Ultimate win: Northampton girls take down Amherst Regional in historic victory

  • Claire Babbott-Bryan, right, of Northampton, passes against Manali Rege-Colt, of Amherst Regional, Thursday in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mary Andrews, right, of Northampton, catches a pass against Sydney Zobel, Thursday in Northampton. The Blue Devils beat the Hurricanes, 12-9. It was the first time ever a Northampton ultimate team beat Amherst. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tori Nicoletti, right, of Northampton, looks to pass against Shira Yeskel-Mednick, Thursday in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Julia Snodgrass, right, of Northampton, prepares to slap down a pass intended for Amherst Regional, Thursday in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lili Lieberman-Bachman, right, of Northampton, celebrates her goal with Julia Snodgrass, Thursday in Northampton. Northampton defeated Amherst 12-9. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 4/27/2017 10:14:55 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson. USA hockey over the Soviet Union. Northampton High School girls ultimate over Amherst Regional.

The Blue Devils’ 12-9 victory over the Hurricanes on Thursday might not rank quite as high as the first two upsets, but it does mark a major occurrence in the world of Pioneer Valley ultimate.

The win was the first time that any Northampton ultimate team, boys or girls, defeated rival Amherst in program history.

“I have to say I’m super stoked because Amherst has been our target forever so the fact that we took them on our home turf today is super exciting,” Blue Devils co-coach Sheldon Snodgrass said. “We’re all trying to not be giddy about it.”

Northampton jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Hurricanes quickly tied the game. After a back-and-forth first half that finished with the Blue Devils up 8-7, Northampton scored three unanswered goals to start the second half.

Amherst battled back with a pair of goals before the Blue Devils found the end zone to complete the 12-9 upset.

“It was really tough and it’s especially rewarding because it’s Amherst varsity and they’re pretty much our biggest rival and also our biggest competitor and we’ve had a lot of losses to them in the past, so it’s really, really exciting for us,” Northampton’s Claire Babbot-Bryan said.

Offensively the Blue Devils took advantage of their chances and used their aggression to haul in throws.

“I think we were just chasing down discs, coming down with stuff in the air,” Blue Devils co-coach Clarissa Lyons said. “We won a lot of stuff in the air that was up kind of for a 50/50 grab and we would come down with that.”

On the other side of the field, Northampton employed a strategy often said to be used by New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick: don’t let your opponent’s best players beat you.

“We’re shutting down their very first option, so that makes them have to look for second and third options, which are always kind of less ideal and more frenzied,” Lyons said.

Snodgrass pointed to the Blue Devils’ aggression on defense, which stuck out to Amherst coach Hannah Baranas.

“I was really impressed by the confidence and aggression Northampton played with,” Baranas said. “You could sort of just see a belief and a hunger to get (defensive blocks) and then score goals that we’re working to develop on our team.”

This season has been one of rebuilding as Amherst returned just five players from last year’s squad.

“It’s been a slower start than usual for this team, but the growth trajectory is also steeper, so it’s been fun,” Baranas said.

Amalia Butler, one of 12 new additions to Amherst, finished with three points and a defensive block.

“I think a lot of things really clicked for her today. We worked on fast-breaking this week and she was the one executing it for us, so I was really psyched to see that,” Baranas said.

While the Hurricanes work to establish chemistry, the Blue Devils have already developed a familiarity with each other over the past couple years that helps with communication, according to Northampton’s Lili Lieberman-Bachman.

“Most of us have been a team since freshman year and we’re very well-knitted and we blend with each other and we adjust to each other’s needs and we know each other,” Lieberman-Bachman said.

Beating Amherst for the first time carries great weight for the Blue Devils.

“I think it means we arrived. What it means for the program is that there’s parity in the Valley now,” Snodgrass said.

“It gets our names out there, like watch out for Northampton, here we come,” Lieberman-Bachman said.

Despite the big win, the Blue Devils will not be resting on their laurels. Northampton is already looking forward to facing Amherst again at the Amherst Invitational and the state tournament.

“I think that the real tough game is still in the future because we’re playing them in the state tournament, and that’s when the rankings actually matter,” Babbot-Bryan said.

Lieberman-Bachman said the win adds even more pressure the next time these two teams face off.

“It kind of puts a little more pressure on us now to hold that title,” Lieberman-Bachman said.

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