In the Boston Metro Conference championships last weekend, sMITe, MIT Women’s Ultimate team, placed third and clinched a spot at New England DI Regionals. By playing hard through some long points and overcoming injuries, the team won crucial games, beating Harvard, Boston College (BC) and Boston University (BU).
sMITe opened pool play on Saturday, splitting the day with wins against BU and BC and losses to Tufts and Northeastern. On Sunday morning, the team suffered a tough loss to Harvard, closing out pool play at 2-3.
The first round of bracket play determined if MIT advanced to the semifinals or dropped into the elimination bracket. Facing BC in this must win game, sMITe quickly found themselves down 5-2. However, sMITe fought back using a zone defense to score eight unanswered points in a row. With key blocks by Emma C. Benjaminson ’14 and Evie Adams ’13, MIT entered half time up 8-5 and never looked back. In the second half, strong offensive performances from Patricia Z. Li ’13 and Kathleen M. Hoza ’14 led MIT to a 15-7 victory.
However, injuries prior to the tournament left sMITe short a key player, Monica Isava ’13, and the level of competition reduced the roster size even further. Both Becky A. Vasquez ’12, and Annie E. Holladay ’13 suffered sprains to their ankle and knee, respectively, during the BC game. Regardless, their continuing support from the sideline was tremendous and instrumental to the team’s success.
Entering the semifinals down two more players, sMITe lost again to nationally-ranked Tufts, setting up a rematch with Harvard in the third place game. Learning from the morning’s game, coach Neva Cherniavsky taught a new defensive strategy, which the team absorbed quickly, to completely shut down Harvard’s offense. Alisha R. Schor G, Lisa Liu ’14, and Anna K. de Regt G continued their strong performances of the weekend and sMITe defeated Harvard 15-5.
The fact that sMITe could focus and learn a new form of defense in a matter of minutes attests to their growing passion and potential. Michelle A. Rybak ’13, one of the team’s three captains, explained: “This is an extremely exciting time to be a captain. Looking at our performance in previous years we, are growing and improving at such a high rate that my dream of one day going to nationals is becoming more and more of a reality.”
Rybak herself is an outstanding player and an integral part of this improved performance. Playing almost every point and ending with 29 assists and 30 blocks, Rybak was directly involved in scoring almost half of the points this weekend, and was a vital part of the offense for the other points scored.
For those unfamiliar with Ultimate, the team is divided into two main positions, “handlers” and “cutters.” Handlers are responsible for being strong throwers and cutters work together as receivers. As a handler, Rybak frequently holds the disc and the team scores many points on her throws spanning almost the entire length of the field.
Other key players were cutter Carolyn P. Coyle ’13 and handler Claire F. Kearns-McCoy ’14. Coyle is one of the tallest members of the team and used her height to her advantage and “skyed” (jumped higher than the person guarding her and made a play while in midair) many others, both on offense and defense. She finished the tournament with 12 points and forced 9 turnovers on defense.
Kearns-McCoy, coming off of a foot injury, showed that she is back in form with the highest retention rate on the team. Spending significantly more time with the disc than others, her pass completion rate was nearly 90 percent. Kearns-McCoy also scored a “Callahan” point to win a game against BC. Extremely rare events, Callahans occur when a defensive player intercepts the disc in the opposite team’s endzone for a score.
These are just a few examples of why Rybak continued, “Not to mention, literally every person on the team is an awesome person.”
As the team becomes a more cohesive unit both on and off the field, sMITe will enter regionals, May 5–6 at Dartmouth College, with high expectations.