Shorthanded women’s ultimate squad goes 4-0 in pool play, places eighth at 16-team I-95 Rodeo
After winning all four of its games in Saturday’s pool play, Liberty University’s women’s ultimate team still broke its No. 9 seed but settled for eighth place out of 16 teams after losing all three of its playoff matches, Sunday at the I-85 Rodeo Roundup at the Smith River Sports Complex in Axton, Va.
“We were shorthanded and had a scattering of injuries, including to two of our starters who didn’t even come to the tournament,” Lady Flames Head Coach Jonathan Mast said, noting that he started with 11 players and ended up with 10 after one became dehydrated and suffered from heat exhaustion. “Most teams had 20 players or more, so all things considered, we did pretty well. We persevered.”
The Lady Flames opened pool play with an 8-7 win over UNC Chapel Hill’s B team before beating Georgetown’s B team, 8-3, Wake Forest, 10-1, and concluded the day with an 8-6 win over Massachusetts.
In Sunday’s playoffs, Liberty lost to top-seeded Georgia, 12-0, in the quarterfinals and No. 4-seeded North Carolina State, 12-3, in the fifth-place game before falling to No. 10-seeded Duke, 5-4, in the seventh-place game.
“To be honest, we thought we should have done a lot better,” Mast said. “I have fairly high standards when I know how much potential we have. Shorthandedness played a role and we struggled to find any rhythm this weekend. Georgia beat us pretty good. We played well, ironically, but could not punch it in in the end zone. By the end of the NC State game, we were just exhausted, and our fundamentals started to go.”
The Lady Flames used the USA Ultimate tournament to prepare for of next Saturday’s and Sunday’s Virginia Conference Championships, which Liberty will host for the first time at the Liberty Mountain Intramural Complex.
“We are focusing on growth and improving our overall team strength, not on winning every game, and our strategy was to use it to build toward the conference tournament,” Mast said. “If nothing else, we took away a lot of growth for players who don’t normally see a much playing time, and we developed our mental toughness,” a theme for this year’s team, embraced by the captains who have instilled it in their teammates.
Senior Anna Vermilion stepped up her game and made a number of highlight-reel catches downfield.
“She had a pretty good tournament overall,” Mast said. “It was very windy both days, and she had solid hands all weekend. In jump balls between three or four people, she was constantly coming down with the disc in her hands.”
Graduate captain Mikayla DiSarle, one of the Lady Flames’ top handlers, did an excellent job despite the conditions.
“She is so reliable, such a good handler, she’s really the anchor of the offense as a communicator and distributor,” Mast said. “Defensively (senior) Maddie McCoy, who is always covering the other team’s best player, had a stellar weekend, constantly getting blocks.”
After narrowly missing a regional berth at the fall Virginia Conference Championships, Mast is confident the Lady Flames will secure one of the four autobids out of seven teams in the field next weekend. He expects to have five of the six injured players back in action, including graduate captains Victoria Dissmore and sophomores Vanessa Vallette, Lizzy Edwards, and Ashlee Keller.
Virginia, Virginia Tech, and JMU will be three of the favorites with Liberty likely seeded above George Mason, VCU, and William & Mary.
“The most dominant team is UVA,” Mast said. “We haven’t beaten them in our program history. Honestly, I think we have the tools to do that this year. It is just a matter of how we perform.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer