Amherst Invitational: Northampton girls ultimate capture tournament title in impressive fashion

The Northampton girls varsity ultimate team posing for a picture following its 10-8 win over Newton North in the Amherst Invitational championship on Sunday at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst. The Blue Devils earned an automatic bid to the national tournament in Rockford, Ill.

The Northampton girls varsity ultimate team posing for a picture following its 10-8 win over Newton North in the Amherst Invitational championship on Sunday at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst. The Blue Devils earned an automatic bid to the national tournament in Rockford, Ill. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Northampton girls varsity ultimate team captains posing with the Amherst Invitational first-place trophy as well as a formal invitation letter to the national tournament in Chicago, Ill. Pictured left to right: Lila Nields-Duffy, Emma Gollis-Pedelaborde, Ava Keller.

The Northampton girls varsity ultimate team captains posing with the Amherst Invitational first-place trophy as well as a formal invitation letter to the national tournament in Chicago, Ill. Pictured left to right: Lila Nields-Duffy, Emma Gollis-Pedelaborde, Ava Keller. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-06-2024 7:09 PM

Modified: 05-07-2024 11:37 AM


AMHERST — It was a weekend that will forever be remembered in the Northampton High School girls varsity ultimate program, as the Blue Devils made history via a dominant tournament showing.

Northampton entered this past weekend’s Amherst Invitational at UMass as the top seed in the Girls Division 1 eight-team bracket, its highest ranking ever at a major tournament, and all it did was back up that No. 1 mark.

For the first time in the 31-year tournament history, the Blue Devils claimed first place at the Amherst Invitational, walking out of championship Sunday with a perfect 3-0 record – including a dramatic, come-from-behind 10-8 win over Newton North in the title match.

The AI is one of the most prestigious ultimate events in the country, and is the nation’s longest-standing annual tournament. First place tasted even sweeter than it sounds for the Blue Devils.

“Winning the AI was an amazing accomplishment by our players and an important step up the ramp for the growing Northampton High School ultimate program,” co-head coach Travis Norsen said.

Winning a major tournament automatically qualifies a team for the National Invitational tournament at the end of the season. Although it didn’t win one last spring, Northampton was able to meet the necessary requirements to still qualify for nationals. But due to budgeting issues, the Blue Devils didn’t go in 2023.

Norsen knew the potential this team had coming into 2024, so those involved in the program started fundraising well ahead of time just in case Northampton were to have the opportunity again.

Sunday’s win provided just that, and this time they’re ready for a trip to Rockford, Illinois – where this season’s tournament is held (June 7-8).

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The team has started a “GoFundMe” page to help fundraise its trip to the national tournament.

“For years I've been hearing the players talk about how amazing it would be to take a team trip together to the High School National Invitational tournament at the end of the season,” Norsen said. “I honestly never thought that was a realistic goal for us in previous years, but now by winning the AI and earning a bid, it's become a reality. I still can't quite believe it. If we can make it work to get there, it'll be an experience these incredible young athletes will remember forever.”

On Saturday, Northampton cruised through pool play a perfect 3-0 with an average margin of victory of 8.7. The quarterfinal round started Sunday morning, and the Blue Devils doubled up Columbia High School (N.J.) 10-5 to advance to the semifinals.

It looked as if that would be the end of the road for Northampton, however, as it fell behind to Strath Haven High School (Pa.) late in the match. But the Blue Devils stormed back and won 9-8, punching their ticket to the finals. Another comeback over Newton North propelled them to the Amherst Invitational crown.

“We've never won a major tournament before, at least not during my tenure as coach,” Norsen said. “Our early season record gave us the No. 1 seed coming into the AI, so there was a target on our backs and a lot of pressure on the players to live up to expectations. Between the pressure and the cold and rainy conditions on Sunday, it was not easy and it was definitely not always pretty. But the players dug deep and gritted out dramatic, come-from-behind victories in both the semifinal against Strath Haven from Pennsylvania and the championship game against Newton North. [Co-head coach Mary Sheehan] and I couldn't be more proud of them.”

According to Norsen, a true team effort aided Northampton to victory, but specific contributions from senior captains Tatum Hathaway and Lila Nields-Duffy led the way. Seniors Olive Polson-Filas and Fiona Scibelli had standout performances as well, while freshman Alysha Parshall-Matylas did a little bit of everything on both sides of the disc.

Amherst finished fourth overall in the very competitive Girls Division 1, which featured five nationally ranked programs out of eight participating teams.

Elsewhere, Lexington High School (Mass.), which was seeded seventh out of eight teams in the Open Division 1 bracket, shocked the tournament and claimed a one-point win over No. 1 Pennsbury (Pa.) to win the title. Amherst boys varsity finished sixth overall.