May 26, 2013 by Michael Aguilar in News with 1 comments
The most exciting and dramatic game of the round featured UNC-Wilmington against Pittsburgh in a game that had the potential to flip Pool D on its head.
Wilmington came out with a clear and evident strategy to completely disable any set plays that Pittsburgh would have by throwing pulls that would roll out of bounds before an offensive player could get to them and leave UNC-W with time to set up on defense in a junk zone. Though the Seamen sacrificed plenty of yards with this strategy, it was a tradeoff that coach Greg Vassar was happy to make.
“[With those pulls] they can’t run set plays,” Vassar said. “We played them at Easterns and they scored in two or three passes on almost every point on offense. So let’s make them go East/West.”
That led to an early and surprising lead for Wilmington as UNC-W overcame a few early breaks form Pitt to take a 5-4 lead. Especially leading the way was 6’8″ senior Zach Gostling. He not only greatly influenced Pittsburgh’s ability to throw deep but also reeled in two back-to-back hucks to help establish the Seamen lead.
Pitt would come right back to take a 7-6 lead, as senior Alex Thorne moved back behind the disc for a few points to provide some more continuity. After Wilmington held to bring the score to 7-7, things got a little dicey.
UNC-W senior Alan Gruntz came in behind Pitt senior Isaac Saul after Saul made a catch on the sideline and shoved him out of bounds. Saul jumped up and shoved Gruntz right back as Alex Thorne rushed in to shove him as well. Several other players from both teams moved to get involved before the observers split the teams up. Both coaches talked about their players’ roles during the altercation after the game.
“That physical play was out of line by our player,” Vassar said. “He knows better and we’re figuring out what to do with him right now. It’s nothing that we coach, it’s nothing endemic to our team.”
“To me as a coach it’s unacceptable for us to react that way,” Pitt coach Nick Kaczmarek said. “I support that we had teammates coming to calm down the situation but they don’t need to come in aggressively. We never want to retaliate in the way we did.”
In all, three PMFs were handed down: two to Pitt (Saul and Thorne) and one to UNC-W (Gruntz). Because they got two PMFs, Pittsburgh was given a yardage penalty.
The emotional impact on the game was immediate and noticeable. Pittsburgh immediately turned the disc near its own end zone which gave UNC-W an opportunity to break. The Seamen took that opportunity and the one that followed to take half 8-7.
However, that wasn’t where the emotional impact stopped, as Pittsburgh came back from half and scored the next seven points to take a 14-8 lead on the way to a 15-9 victory. Did Gruntz fuel some kind of fire after immediately rattling Pittsburgh? It’s hard for Kaczmarek to say, but there is no denying that there was some impact.
“I think in the immediacy of that play it certainly negatively affected us,” Kaczmarek said. “I’m not sure of the effects of it long term. I would say that we probably got something from it…People wanted to win that game. I think it probably heightened how aggressive we were defensively.”
Also in Pool D, Arizona was upset by Illinois in game that, unfortunately for the two teams, was in all likelihood meaningless given their remaining schedule and the rest of the results from their pool.
Meanwhile, Oregon faced off against Dartmouth in Pool A.
Oregon came out quickly and earned a break in two of the first six points of the game to take a 4-2 lead. Dartmouth would try a number of different defensive looks with little to no success as Oregon continued to score and continued to earn breaks all the way to an 8-5 score at halftime.
Oregon closed out the game by adding two more goals to the gap between the two teams for a final score of 15-10.
The game was marked by Oregon’s consistency. As the overall number one seed in the tournament, Oregon has been outperforming its opponents all weekend long. Even including a close game against Colorado, Oregon had the highest margin of victory of any team at the tournament at this point. Oregon coach Jay Janin pointed out that that consistency is hard to maintain and that he was pleased with his team’s ability to do so thus far in the tournament.
“It is the biggest struggle,” Janin said. “Consistency on the field is the hardest thing. We’ve been up and down all year so that’s the hardest thing.”
Also in Pool A, Colorado won its first game of the day by a fairly wide margin, putting down Washington by a count of 15-9.
In Pool C, Luther LUFDA continued its role as the “heartbreak kids” of the tournament.
Luther still had hopes of making the championship bracket as this round began. However, they needed a victory over Cal-Davis in order to make things reasonable. After UC-Davis took an early lead, Luther stormed back to tie the game at 9 all and seemingly give themselves a chance for a win.
That would not last though as Davis was able to slowly but surely pull away for a 15-12 victory.