Lady Flames focus on player development at ‘Winta Binta Vinta’ tournament
After having two of three scheduled tournaments in the fall semester canceled, Liberty University’s women’s ultimate team got the spring semester off to an early start by traveling to Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend to compete in the 10-team “Winta Binta Vinta” tournament hosted by the University of Virginia and featuring a handful of other college and university programs from the Virginia Conference.
“The competition was about what we would expect to see at our conference tournament,” Lady Flames Head Coach Jonathan Mast said, noting that beside the host Cavaliers, who won the tournament, teams from JMU, VCU, Virginia Tech, and William & Mary were in the field. “UVA looked strong, very systematic and well coached. We didn’t play any of the other conference teams but got to scout a few of them and develop some strategy. We have high hopes for the season, with four new recruits for the spring, and a lot of potential for us to do well.”
Considering the limited experience from the fall, the Lady Flames focused on raising their overall level play and making individual players more well-rounded in their games. While not satisfied with the team’s 2-4 record, Mast was impressed by the progress made.
“It was hard to stick to our guns, but as a coaching staff, we decided we were going to use this first tournament of the season as a developmental tournament and ignore wins and losses,” he said. “We wanted to keep the lines as open as we could, staying with that strategy to develop depth for later in the season. There are a lot of ladies on the team with a decent amount of head knowledge for the game and we are trying to give them as much playing time as possible so that by March, when the postseason rolls around, they will be ready.”
Mast said he and Assistant Coach Ashley Mast are dedicated to building complete and well-rounded players, not just role players.
“The sport requires that each player can do a little bit of everything, and I do think this is what will help us in the long run,” he said.
On Saturday, the Lady Flames lost their opening match to American University, 11-7, before falling to Ohio State, 9-2, and William & Mary, 11-4, and finishing pool play with an 11-4 win over UVA’s B team. In bracket play on Sunday, Liberty lost to Georgetown, 9-3, before edging UVA’s B team in the ninth-place final, 9-8.
“The games we won were closer than they should have been and the games we lost were by a greater margin than they should have been,” Mast said.
The loss to American was Liberty’s first in several seasons and the Lady Flames had defeated Georgetown decisively in the Fusion Tournament at the Smith River Sports Complex in Axton, Va., in September.
“A lot of things we did were self-induced, due to nerves, inexperience, and shaking off the rust,” Mast said. “Our focus in practices this year has been on our offense. But our conditioning was very good and that helped us with our defense, which boosted our confidence knowing that we can go out and get turnovers.”
The Lady Flames will travel to two extremely competitive tournaments directed by Without Limits in Axton — the Commonwealth Cup on Feb. 18-19 and the I-95 Rodeo on March 25-26 — before hosting a one-day tournament with four or five conference teams, including Richmond and Virginia Tech, on April 1 at the Liberty Mountain Intramural Complex.
This year’s Virginia Conference tournament will be played at Glover Park in Fredericksburg, Va., with the top four out of seven teams advancing to the May 6-7 Atlantic Coast Regionals at the Publix Soccer Complex in Fredericksburg.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer