APRIL 15-16, 2017

Wisconsin-LaCrosse's McKenna Hage elevates for the grab in pool play against Northern Michigan. (Carrie Edwards Kretschmer)

Wisconsin-LaCrosse's McKenna Hage elevates for the grab in pool play against Northern Michigan. (Carrie Edwards Kretschmer)

In Madison, Wisconsin, teams battled more than just each other: consistent 20 mph+ winds harassed teams to take the three bids to North Central Division 1 Regionals. Teams showcased grit, mental focus, and versatility in the wind, highlighting different zone defenses, and fast paced transition offense.

During Saturday’s pool play, all teams played open lines with sloppier execution, adapting to the gale-force winds. Pool B teams battled between two different field orientations, making for additional adversity. All four Pool B teams showcased strong zone defenses and a style of play favoring field position, making it difficult for teams to beat the hard cap to get to 15.

During Sunday’s bracket play, teams left everything on the field to earn a bid to Regionals. Wisconsin Bella Donna’s depth carried them to a fairly uncontested semifinal win over Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Anneke Vermaak, Lauren Allin, and Brittney Kokinos’ confident upwind break throws helped Wisconsin’s cutters fast break up the breakside for fast scores in transition, earning a 15-6 win. The other semifinal pitted Wisconsin-LaCrosse Galaxy against Wisconsin-Milwaukee Blackcat in rivalry game that highlighted just how mentally tough Galaxy is. After giving up an upwind break on the first point, Galaxy edged out Blackcat’s upwind offense 3:2 in an 12-9 victory over Milwaukee.

The final highlighted why Bella Donna and Galaxy earned the first and second seeds, with aggressive upwind throws and depth in their rosters. Both teams earned upwind breaks, resulting in an on-serve universe point win for Bella Donna during the windiest round of the weekend. Wisconsin’s zone offense was quick and utilized give-go's by a multitude of contributing handlers; when the disc made it through the primary layer, confident poppers worked quickly to attack quickly against second and third layers in La Crosse’s zone. Galaxy tended to keep the disc in the hands of their strongest throwers, moving the disc until Dayna Trimborn or Lexie Kretschmer could find Meagan Rummage, Hope Hickman or McKenna Hage in the endzone.

Although Wisconsin pulled out the universe point win, Wisconsin-La Crosse qualifies for North Central Regionals for the first time since 2014. Trimborn and Hage are an impressive 1-2 punch, with athleticism and disc skills that can outshine any of the North Central powerhouses’ elite players. Hage should be on the short list for North Central Player of the Year, with her ability to make jaw-dropping athletic plays, balanced with strong throws to distribute the disc to her teammates.    

Wisconsin’s handling core showcased patience throughout the weekend, patiently working the disc to attack the break side. Vermaak and Kokinos anchored the upwind points, highlighting their elite throwing skillset. Jackie Welsch and Charlotte Francoeur had extremely strong weekends for Wisconsin, helping lead the team in goals scored and distributing the disc confidently to open hands.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Milwaukee both played well throughout the weekend, challenging the top two teams with fast-paced offenses that were not afraid to attack deep against zones or person defensive sets alike.

With two weeks until North Central Regionals, expect these teams to be more refined and ready to take down their opponents in the Western North Central Conference for a shot at the Division 1 Championships.

By Robyn Wiseman, coach of Wisconsin Bella Donna, captain of Madison Heist, and plays for the USA Women's Masters Beach Team.