2017 Amherst Invitational Ultimate Tournament: Hurricanes boys finish second, girls tie for third with Northampton

By ETHAN WELD

For the Gazette

Published: 05-14-2017 10:06 PM

AMHERT — Westfield, New Jersey, defeated top-seeded Amherst Regional, 12-11, on Sunday afternoon in the 26th-annual Amherst Ultimate Invitational Tournament title game.

It was the first time Westfield won the tournament, and it became just the seventh team to win the boys division. Amherst previously defeated Westfield, 13-10, in a preliminary round Saturday.

In the championship game, Westfield came out with a zone defense that was difficult to break. The first few points in the championship went back and forth, and neither team built a lead of more than one point. Westfield took a 6-4 lead and went into halftime up 8-6.

Coming out of halftime, Westfield padded its lead to 11-7. Amherst surged back, scoring four straight points to tie the game at 11.

Westfield went on to win the game on universe point. A universe point occurs when two teams are tied in the final moments of the game, and the team that scores the next point is the winner.

Amherst coach Joe Costello said that Westfield had a complicated defensive strategy.

“We’ve had trouble with that all season, but we also had a plan and it wasn’t just that zone,” Costello said. “It was that they were switching what they did defensively a lot, and it just put a lot of pressure on us to match the switch with the offensive system that we needed.”

Amherst has 15 seniors on the roster, and after the emotional final game of the tournament, Costello had high praise for the graduating class playing its final Amherst Invitational.

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“They’re amazing, they’ve put in so much energy and love into this program for a really long time, and I’m really proud of them for putting themselves out there like that and getting their hearts broken,” he said. “I think you don’t get your heart broken if you don’t really love what you do and I’m really proud that we have so many players that really love what they do.”

Amherst girls streak ends

For just the third time since girls ultimate was added to the Amherst Invitational in 1997, the Amherst girls varsity team did not appear in the championship game. The Hurricanes had won the tournament eight straight times and every year except for 2017, 2008 and 1997.

Amherst lost to the Paideia School (Georgia) in a low-scoring 8-4 semifinal in cold and windy conditions Sunday at the Oxbow in Northampton.

Paideia jumped out to a 5-0 lead at halftime. In the second half, Amherst picked up four points, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback.

“When you bring 12 new players onto a team they get to build it themselves from the ground up,” first-year Amherst coach Hannah Baranes said. “The kind of growth and identity formation is like nothing else I’ve ever seen and it’s been so satisfying.”

It didn’t take long for Baranes to win over the respect of her new players.

“Hannah’s incredible. I’ve never had a female head coach, and she’s not just any female head coach, she’s an incredible, amazing ultimate player, it’s so inspirational,” Amherst senior co-captain Manali Rege-Colt said.

Fellow co-captain and senior Shira Yeskel-Mednick added, “We started from a place where we were a bunch of pieces, and as we’ve been coming together over the course of the season we’ve just ramped up.”

Northampton reached the semifinals and fell to HB Woodlawn Secondary Program (Virginia) 9-7 on Sunday.

The Blue Devils would have finished either in third or fourth place if they had played their consolation game against Amherst, but the two teams opted not to play.

Claire Babbot-Bryan threw 15 assists and grabbed one interception in an opponent’s endzone, also called a Callahan.

Olivia Pruett dished out 15 assists, and Lili Lieberman-Bachman scored nine times.

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