Around the Open: Day 1 Storylines

Ironside v. Ring of Fire at the 2013 US Open.
Photo by Brandon Wu — UltiPhotos.com

Upsets were an uncommon sight in Open and Womens play on Day 1 of the US Open, with almost every game in the Womens division holding seed and the contentious Open games playing out without huge drama.  Local Open team Ring of Fire played well but lost two winnable games, first against Boston Ironside and then against Texas Doublewide.  Ring will need to win out in order to fight for one of the tournament’s top spots.

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Doublewide’s Alex Thorne and Tyler Degirolamo

One of the biggest rostering stories in Open this season was Doublewide’s capture of Pittsburgh and NexGen stars Alex Thorne and Tyler Degirolamo.  Both players – but Degirolamo especially – were favorably rated in our 2012 NexGen statistical series  and had prolific college and club (playing for Pittsburgh-based Oakland) careers.  But how would their game transfer to the elite scene?  And how involved would they be with a brand new team that was arriving at the US Open with only 18 players?

Simple answer: The Pitt dudes took over.  Thorne and Degirolamo led the team in offensive involvement yards (catching and reception yards), and our reporters noticed that almost all of their points came when they played together.  In terms of assists and goals, Degirolamo led the team (either scoring or assisting on almost 40% of the points in which he played) and Thorne was number two.  They were both above average in terms of defensive blocks generated, though our yardage and “disusage” metrics liked Thorne’s defense more that Degirolamo’s.

On a team-wide basis, Doublewide’s first day as a defending national champion was a bit more mixed. Following a strong performance against Ring that showcased surprising offensive cohesion (given the team’s roster turnover), Doublewide stumbled a bit in their final game against Revolver.  Frankly, they looked tired.  Carrying a roster of only 18, and missing key contributors in Kurt Gibson, Rory Orloff, and Will Driscoll (away for NexGen), Doublewide struggled to get open against a focused and aggressive Revolver DLine.  Pull plays were bottled up within the first two throws, and Doublewide’s deep game, which looked dominant against both Chicago and Ring, was far less successful with Beau Kittredge and Lucas Dallman matching up (and racking up D’s) with their downfield threats.

Fury Evens Season Series with Riot

If the first two games of the season are any indication, Fury v. Riot should probably be the most anticipated game of the season — in any division.  Fury evened up the season series with a 15-12 win; Riot really failed to make enough second half noise to crawl back from a first half deficit.  Both teams are employing athletic offensive sets that isolate single cutters at a time and neither team was afraid to throw interesting shots deep.  And a lot of the time, the receivers would come down with it.  What was the difference for Fury?  The first half, for starters, but the Fury throwers also looked a bit more comfortable in the slight wind.  While both teams will want to see crisper offensive execution by the end of the season, this game showed the talent of each squad. Expect to see them playing again on Sunday.

Behind The Numbers With Fury

Our advanced stats crew took a look at who is making the reigning champs so tough to beat, and how they are doing it.

The first answer shouldn’t surprise you: Alex Snyder. The Team USA World Games team member was one of the team’s leader in touches, but still had nearly an 100% completion rate. She was involved in a lot of the yardage gaining Fury did and was also critical as a part of their defense.

Additionally, Snyder was efficient. Along with rookie Lisa Pitcaithley, Snyder was able to gain over a field’s worth of yardage on average per turnover.

Revolver Rolls

There were some whispers coming into the Open that this could be an off year for Revolver – with off meaning something like a quarters or semis finish rather than a Club Championship.  The team lost a notable part of its core after last season’s second place finish, and knew that a greater emphasis would have to be spent on developing new talent and rebuilding chemistry this year than in years past.

I had the opportunity to talk to captain Nick Schlag about the day, and it was apparent that he was pleased with the team’s first full day of competitive ultimate.  “The first thing we did really well was just adapting” he said, pointing to adjustments they made on the mark to slow down Ragnarok’s unconventional deep game, and also to the team’s success in slowing down Doublewide’s potent string plays.  “We have a lot of new guys in new roles, but they’ve stepped into them well.”  This year’s team, which won’t be able to lean on well-established chemistry in moments of adversity, will be more reliant than ever on the adaptability that showed up over the course of day.

Early Season, So Easy Does It

A common theme on Thursday was that teams were focused on internal improvement and trying things out. Each team had their longer term goals in mind, whether they be winning the Region, a Club Championship, or making it to Worlds. Lines were open, with new players getting plenty of opportunity to prove what they could do, and nobody was too frustrated by consistently sloppy play at the beginning of games.

Is this is problematic for USA Ultimate? Teams don’t seem to feel much is at stake, despite ESPN, prize money, and a potential Triple Crown incentivizing them. Maybe it is because the last major tournament was the College Championships, but the emotion just isn’t there yet. We’ll see if this changes as we get closer to elimination play.

Unfavorable Conditions Show Teams Uncontrollables

North Carolina has been buffeted by rains – not unlike most of the Southeast – and it has left its mark. The grass fields, which are normally of top notch quality, had standing water and some developing mud. The moisture in the air had teams sweating moments after beginning warm ups and kept hands slick.

On top of that, some fields got moved and rearranged at the last moment in order to preserve the grass.

But hey – despite some threatening clouds, we staved off rain.

Can MUD Survive More Long and Hard Days?

MUD, in the first round, looked very strong. Their style of play is well practiced and executed. It is challenging for teams to match up with. MUD is also a smart team; they told Ultiworld they spend the first few points identifying matchups and then go after them. Their win over Scandal was an impressive showing.

Unfortunately, what they aren’t is deep. With only 14 players, following a pretty bad injury in the first round, and jet lag still a factor, dealing with the Southeast’s summer heat could prove a challenge. It made the last points of each of their games harder and had to be a factor in their 3rd round loss.

  1. Sean Childers
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    Sean Childers is Ultiworld's Editor Emeritus. He started playing ultimate in 2008 for UNC-Chapel Hill Darkside, where he studied Political Science and Computer Science before graduating from NYU School of Law. He has played for LOS, District 5, Empire, PoNY, Truck Stop, Polar Bears, and Mischief (current team). You can email him at stats@ultiworld.com.

  2. Husayn Carnegie
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    Husayn Carnegie is an Ultiworld contributor. He started playing Ultimate at NYU and became a standout player in the Metro East as a captain his senior year. He most recently played for District 5 (Connecticut) and the AUDL's Connecticut Constitution. He lives in Maine.

  3. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the Business Development Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email (keith@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

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