Northampton girls ultimate captures 4th-place finish at Pioneer Valley Invitational

Northampton junior Ava Keller sets up for a backhand throw against Cimes on Saturday afternoon of the Pioneer Valley Invitational tournament at Oxbow Marina in Northampton over the weekend.

Northampton junior Ava Keller sets up for a backhand throw against Cimes on Saturday afternoon of the Pioneer Valley Invitational tournament at Oxbow Marina in Northampton over the weekend. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Northampton sophomore Amelia Durbin leaps to catch a goal over a Cimes defender on Saturday afternoon of the Pioneer Valley Invitational tournament at Oxbow Marina in Northampton.

Northampton sophomore Amelia Durbin leaps to catch a goal over a Cimes defender on Saturday afternoon of the Pioneer Valley Invitational tournament at Oxbow Marina in Northampton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Northampton senior captain Lila Nields-Duffy looking to set up the offense on Saturday afternoon of the Pioneer Valley Invitational tournament at Oxbow Marina in Northampton.

Northampton senior captain Lila Nields-Duffy looking to set up the offense on Saturday afternoon of the Pioneer Valley Invitational tournament at Oxbow Marina in Northampton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-20-2024 4:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Battle of the Bridge rivalry added another chapter to its never-ending book on Sunday afternoon, this time coming on the ultimate field during the Pioneer Valley Invitational at the Oxbow Marina in the quarterfinals of what is the largest ultimate tournament in the Commonwealth.

Northampton and Amherst squared off first thing Sunday morning to start the girls’ single elimination portion of the event. The Blue Devils, which punched their ticket to Nationals after winning the Amherst Invitational two weekends ago, jumped out to a 6-0 lead behind a “free-flowing, lightning-fast offense,” according to head coach Travis Norsen. Following the quick start, Northampton worked in its reserves and they took care of business the rest of the way en route to a 9-4 victory over the ‘Canes.

Moving into the semifinals, the Blue Devils matched up with the top seed in the tournament, Origine. The first half was played evenly between the two heavyweights, but Origine picked up two key points at the end of it to seize control of the match. They would go on to defeat Northampton 13-7, ending the Blue Devils’ bid to sweep both Hampshire County tournaments this season.

Following the hard-fought battle, Origine’s head coach stepped into Northampton’s post-game huddle and conveyed some strong words of encouragement.

“We just couldn’t keep up with their incredible depth and quality, but the first half was probably the best our team played all weekend,” Norsen said. “This semifinals loss was actually one of the highlights of the weekend, capped by Origine's coach joining our team's post-game huddle and telling us very sincerely that we were incredibly strong for a single high school team – and really put the fear of god into her team in the first half.”

Ultimately, Northampton took fourth place after losing the third-place match to Wicked West, 12-9 – a game Norsen felt his team could have won.

“We came out a bit flat in the third-place game against Wicked West, another team from the Toronto area,” he said. “It was definitely a game we should have been able to win and it remained close throughout, but aside from our junior captain Emma Gollis-Pedelaborde entering low-earth orbit to snag a goal down the stretch, the mojo just wasn't there and we ended up losing.”

Origine went on to win first place in the Girls A Division, as the top three finishers were all top club teams from Canada (Titane took second, Wicked West third). Right behind ‘Hamp in fourth was Amherst, which took fifth after handling Cimes 10-3 in the fifth-place game Sunday afternoon. Twenty girls teams competed throughout the weekend.

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On the boys side, Amherst had the highest local finish – taking 11th place out of the 46 boys teams in attendance. The Hurricanes sailed past Brooklyn Tech, 13-2, in the 11th-place bout. Northampton’s boys varsity checked in at 19th place, with a close 9-7 victory over Middletown sneaking them inside the top 20.

Similar to the girls, the Canadian club teams dominated the podium, with Montclair taking home first place.

It was another year – the 11th overall of the PVI – of successful ultimate in one of the more unique venues in the country, with over a thousand people and hundreds of cars lined around 19 playing fields to watch high-level play. Next spring will mark the 10th PVI in the event’s history, as two seasons (2020, 2021) were canceled due to COVID-19. Tournament directors Lee Feldscher and Josh Seamon-Ingalls will likely pull out all the stops to make next year’s edition the best one yet.