(Written, shot and edited for Somerville Patch)
Villen, Somerville High’s Ultimate (Frisbee) team, came into Saturday’s Div. II State Championship at Rogers Field in Devens ranked fourth. They finished in fourth place as well.
Consolation-game opponent Abington High School used a 7-1 first half to hold off a late-game Villen comeback, beating Villen 13-9 and claiming third place. Villen went 1-2 Saturday and finished fourth.
Xaverian Brothers High School (Westwood) defeated the top-ranked Hartsbrook School (Hadley) for the title.
A 13-6 loss in the semi-finals to Hartsbrook cost Villen a title opportunity. Junior Brandon Hamilton hit 6-foot-4 sophomore Sam Badot-Fisher with a deep pass that Badot-Fisher boxed out Hartsbrook sophomore Vincent DeFelice to pull down and put Villen up 1-0.
Juniors Game Imber and Tom Kennedy took advantage of a Hartsbrook short-yardage turnover to go up 2-0, then Hamilton hit sophomore Rory Palmer with a bullet pass to score again.
After that, however, Villen fell apart at the hands of Hartsbrook’s swarming defense.
The breeze at Rogers Field forced teams to use a “zone” defense, in which a three-player cup surrounds the disc at all times, and the other four players cut off passing lanes. Hartsbrook’s cup routinely pinned Villen against the sideline, often deep in their own territory.
DeFelice (three points, two assists) hand-blocked six passes for turnovers, all of which led to short-yardage situations for Hartsbrook. Down 4-1, Hartsbrook responded with a 10-0 run that put them up 11-4 late in the second half.
From there, all Hartsbrook needed to do was trade points for two possessions, and they won, 13-6.
Badot-Fisher scored two of Villen’s points; Hamilton threw for three assists.
Villen’s match against Hartsbrook may have broken their concentration, because Abington did not have to force turnovers so much as wait for Villen to turn it over themselves. Although Hamilton again hit Badot-Fisher with a deep-pass goal that Badot-Fisher out-jumped his opponent for, Villen either dropped or missed a pass at least once on the next seven offensive possessions, and Abington took half, 7-1.
Villen almost got back in the game in the second half, scoring five of the next seven points. Goals by junior Andrew Reiss and freshman Sonam Ngwang cut the lead to 7-3, then Hamilton and Palmer each hit it each other for a goal: Palmer to Hamilton off an isolation play in the end zone, then Hamilton to Palmer on a full-field pass.
A Palmer pass to Reiss again made it 9-6, but Abington then turned back on the defense, diving to knock down a Villen pass, then pinning Palmer at the front-right cone of his own end zone off the pull (like football’s kickoff) to force a short-yardage turnover.
Abington’s 3-0 mini-run pushed the lead too far, and Villen simply couldn’t come back from 12-6. Kennedy scored twice more, and Palmer threw for two more – including another Badot-Fisher jump-ball deep pass – but Abington sealed the victory with a deep forehand throw of their own.
As much trouble as Villen had with Hartsbrook and Abington, their quarter-final game against St. Johnsbury Academy (VT) was that easy. Villen scored first, with Palmer hitting Badot-Fisher with a long pass that couldn’t quite reach the end zone, forcing a quick give-and-go with Palmer.
After Badot-Fisher’s defender, senior Conor Dannis, tied the game with a diving score, Villen went on a 5-0 run. They went into halftime up 7-2, then closed out the second half with another 5-0 run to win 13-4.
Villen’s offense showed great balance against St. Johnsbury, getting goals from six different players, and assists from four. Badot-Fisher, Ngwang and sophomore Edwin Cruz led the team with three goals apiece, and sophomore Obed Diaz scored two. Palmer and sophomore Johnathan Figueroa each scored a goal. Palmer led the team with six assists, followed by Hamilton (four), Badot-Fisher (two) and freshman R.J. Bingham (one).
Assistant coach Ted Blake said after the final game he was especially happy with Villen’s zone defense, then singled out Badot-Fisher for his offensive production.
“Sam came down with some real nice ones,” Blake said.
Though Blake said the key to next year will be smarter decision-making, head coach Alicia Kersten said that recruiting more players is key.
“We need numbers, and we need numbers at practice to get better, and we need numbers at a tournament,” Kersten said. “I think we’ll be better next year because these guys will be better, but we’re not going to go to the next level unless we get five more dedicated, athletic guys on the team.”
Saturday’s state championship marked the end for senior Peter Gutierrez, the first four-year player in Villen’s program. He will attend UMass-Lowell next year, where he says he will continue his Ultimate career.
Said Gutierrez, “Through my high school experience, Ultimate Frisbee was probably the biggest influence in how I changed.”