Tying for third at the USA Ultimate Division III Championship last weekend in Appleton, WI, Eclipse solidified their place among the top women’s D-III teams in the country.
Eclipse entered the tournament seeded fifth overall and second in their pool, making their performance during Saturday’s Pool Play pivotal in their quest to defend last year’s national title. After effortlessly defeating Hendrix and Mary Washington, the literal and metaphorical heat picked up as they faced the fourth seed, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU).
The first point of the game lasted for fourteen minutes as Eclipse rigorously defended their downwind endzone. Initially, both teams traded points as they adapted to playing in such gusty conditions. By taking advantage of patient handler movement and quick cutter flow through PLU’s zone defense, Eclipse conquered both the wind and their Pool, winning 11-3.
With only 11 points scored against them all day, Eclipse swaggered into the championship bracket in typical Carleton ultimate fashion. But Eclipse was not the only team to disrupt the tournament seeding; in fact, the overwhelming series of seeding mishaps would become crucial later on that weekend.
In Sunday’s quarterfinals game against Truman State, Eclipse struggled to move the disc upwind, resulting in Truman State emerging with a quick 4-1 lead. For Eclipse to make a comeback, something needed to change. After adjusting the pairings of handlers and cutters to better match the upwind and downwind points, Eclipse eventually surpassed Truman State 13-10.
Next up were the Claremont Green Shirts. More than a familiar battle of the two elite liberal arts schools, both Eclipse and the Green Shirts had eagerly anticipated this match up, as both teams have emerged as standouts in the division.
Yet, as the Green Shirts later announced, the game was better suited for a finals match than a semi-finals encounter; just one field over, Haverford and Grinnell were playing a parallel semis game, even though Claremont trounced them both during Saturday’s Pool Play. The poor seeding of this tournament led Eclipse to an inauspicious route to the finals.
But just as Carls do best, Eclipse rose to the challenge, contesting every disc on defense and playing smart position-based offense. Though the wind’s ferocity had been problematic throughout the weekend, it had now escalated to entirely foreign and nearly unmanageable heights.
After Claremont took half 8-6, Eclipse needed to clench an upwind point to win. Time was running out. Ultimately, Claremont’s lucky break early on became instrumental. While Eclipse continued to score, they still trailed behind the Green Shirts. Eclipse’s inability to secure an upwind break resulted in a tragic 9-12 loss. Perhaps the even greater tragedy was watching Claremont face Grinnell in the finals, as five weeks earlier at Regionals, Carleton rolled over Grinnell 13-2.
While the third place finish may have been disappointing, it does not cancel the success of an outstanding season, although these successes are more intangible. As Robyn Fennig writes in her review of day one of the tournament, “Eclipse might be the most fundamentally sound team from top to bottom from what I saw today” (skydmagazine.com). This is evident in the team’s immense depth and athleticism, and range of talents and skills.
Moreover, this “fundamental soundness” radiates through the team’s love for the game and for each other. As Kristine Nachbor ’12 explained, “This is one of the most cohesive all around teams that I have ever been on. I really feel like we are a family.”
Jill Merkle ’12 took a step back to contextualize this season in light of Eclipse’s recent history. “I remember that at the end of last year lots of people thought it was a fluke that we did so well at nationals and that we weren’t going to go back this year,” she said. “Well, I think this just shows that Eclipse is here to stay and that D-III Women’s Ultimate is going to be seeing a lot of us from here on out.”
Without a doubt, all that Eclipse has achieved this season will propel the team into years of future successes at the national level.