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Full Disclosure: The author of this article is an assistant coach of Portland Schwa.
Three consecutive days of elite competition coupled with nearly 500 miles of traveling made for a daunting start to the All-Star Ultimate Tour, as the team swung through Portland Sunday to take on Schwa. A 0-3 deficit on the scoreboard, the absence of Janina Freystaetter (concussion), the eventual loss of Ellen Au-Yeung (also concussion), and a hot, breezy day compounded those challenges and left the team of college stars staring at a potentially winless Northwest stretch to kick off their nationwide tour.
However, after a series of collisions and messy play during the early stages of the first half, discs started falling to the All-Stars. The Tour’s athletes started making big plays and their zone defense found a new strength after initially being picked apart. In the end, the All-Stars pulled off a statement win over a Portland team that has proven to be much more than the list of players it lost last season.
A Hot Start Turns Messy
A hold from Schwa off the initial pull coupled with two consecutive breaks gave the home team an early lead. The All-Stars were pushing the disc a bit too far when attacking downwind, floating it a bit too much going upwind. Schwa’s defense would make their guests earn their points, and it took several points to do so.
After a Schwa time-out, one of the game’s early trends – on-field collisions – took center stage. While there had been relatively minor collisions between Schwa and All-Star players in the second and third points that briefly stopped play, the fourth point saw two more that both resulted in players exiting the field. After contact between All-Star Caitlin Fitzgerald and Portland’s Sarah Read-Brown saw the Schwa player leave the point, a lay-out block from Ellen Au-Yeung resulted in Portland’s Aidee Bovee landing hard on the top of Au-Yeung. Sixty seconds later, the All-Star left the game and wouldn’t return, icing the back of her neck and head for a good portion of the night. It was an odd series of events, creating a strange tone and atmosphere on the field.
All-Stars Strike Back And Close The Door
That uneasiness would dissipate as the All-Stars found their legs and their throws. In that same fourth point, a nice up-the-line give-go from Jenny Wei and Caitlin Fitzgerald gave the All-Stars their first point. From there, the game would slowly tip in their favor: a high-release pass from Mira Donaldson floated over an endzone stack to find an unintentional goal from Clare Frantz; Kate Scarth would snag a huck after her first attempt at a catch only tipped the disc inches from the defending Ella Hansen’s hands to land back in Scarth’s. Highlighted by a layout score from Jesse Shofner and a SportsCenter-worthy grab from Bethany Kaylor, the All-Stars worked their way to an 8-7 halftime lead.
In the second half, it was the All-Stars that came out hot, scoring two quick points to push their lead to 10-7. Schwa was able to stop the bleeding, and worked their way back to within one at 11-12 after a strong every-other-throw possession from Julia Sherwood, their first break since the middle of the first half. In just 20 seconds, however, the touring team scored again, shutting down the idea of a late-game run from Portland. The teams would trade holds until the clock ran out for a 14-12 All-Star victory.
A Morale Boost Moving Forward
For Schwa, the game showed glimpses of a pace-and-space offense that was fast and exciting, and most importantly, difficult to defend. What they seemed to lack was a game-wide consistency, missing on several open deep throws and finding themselves flat-footed just a few too many times.
For the All-Stars, the game was an important stepping stone as they concluded the first third of the Tour with their first win. Even though winning isn’t everything for the All-Stars, there’s no denying the boost in morale it must give the players, as well as giving the Tour a breath of fresh air after avoiding a potentially stale 0-3 start.
The challenge continues to mount for these young role-models, as Ellen Au-Yeung joined Janina Freystaetter on the sidelines for the shortly foreseeable future, including last night’s Bay Area double-header. Though pressure may rise, the Tour have managed to ditch the weight of the monkey on their backs with their first win, which could very well be the first of many more to come.
Originally published at: http://ultiworld.com/2016/07/27/high-flying-stars-score-first-tour-win-portland/