Keystone Classic Recap

Last week marked the end of the college regular season and despite a snow storm hitting Pennsylvania just days before the tournament, Keystone Classic happened as planned with 40 teams descending upon Manheim, PA for a weekend of competitive games and developmental opportunities.  Penn State Isis captain and Keystone Classic tournament director Carly Maconaghy said, “Keystone Classic is very important to Isis because it has enabled our team to start running bigger and more important tournaments for our area.  Over the years it has been very costly to travel to big tournaments but I think that we have finally been successful in bringing good teams to us.  Keystone Classic has also enabled myself and Isis to give back to the Ultimate Community.”

The lack of competitive college women’s tournaments in the Northeast was certainly a major motivating factor for Maconaghy and co-captain Katie Erikson to make Keystone Classic happen.  Isis was fortunate to receive support from the other teams in their region, including Ohio State who made the drive to Manheim, as well as other top teams in the Northeast such as Tufts, Cornell, and Ottawa.  Tufts captain Laura Glassman expressed her feelings about the tournament saying, “I can’t stress enough the significance of having a successful, competitive tournament in the Northeast. Usually we have to travel to Georgia to find a tournament that doesn’t get canceled due to weather before the college series begin.  Playing tournaments in our local area also means seeing the same teams over and over again. A large tournament like Keystone attracts very good teams, many of which we haven’t played before. The experience we gain by playing these teams is important to our training and to helping us improve beyond the limits of our conference and region. Our team learned a lot at Keystone and we saw many of our players really step up their game in the face of injuries experienced by some of our key players. Keystone was worth the drive, and we’re grateful for the regular season competition the tournament provided.”

The college portion of the tournament, split into Divisions I and II, also afforded regionally competitive teams the opportunity to compete.  American captain Shino Yoshen summed up her team’s experience saying, “Witnessing nationals level Ultimate at Keystone Classic allowed [an on-the-cusp team like] the AU Dirty Ladies to see the real potential for women’s ultimate and motivated us to play that much harder. The range of skill levels at Keystone made us feel like we are a part of something great – a community of learning, sharing, dedication and excitement for the game that is so important to so many of us – Ultimate. We need more tournaments like Keystone that bring teams of all levels together, and provide skills clinics that encourage the exchange of experience while making players enthusiastic to work towards a higher level of play.”  Leaders like Yoshen have been key to the success of developing Without Limits tournaments like Women’s College Easterns and Keystone Classic this spring.

Games were pushed back on Saturday in order to give the fields some extra time to dry, and Oakland Technical High School was treated to a team clinic in the parking lot led by Brute Squad captain Dory Ziperstein.  One of the unique elements of Keystone Classic was that it created opportunities for interaction between players of a wide range of age and skill levels.  Each high school team was paired up with a “sister” college team.  The college teams were encouraged to find ways to support their high school counterparts, and many did so by offering sideline support, making gift bags, and bringing jerseys and discs to give away.  The goal of the program was to give these high school players’ female role models, foster positive relationships in the women’s ultimate community, and encourage college teams to give back.  Columbia High School boys’ coach Anthony Nunez was in attendance to support the CHS girls’ team and said, “Keystone Classic was a great tournament for the youth girls’ teams.  They were able to play competitive games, watch great college teams, and learn from experienced players who really cared about improving the girls overall game.  As a youth coach of 11 years there are very few moments greater than seeing the CHS team smiling from ear to ear as they are being cheered on by their sister school Ottawa.”  One of the most rewarding experiences of the entire spring season for me was leading a team clinic for Sparkle Motion on Sunday.  The future of the college division, and women’s ultimate, is bright with talented players like these waiting in the wings.

After the delayed start on Saturday, things got interesting immediately with host team Penn State kicking off their tremendous weekend with a universe point upset of Tufts in Round 1.  Captains Maconaghy and Erickson played well, with Nichole Smith controlling the tempo behind the disc, supported by fantastic cutting from Michelle Kondracki and Yolanda Scarpati.  Isis demonstrated that they could both work the disc down the field as well as be opportunistic with their deep looks to fast, athletic cutters.  Tufts battled hard, but was noticeably hampered by a less than 100% Claudia Tajima, who was nursing a sprained throwing hand.  Penn State would go on to win another universe point game against new regional rival Ohio State in Round 2, then capped the day off with a 9-5 win over Maryland to take Pool A.

Pool B saw Ottawa cruise to three easy wins.  Ottawa was much closer to full strength this weekend with stars Anne Mercier and Kathryn Pohran present for the entire weekend.  Mercier, Pohran, and Sonia Komenda led the Gee-Gees to an outstanding showing at Keystone, making them the team to beat in the Metro East going into the Series.  Their closest game was a 9-7 win over regional rival Cornell, who beat Pittsburgh en route to finishing second in the pool.  Pool C saw a three-way tie between Middlebury, Pennsylvania, and Northeastern, with Venus bringing a smaller squad to the tournament, and both Middlebury and Northeastern still making adjustments to playing outdoors.

Delaware, Smith, Rice, and College of New Jersey won out their respective Division II pools to earn spots in the Division I Championship bracket.  Smith’s performance was certainly one of the most inspiring of the weekend.  The team knocked off Towson on universe point in the last round of pool play, and in the first round of bracket play on Sunday morning, Luna beat regional powerhouse Middlebury 12-9 in convincing fashion to advance to quarters.  Smith benefits from the addition of Brute Squad D-line superstar Amber Sinicrope this year and Sinicrope’s obvious field leadership has helped guide Smith to an elevated level of play.  Enthusiastic sidelines, scrappy play, and a ton of heart define the Smith team and will make them a fun team to follow in their quest to qualify for DIII Nationals.

Penn State, Cornell, Ottawa, and Tufts all won their Quarterfinals matchups handily, with Penn State going on to defeat a tired Cornell team 14-2 in semis, and Ottawa going up 7-0 and then trading out to beat Tufts 14-7 in the other semis game.  Ottawa would cruise to an 11-6 win in the finals and was greeted by a very excited CHS Sparkle Motion team at Frisbee Central as they celebrated their win.

Congratulations to Ottawa on winning Keystone Classic, and thank you to both Isis and Spank for running a great tournament.  Good luck to all of the teams and players participating in the USA Ultimate College Series!  Thank you for a fun and inspiring spring season.