Ending UNC Wilmington’s Run, North Carolina Reaches Finals

On the back of Jon Nethercutt's five second half assists, most of which were perfect hucks, North Carolina ended UNC Wilmington’s storybook run with a 15-10 win to move on to the National final.

Jon Nethercutt grabs the disc past a bidding UNC Wilmington defender in the semifinals of the 2014 College Championships.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

When it comes to a sport like ultimate, it’s tough to say any one person could be responsible for a team winning or losing a game, but North Carolina’s Jonathan Nethercutt did his best in the second half of the last semifinals match to make a case for the value of a singular performance.

On the back of his five second half assists, most of which were eye-rubbingly perfect hucks, North Carolina ended UNC Wilmington’s storybook run with a 15-10 win to move on to the National final.

The victory can in no way be attributed solely to Nethercutt, but when someone repeatedly unloads the kind of seriously on-point deep shots he rattled off toward the end, even a team as hot as the Seamen don’t stand much of a chance.

In fact, Darkside’s entire performance left little room for their opponent to gain leverage. UNC amassed four breaks by halftime and never let up.

Jacob Mouw and Christian Johnson each contributed two goals and three assists, and solid contributions across board made it difficult for UNC-W to know what to focus on stopping.

Darkside’s aggressive defense helped protect the momentum they established on offense, as UNC defenders worked hard all game long to be physical and contest a majority of the unders.

Perhaps more importantly, Darkside managed to stay close enough on the streaking cutters to go up with the athletic Seamen players and challenge the floaty hucks.

“When jump balls went up we weren’t playing catch up, and we were right there with them and able to get better positioning,” Nethercutt said.

UNCW coach Greg Vassar also noted Darkside’s exceptional defensive strategy, saying that UNC’s laser pulls that rolled out of bounds threw his team off their deep game.

With their deep game largely neutralized, Wilmington was forced to work the disc down the field and consistently find their resets.

Though they were able to do so a number of times, they lacked the patience and execution to rely on a strategy less familiar to them than their common huck-and-sky style.

At times, the Seamen offense looked great. The hucks were silky and the continues would come. Plenty of other times, however, they just couldn’t complete the throws or find their flow.

UNC handed them plenty of chances, especially early on. Darkside had four O line turns in the first half, all of them Nethercutt’s. UNCW converted none of them.

One of Darkside’s O points in the second half even featured four turnovers, and the Seamen gave it right back each time.

UNCW appeared to come into the match loose, even playing a fun-looking game of Monarch — essentially the playground activity of Tag with a disc — during warm-ups.

For whatever reason, however, they just couldn’t figure it out down the stretch.

Guys like Nick Jackson, who recorded five goals and two assists, and Jack Williams, who found the endzone three times, put in strong performances. But it just wasn’t enough.

Seamen mainstay and O line leader Xavier Maxstadt, in particular, struggled all game long. He threw four turnovers in the second half alone, all on errant hucks.

Numerous players on UNCW had trouble with their commonly reliable deep shots, many of them poor choices thrown into double coverage.

This offensive inefficiency was exacerbated by the Seamen’s lackluster defense, which often left huge separation between them and the Darkside cutters, resulting in plenty of easy completions for UNC.

“Our defense was the story of Regionals,” Vassar said. “And our defense today could not stop them.”

Despite the five-point margin of victory, the match was not an entire wash, the UNCW coach found much to be satisfied with in his team.

“I think we’re very proud and very excited about what we’ve done,” he said. “For us to show a lot of grit and come out and win four games in a row — there’s not a lot of teams that can do that.”

While the Seamen will return home with much to think about and be proud of in their first semifinals appearance since 1995, Darkside will prepare to face off against an increasingly scary Mamabird tomorrow in what will likely prove to be a thrilling championship game.

Nethercutt said his team is excited about the opportunity for a rematch of their Easterns quarterfinals game, noting that Darkside are focused simply on playing their best game.

  1. Alec Surmani
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    Alec Surmani and some close friends began playing ultimate in high school and started Hercules Jabberwocky. He played college ultimate with UCLA Smaug and has played with various Open and Mixed club teams in the (former) Northwest and Southwest divisions. He started and now leads the team Bay Area Donuts.

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