11 win over Revolution in the final round of Saturday, leaving teams in a three-way tie for second in the pool. With their blowout victory over Hopkins in the second round, Holy Family Catholic earned their bid into Sunday’s Championship bracket on point differential.
Omega Impressive In Sunday Display
After winning their pool handily the day before, Holy Family Catholic Omega found themselves in a rematch of last season’s Central Regional Final against Neuqua ENVY. The teams traded the first two points of the semifinal match-up, but after that it was all Omega. Really emphasizing the Family in Holy Family Catholic, the Samson twins helped Omega to a commanding 7-1 halftime lead. There are not too many physical differences between #6 Haley and #99 Maddie, except for height, and their play is similar as well. The program has many other sibling sets contributing to their success including the Friemoth sisters, Kenny sisters, and Rebecca Monnin, whose older brother Jordan plays on Revolution. Holy Family’s chemistry led to a strong 13-3 win over their regional rival and pushed them into the championship game against Paideia Groove, who had defeated east Chapel Hill 13-6 in the other girls semi.
The two talented squads tried out their almost identical zone defenses during the unpredictably windy final game, but Omega’s handlers found the holes quicker than Paideia and once they did it was off to the races. Handlers for Paideia, like Isabela Arevalo, played well against the Omega defense but once they gave up the disc, they rarely got a second chance. Holy Family consistently capitalized on the transition from defense to offense and went on a break streak to take half up 7-1 on Groove.
After getting halftime adjustments from their coach Miranda Knowles, Paideia played much better in the second half as cutters like Ollie Petersen found much more cutting space. Still, the damage was already done and home field advantage turned out not to be enough to help Paideia surge past the quick and versatile Omega team. Holy Family Catholic took the game 13-6 and the Cup, capping off another impressive undefeated weekend for the girls from Cincinnati, OH.
All was not lost for Paideia though, as Groove took home the coveted Clauson Spirit Award for the weekend, an achievement matched by their boys team as well.
No Holy Family Catholic Sweep This Weekend
Much like Amherst, Carolina Friends School had a relatively easy Saturday, but unlike the Hurricanes who had an easygoing semifinal win over Edina Green Lantern, the Quakers had to work hard to stave off a hungry Holy Family Catholic Revolution in their semi match-up.
The injured Dillon Lanier had hoped to rest his ankle until the finals, confident that his Carolina Friends teammates could advance past Revolution. Yet, Holy Family forced Lanier to strap on his cleats earlier than he wanted. Revolution broke to take half up 7-6 and looked to continue their aggressive yet strategic zone defenses against the Quakers.
Carolina Friends felt the pressure for the first time in the tournament and pushed on the gas coming out of half with two straight breaks. With both teams turning over the disc a lot and playing tons of clock-eating zone defense, the hard cap came on with the Quakers up 11-10, earning their spot in the finals.
Holy Family coach Steve Conrad stated after the semi, “I don’t mind losing the close games; (you) grow from that and losing against Paideia and Carolina Friends in close games are great reasons to play.” Revolution would go on to lose to Edina in the third place game 13-8, as Sam Hammar had an astonishing game — and weekend — for Green Lantern, flying toward the disc whenever he had the chance.
Hurricanes Hold Off Carolina Friends In Instant Classic Final
Boys finals at huge tournaments always generate a certain amount of hype, and this one lived up to it. Some Paideia spectators questioned whether it was the best finals game they have seen in the past ten years and they had every right to rate this game as an instant classic.
On one side was Carolina Friends, an up-and-coming program with a young talent pool — including two players on the US Junior National Team– that should reap benefits for seasons to come. On the other side was, Amherst Regional Hurricanes, perhaps the most prestigious high school program in the country, rebuilt in 2016 with 12 strong senior players.
The flow of the game went as expected, back and forth; when one team broke, the other got it right back. The special sequence of points lasted throughout the game. Down 12-11 with their backs to the wall, Carolina Friends scrounged up a break to take back the momentum and the game culminated, deservedly, in universe point. With Amherst receiving on a second straight O point with a chance to win, the disc fluttered its way down the field; Amherst’s strong, purposeful cuts to space were met by hard man defense from the Quakers. Amherst worked the disc up the field but CFS stood firm at the endzone, forcing a high-stall bail out throw into the goal. The throw flew past two Canes receivers and appeared to be traveling in slow motion toward the turf as Canes senior Oliver Fray and his defender Liam Searles-Bohs came flying forward from the back of the endzone. Both laid out, but it was Fray who came up with the disc and the victory. The classy junior Bohs immediately got up and gave Fray a hand slap and a “great catch.”
According to third-year Amherst head coach Joe Costello, no matter how the game went he knew the team would not be phased. “We have been working on just focusing on what we can control and what we do,” he said, in reference to how the Hurricanes responded when Carolina Friends started surging back. Costello also stated, “this was the most hard fought game we’ve played this season and I am glad in the face of all that adversity we were still able to play our game.”
With the 13-12 finals victory, they became the fourth Amherst Regional Hurricanes team to take the Paideia Cup home to the northeast.
Full game coverage of the boys final below, courtesy of Dillon Lanier.