Ring Takes Down Regional Rival Chain Lightning In Quarters

In one of their biggest matchups ever, Ring of Fire beat Chain Lightning for just the second time since 2008.

Ring of Fire wins their quarterfinal vs. Chain Lightning at the 2014 National Championships.
Photo by Christina Schmidt — UltiPhotos.com

“There are some chips on some shoulders, for all parties involved.” – Chain Lightning coach Martin Aguilera

In yet another salvo in the long history between Atlanta Chain Lightning and Raleigh Ring of Fire, Ring’s stout defense made the difference in their 12-10 quarterfinals victory. It was just Ring’s second victory against Chain since 2008.

Defensive Heat

Ring’s defensive game plan was centered around making Atlanta throw the disc as much as possible. Chain’s Jared Inselmann, Tyler Conger, and Nicky Spiva all faced flat marks, and aggressive down field defense. Raleigh basically allowed the break throws to come off, knowing that Chain’s lateral movement would have to face their tight coverage.

“Our defense has been getting stronger and stronger throughout the tournament,” said Ring of Fire coach Mike DeNardis. “It was a long game, and our defense caused them to get tired. That’s their job.” Chains “tired” came in the form of five turnovers right before half, two of which were converted for breaks.

Ring’s physical flat marks put Chain in constant tight throw situations. Two feet of separation became “open,” and one foot of separation was layout D territory. Ring’s Hunter Taylor knew this all too well. This is Taylor’s first real tournament with Raleigh, having spent most of the year recovering from an injury. “He’s been coming to practice, asking questions, and just has a great attitude,” DeNardis said. “The kid’s fantastic.” Fantastic seems like a fair assessment. Three layout blocks (one included a follow-up bookends score) along with an immense amount of physical pressure made him a real game changer for the Raleigh defense.

Players like Taylor helped make up for Ring’s offensive woes, getting all the breaks back, and going up one to take half 8-7.

Chains D-Line Offense Struggles

It became clear early on that Chain was in desperate need of a handler presence on defense. Sometimes it came in the form of Jay Clark, on Ben Spear, but it only worked for one break in the first half. And the chances weren’t sparse. Ring ran a very aggressive offense in the first half, giving Atlanta plenty of chances to capitalize. Some ill advised throws from veterans, on top of some lock down O line defense by Ring made breaking more of a challenge than it normally is.

Chain’s mantra this week has been to force blocks in the form of late stall throws. That works, but in a game that thrives on momentum and energy, your team will occasionally need a layout D. Most big plays came when the Chain offense needed to get the disc back after a turn, but for the D-line, only Taylor Goforth managed to make a strong defensive play (two blocks).

Overall, the Ring offense showed some experience and grit by locking down on defense on the many times a Jon Nethercutt throw would sail. As for Chain, the younger players were very successful (Austin Taylor with three goals to start the game), but not enough to slow down Ring.

Thriving on Adversity

After the game, Ultiworld asked Coach Mike Denardis about the adversity faced having one of the hardest paths to semifinals. “Well thats a North Carolina tradition isn’t it?” he said. “If you say we can’t do it, we’re gonna show you we can.”

The adversity in the Chain game came at the end, when after a Chain TMF, they failed to convert a red-zone possession for the game-winning score. The “overcoming adversity” came in the form of Micah Hood. Chain immediately seized the opportunity for the tying break with a full field huck to Jay Clark. Clark had a step, but Hood came from behind to lay out and give Ring another offensive chance to win. Hood then led a short game march down the field, capping it off with a goal of his own to win.

  1. Preston Thompson

    Preston Thompson has been a staff writer for Ultiworld since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama where he played for four years. He started playing ultimate in the AFDC in Atlanta, GA in 2009. You can reach him by e-mail ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@pston3).

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