Soul Claws Back in Win against Nightshade

by Gerleen Dineros

Atlanta, GA—Saturday, June 1. Atlanta Soul hosted Nashville Nightshade at Silverback Park on Saturday night in a tightly contested game that resulted in a comeback victory for Soul in the second half, with a final score of 23-16.

Nightshade showed up to the game confident and ready to perform, generating two early D's and scoring the first point of the game against Soul. Kelsey Foster, a Nightshade handler, took every opportunity she could to launch the disc deep, often to receivers under high defensive pressure. When not hucking it deep, Foster created quick handler movement with teammates Mariana Rodríguez and Colleen Wright, finding the holes in Soul's defensive structure to work the disc through the middle of the field. Rodríguez, a Nightshade captain, got bookends close to the end of the first quarter after an incredible hand block against Soul’s Sam Stovall-Jones.

Nightshade played well against Soul's zone defense, swinging the disc easily across the field to go point-for-point with Soul until halfway through the second quarter. That’s when Nightshade's small mistakes started to build up against them as a menagerie of high release backhands and silly drops in the endzone resulted in turns that Soul utilized for scores.

Coming out of the half, Soul locked down on their strengths and played the long ball game that handlers Leah Tsinajinnie and Cate Woodhurst are known for throwing. By the fourth quarter, Soul and Nightshade were throwing very few turnovers, each scoring on their offensive possessions.

When asked what prep work Soul did before playing Nightshade, Soul’s Anraya Palmer said that the team focused on maintaining energy and effort on the field. "At our last practice, we focused on playing a full game.” Palmer said. “We had a three-hour practice where we simulated the four quarters of a game, subbing lines, calling time outs, and playing with energy. I think that really helped us translate that mindset into the game."

Soul co-owner Maddy Frey said that they changed how they called lines in this game. Instead of a strict offense and defense line, they chose to use three rotating lines in order to use the true depth of their talented roster.

Nightshade's roster is one of the most unique in the league, pulling talent from several different states including Florida, Ohio, Alabama, and Tennessee. Despite the minimal amount of playing time together prior to the season, their cohesive and patient disc movement kept them toe-to-toe with Soul's caliber of play. Captains Mariana Rodríguez and Liz Barnes said that they were proud of how their team played, highlighting how their offense worked because they have the deep shots and the receivers in place to catch them. Their goal before their next game is to lock down on their gritty defensive and increase their catch percentage.

Jin-Mi Matsunaga was Soul's top scorer of the night, generating five out of their 23 total points with her innate ability to read the disc and create separation from Nightshade's defenders. Shanye Crawford, Soul's team manager, had a highlight of the night as she and Nightshade's Ginger Price fought for the retention of the disc in the air, Crawford ultimately coming down with the disc for the score. Claire Bidigare-Curtis and Abbey Hewitt balled out on both offense and defense for Nightshade, making the aggressive run through D's and endzone snags that the team needed in order to stay competitive with Soul.

On Saturday, June 8, Atlanta will host New York Gridlock at Silverback Stadium and Nashville will host Raleigh Radiance at home at Harpeth Hall High School, the second game in Raleigh's doubleheader weekend.

Gerleen Dineros is a competitive club player located in Atlanta, GA whose heart is scattered across ultimate communities in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Washington D.C. She has volunteered as the club Sectionals Coordinator for the Southeast Division since 2015. At the top of her bucket list is to play at the Boracay Open.

Tim Kepner