Northampton girls ultimate team scores impressive 5th place at Nationals

The Northampton girls varsity ultimate team competed in the national tournament in Rockford, Ill. over the weekend, entering as the ninth-ranked team in the country and finishing fifth after a strong showing.

The Northampton girls varsity ultimate team competed in the national tournament in Rockford, Ill. over the weekend, entering as the ninth-ranked team in the country and finishing fifth after a strong showing. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Northampton girls ultimate team finished fifth at nationals over the weekend in Rockford, Ill

The Northampton girls ultimate team finished fifth at nationals over the weekend in Rockford, Ill CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Northampton girls ultimate team finished fifth at nationals over the weekend in Rockford, Ill.

The Northampton girls ultimate team finished fifth at nationals over the weekend in Rockford, Ill. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-10-2024 4:23 PM

Modified: 06-10-2024 6:40 PM


The final stop for the end of the Northampton girls varsity ultimate team’s historical season was the national tournament in Rockford, Ill. over the weekend.

After winning their first-ever Amherst Invitational and Massachusetts state championship earlier this spring, the Blue Devils hopped on a plane and landed out in the Midwest last week.

Northampton came in seeded ninth overall out of 16 teams, and following an impressive 10-3 win over Summit High School (Ore.) through rainy, blustery and cold conditions on Saturday, the Blue Devils officially claimed fifth place in the nation – four spots higher than their original seed.

“This squad this year just continues to amaze me,” Northampton co-coach Travis Norsen said. “Finishing fifth at nationals is inherently awesome, especially for this team that's been nowhere near that level of competition before. But doing it the way we did – with every single player making meaningful contributions both on the field and to the ongoing spirit battle that kept us motivated and positive – was really the perfect way to cap off this historic season.”

Throughout the two-day tournament, which took place all day Friday and Saturday, Northampton played a whopping seven games. It went 2-1 during pool play on Friday to earn the No. 2 seed coming out of Pool D. The Blue Devils started the tournament off with a come-from-behind win over Green Canyon (Utah), capped by a dramatic universe point to seal the deal. Nathan Hale (Wash.) beat Northampton 12-10 in game two, followed by a comfortable 8-5 triumph in game three against Edina (Minn.).

Given their 2-1 pool play mark, the Blue Devils were cross-matched with the No. 3 seed from Pool A – Garfield High School (Wash.). With the wind having subsided and conditions looking much nicer on Saturday morning, Northampton’s smooth-flowing, fast-paced offense came to life. 

The best weather of the weekend helped the Blue Devils cruise past Garfield, 15-7, punching a ticket to the quarterfinals against the No. 3 overall seed of the tournament – Lincoln High School (Wash.).

“With five out of the seven games significantly impacted by really horrible weather, this was definitely a frustrating weekend in a lot of ways,” Norsen said. “Wind especially is the great equalizer in ultimate since it makes it nearly impossible for teams to play the way they've trained all season to play. I would say it was really only in our game against Garfield that we were really able to show off the beautiful, buttery offense we've been working since March to perfect.”

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Knowing Lincoln was one of the best teams in the country, Norsen and the Blue Devils decided to divvy up playing time to keep fresh legs for a potential fifth-place game.

Lincoln went on to hand Northampton a 15-4 defeat, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the performance.

“It was a good loss in that we got everybody involved, kept our spirits high with positive energy, and saved ourselves for the battle for fifth place,” Norsen said.

In order to clinch a top five spot in the country however, the Blue Devils had to win a rematch with Green Canyon. And once again, the weather had turned on its head; the whipping wind and precipitation had returned.

With the wind coming from the north, it meant each team had to execute offense going directly into the thick of it – making goals extremely hard to come by. Yet Northampton managed to find a way, and behind the facilitation of Tatum Hathaway and Lila Nields-Duffy, the Blue Devils gutted out several difficult upwind scores en route to an 8-5 win.

“Due a lot of factors this tournament came down to an energy battle,” Northampton co-coach Mary Sheehan said. “And I think between the love these kids have for each other, parental support and halftime hype up dances and songs, we dominated the competition. And that shows in the score of our fifth-place game, where we won with such a wide margin.” 

Olive Polson-Filas and Alysha Parshall-Matylas were standout performers on defense while Fiona Scibelli, Sara Hoeckh and Jade Rousseau showed versatility on both sides of the disc for the Blue Devils.

The season of firsts for Northampton continued at nationals with a top five finish.

“It felt more like instead of battling each other, the two teams were battling the elements,” Norsen said. “But the rough conditions also gave us a chance to face and overcome adversity. We really dug deep and found some serious grit. Ending up so far above our incoming nine-seed to finish fifth overall is honestly better than I would have thought possible.”