Defending Champion Drag’N Thrust Returns To The Title Game

Drag'N Thrust again took out regional rival Chad Larson Experience.

Drag'N Thrust's Jay Drescher.
Photo by Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com
For a moment, it seemed like Ames’ Chad Larson Experience might upset the defending national and world champions. CLX surged out of half to take a 9-8 lead and looked poised to finally break through to the title game for the first time since 2009.

That moment didn’t last long.

Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust responded with a hold and a break and shortly thereafter put together a 3-0 run. They would coast on that lead to a 15-12 victory and advance to the championship game.

CLX were left to wonder what could have been if only they were a bit more patient or a few more breaks went their way.

Drag’n Thrust will get their chance to repeat as national champions in the final on Sunday, where they’ll play the explosive Seattle Mixed at 11 AM CST.

What began as one of the most efficient offensive displays of the entire weekend — with both teams only turning it over once apiece in the first ten points — slowly degenerated into a collection of hell points that the more experienced Drag’n Thrust managed to weather better.

Minneapolis handlers Austin Lien, Jay Drescher, and Dave Klink anchored the offense on both lines, providing easy resets and putting up massive hucks and hammers throughout the game. Big cutters James Hron and Mike Clark, meanwhile, consistently found space deep and in the middle, helping Drag’n Thrust establish flow and simultaneously create space for their teammates.

As for CLX, cutters Magon Liu and Kathryn Lyons frequently broke free and made key plays, while handlers like Blake Larson and Kurt Brorsen worked hard to distribute the disc. Rebecca Miller, too, brought down some sweet grabs and notched a massive layout D that helped Ames climb back in the game.

At the beginning, though, it looked as though both teams were so skilled on offense that any turnover could be the turning point of the game.

CLX, in particular, repeatedly worked up the break side with a plenitude of inside-out flicks from across their roster early on. And when Drag’n Thrust overcommitted to try and challenge them, CLX simply pivoted and hit the arounds.

Such ease was not to last.

After trading to 5s, Minneapolis held and got a key break to go up 7-5 on the game’s first multiple-turnover point. Coming out of half down 8-6, however, Ames would make a big run to take their first and only lead at 9-8.

It seemed like CLX might finally overtake their North Central rivals. But then Minneapolis turned up the pressure.

Lien said his team came out a bit reserved on defense in the first half, trying to suss out their opponents’ strategy. Once they recognized the strength of CLX’s break game, Drag’n Thrust adjusted their marks. According to Lien, that only left Ames the deep game, which played right into Minneapolis’ hands.

“We’re pretty confident across the roster once the disc is up,” he said.

CLX captain Neal Hanke said that when the defensive intensity and pace of the game picked up, his squad fell a little outside of their system. He said cutters hung out too much in the deep space and left the middle wide open. As a result, when players tried to cut in and attack that space, the defense would read what they wanted.

“We had to make those under cuts but didn’t have the legs to do it,” Hanke said.

The once-flowing CLX offense became a bit more fractured. Handlers put up some risky hucks to downfield players that weren’t that open. Breaks that were there early just weren’t connecting.

To be fair, they had plenty of chances. Some of the second half points were so long and so chock full of turnovers, any of them could have gone either way. But that’s one of the hallmarks of an elite team: they know how to put it together sooner.

Drag’n Thrust certainly made their mistakes. Drescher even had three turnovers in one point. But it didn’t matter. They locked down on D, and eventually figured out a way to punch it in before their opportunities dissolved away.

All tournament long, Minneapolis made it clear that things like their loss in the finals of the U.S. Open and their collapse at Pro Flight Finale signified essentially nothing.

Drag’n Thrust’s timing and chemistry, not to mention their deep and athletic roster, make them a towering force in the division.

They remain the team to beat.

  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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