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2017 U.S. Open Club Championships: U-17 Girls – Monday

The inaugural U.S. Open Club Championships are a wrap. It was a massive event, one sure to just get even bigger next year, with tons of great teams, exciting games and memorable moments. The event’s YCC division closed out the weekend with placement games, semifinals and five amazing championship games.

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Now in its fourth year, the U-17 girls’ division is starting to thrive. For anyone who was around in the division’s first year in 2014 and also got to see the amazing young women competing in Blaine this weekend, the contrast is pretty incredible. Just four years ago, there were only three teams competing and just 47 athletes. This year, there were 10 teams and 146 athletes.

Like a couple other divisions, the four semifinalists were familiar faces in the U-17 girls’ division: Seattle, Maine, Cincinnati and the Triangle. But at least the match ups were flipped this year. Seattle took on Cincinnati, and Maine faced the Triangle.

Maine Rip Tide went up big early against the Triangle Kitty Hawks. The Rip Tide zone forced turnovers, and the Kitty Hawks defense couldn’t get quite enough of them back. The Kitty Hawks settled down as the game went on, but that early 5-1 lead proved insurmountable for the Triangle. Despite strong games from Clil Philips, Grace Conerly and Lanie O’Neill for the Kitty Hawks, Rip Tide moved on to the finals with the 13-8 win.

In the other semifinal, Cincinnati Belle gave Seattle Eclipse just about all they could handle. Just like their older halves, the U-20 Belles, Baby Belle is not afraid to take shots, particularly when they see receivers like Therese Enders downfield. Rebecca Monnin did a lot of the heavy lifting behind the disc for Belle, but the Ohioans couldn’t quite match the depth of Eclipse. Because of their depth, picking standouts for Seattle isn’t super easy, but Meya Handrick put together a great game, tallying an impressive five assists and two goals and helping lead Eclipse back into the finals with a 14-10 win.

The championship final was a game of mini runs. Maine held to start things off before Seattle scored four straight, bringing about some worry that they would run away with the game like they did last year. But Maine rallied. Thanks largely to the play of Karli Chapin, Maya Ragucci and Emily Pozzy, who might have been the best thrower in the division this year, Rip Tide worked their way back into the game and broke again to close out the half with the lead, on serve at 8-7.

Maine broke again right out a half, putting them up 9-7 and definitely creating a buzz on the sidelines, but Seattle is nothing if not experienced and calm under pressure. Although the team had more rookies than returners this year, they still have more time together as a team than anyone else in the division. Seattle typically starts forming their YCC teams as early as February, so Eclipse’s confidence is born from their faith in themselves as a team and knowledge of what they’re capable of. They forced the turns they needed, with multiple Ds coming from Gaby Payoyo, who was great on both sides of the disc, and closed out the game with four straight goals: one hold and three breaks. Seattle won their fourth straight U-17 girls’ title 12-9 over Maine Rip Tide.

It’s exciting to note that both these teams are young. The main playmakers on both sides are largely just 14 or 15 years old, so they have another year or two to go in the U-17 division. It will be incredibly fun to watch these players develop alongside the division as a whole. The future of girls’ ultimate is definitely bright.