Southwest Surprise: How Arizona State Upset Arizona At Conferences

Arizona State Prime logo.Last weekend the college series kicked off with conference championships being held across the country. Nearly all the tournaments went to seed, as is the case in most years. But the Desert Conference in the Southwest Region provided the biggest upset of the weekend. Arizona State Prime took down #10 Arizona Sunburn 15-11 to take the conference crown. Since I was on the field on Sunday (as a member of the losing side), I thought I could provide some insight on how the game played out and shine a light on both of the teams involved heading into regionals, only two short weeks away.

Although ASU has not had a great season and beating Arizona is clearly an upset, it is hard to say that this result was even close to a shock. The conditions were fairly windy, which an outsider who knows of Sunburn’s zone might think would favor us, but ASU knows our team and systems very well. The club team in Phoenix, Sprawl, had about nine or ten college players on it, all from ASU or Arizona, so our rosters are no surprise. It was also the fourth time we have played ASU Prime this year. (Once at Santa Barbara, 11-10 Arizona, and two scrimmages in the fall, 13-12 Arizona, and 13-6 Arizona).

ASU has an athletic team that has been on the brink for a few years. They have a great coach in Fernando Lugo, who played for Florida during their national championship runs a few years back. While they have traditionally lacked consistency to win big games, if they earn a trip to Madison in a few weeks, no one should be surprised.

Our team yesterday started out slow (a troubling trend looking back at our tournaments this year). On the very first point we dropped the pull. A few points later, a first throw turnover got caught in the wind. We had a turfed throw in the first half playing against their zone that was definitely not caused by the mark. Our offense took nearly a half to work comfortably through their zone and by that point we were already down big. Our defense converted a break early to get to 4-5, but after that were coming up just short of forcing a handful of turnovers. Along with our offense, our D-line started to get turns and breaks in the second half, but ASU was able to score consistently enough to keep their advantage.

ASU deserved to win. They came out firing while we needed 7 or 8 points to get settled, and even after that early period of the game ASU was consistent. They did seem to bend towards the end of the game, giving up two breaks in the last three points. This has been a troubling trend for ASU this year, giving up huge leads in games (UC Davis and Texas are ones I can think of at the moment). Sunburn had a few great chances to extend the game and flip the field on the last point but couldn’t convert on the goal line to take the game to 14-12. ASU Prime won with a huge sky by Travis Dunn.

In years past, the Desert Conference has been owned by Arizona. My first two years in Tucson, we beat New Mexico in the finals. The last two years we have beaten ASU to take the section. I think this may be the first time we have ever lost at Conferences. It is clearly a gut check for our team, but I don’t think anyone is thinking we can’t meet our goal of making nationals. We were hoping for the number one seed at regionals, which obviously won’t happen now, but I would be surprised if we are not a one seed in our pool. Any team in our region should be unhappy to find ASU in their pool (probably as a one seed). I hope we don’t have to play them…unless it is in the finals and in that case bring it on.

Congrats to ASU on the Conference win; it just became a lot more interesting for the next few years.

  1. Seth Stephens
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    Seth Stephens is a reporter for Ultiworld. He is a fifth-year player and previous captain of the University of Arizona's Open team, Sunburn. He started playing ultimate in high school in Cave Creek, AZ. He lives in Tucson. Reach him by email (sethbstephens@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@ulti_joke).

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