College Championships: Pool B, Round 3 Recap (Men’s), Presented by Ultimate Central

Texas A&M and UCF battled tight in the 1-2 pool play matchup, but UCF's victory gives them an inside track looking ahead to bracket play.

UCF’s Depth Overcomes A&M’s Stars, Winning 14-11

Central Florida’s all-around depth and strength — and a cramping Dalton Smith — led them to a 14-11 win over Texas A&M.

The game started sloppy with both teams unafraid to attack the breakspace with creative throws and to huck it deep with abandon. After a long beginning, Central Florida’s “Kid” Bullock connected with Stuart Little (ironically, one of UCF’s tall deep threats) for the 1-0 break.

The first portion of the game was back and forth, with many turns from each group. UCF and Texas A&M were both playing their studs both ways, with Dalton Smith and Matt Bennett essential on every single point throughout for Dozen Ultimate. Central Florida, due to their depth, had a little bit more leeway, but their top dogs were still going as often as they could.

A&M at first seemed unaffected. Multi-turn points ensued, but Dozen reeled off three straight, the third point coming after a Dalton Smith handblock and then a blade huck to Robert Lewis.

UCF clearly knew who their targets were. Calls of “Goose! Goose!” were screamed from the sideline every time Dalton Smith had the disc, and conversely “Maverick!” was the codename for Matt Bennett.

“They’re great players…We kept switching different players onto them,” said Jeremy Langdon. “And I think it really paid off.”

The Dogs of War knew that these two would try to play every point, and so they responded, doing their best to wear them down, everyone else aware and backing when one of those two had the disc.

The strategy would pay off big later in the game, but for the first half, Smith and Bennett continued to do what they always do: shine. Dalton Smith had an excellent layout greatest, threw hammers and hucks from every angle, and though he had a lot of turnovers, he was critical in the 3-3-1 junk zone that A&M loves. Bennett was the same, with inside breaks, lots of bombs, and even more assists.

UCF kept fighting though, and there would be numerous names to fill up their stat sheet: Langdon, Fairley, Little, Helms, Murphy, Marks, Bullock, and more, showing that though they lacked as big of names, they had deeper legs.

Helms hucked to Langdon to break back and tie the game at 3-3, and UCF was also proving early that they could move the ball around.

Each team was firing loose, and while A&M continued to throw their junk zone, Central Florida seemed to be able to shred through it. The hucks continued from both sides as they traded points. UCF eventually got a break to go 6-5.

Fairley, especially for the Dogs, seemed to be in the critical spot on the critical points; later in the first half, Dalton Smith partially blocked a huck on the mark, but Fairley was there under the floating disc in the endzone, and he skied a pack of defenders to take the offensive point 8-7.

The second half saw UCF go up 9-7, before an A&M hold brought it to 9-8. Yet another long, multiple turn point ensued and this was to be the critical one.

After several back and forth minutes, Dalton Smith got a big block defending his team’s goal line. However, he immediately called injury and limped off, someone rushing over to stretch out the cramp in his leg.

As in Top Gun, “Goose” had left “Maverick” to battle alone.

A&M fought halfway down the field before Bennett was trapped on the sideline; stuck at stall 9, he blasted a huck to Land to break and tie it at 9-9.

But the damage was done, both because of the long, battling points of this game and because of the tight one earlier for A&M vs Cinci. Dalton Smith sat out for the first time all game.

He was out for the next four points in fact, and those four points UCF scored. A&M struggled to find easy resets with just Bennett, still playing hard and still playing non-stop, as the dominant handler. He seemed the only one able to break the mark easily — Carson Smith (Dalton’s brother) had a great game overall, especially playing both offense and defense with hucks, along with veteran Ben Lewis — but the flow was broken and stilted without Dalton.

Oftentimes, Dozen Ultimate was stuck and forced into high-stalls, which led to hucks and turnovers, and other small injuries slowed them down as well.

Dalton Smith would not return. Asked after the game about the injury, he confirmed it was cramping. “I’ll play,” he said, when asked about later games.

At 12-9, a point lasted about twenty minutes and both teams seemed eager to be done with the game, to rest and move on. Both teams shot several times deep, missing or misreading long chances, eventually leading to a UCF score and soft cap. Surprisingly, Bennett kept playing, even in the late game long points, when the match was clearly out of reach.

Eventually, it went to hardcap and UCF won 14-11.

The Dogs of War credited their depth with the victory and are focused on winning the next game. “I think we need to keep our eyes on the road ahead,” said Langdon. “Yeah we beat the first seed in our pool, but that doesn’t mean we can cruise by the next two teams.”

For UCF, they are in the driver’s seat. But they’ll still face challenges; Cincinnati and Minnesota will both smell an improved chance to reach quarters.

As for A&M, the eyes will be on Smith. When he and Bennett play together, they can be truly unstoppable. But if one is out, or both are off, the team really struggles to score. How long can Dozen Ultimate keep such play up, even if Smith does return? Is a deep run into the bracket realistic at this point if those two can’t sit?

The truth is, UCF sees the road to semis, and A&M will need to get their legs under them, if they want a shot at a decent prequarter.

Minnesota Takes First Win Over Western Washington 14-12

It wasn’t pretty, but Grey Duck has their first win under their belts.

“Tough game,” said Josh Klane after the match. “Great defense, but couldn’t convert the way we wanted to on defense. That’s something that we have to change.”

Indeed, that’s the big storyline to this one. Both teams looked athletic and fast, each made great plays, but each also had a lot of turnovers and a lot of chances to surge ahead.

Minnesota’s defensive line was getting the larger share of the turnovers, but also really struggled to finish in the red zone. Credit to Dirt as, similar to their first game against UCF, they made their opponents work, grinding on every single one, their O-line playing top-notch defense to hold on to the disc.

Tim Schwisow played very well for Western Washington, really pushing the momentum downfield and threatening in the endzone, as did Matt Russell as another go-to guy.

Both teams experimented with zone, Western using theirs as more of a trap in the gusty conditions, while Grey Duck played a bit more center-junk to mess with their opponent’s offensive sets.

In the end, however, Minnesota’s man defense looked better, as their athleticism ensured they were tight to their man throughout.

Minnesota’s offensive side was tested, but overall shined the brightest in this long, grueling game.

Josh Klane played well in his return for Grey Duck, as did Reese Hornnes, and Soham Shah, their Callahan nominee.

“Offense played solid,” said Klane. “It’s really not a one-man show… we got a ton of guys, we got a deep line. We got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things. Our O-line is money, our D-line needs to convert when we have the chance.”

Grey Duck has things to work on moving forward, but is eager for the next match, a 4:30 game against Cincinnati. “It’s another team,” said Klane, remarking that there isn’t the level of animosity against Cinci as most people think. “We got a good look at them this morning. They’re a solid team, we’re gonna play them hard, but they’re just another team.”

It will be a critical game to determine positioning in this pool that is already seeing shift.

For Western Washington, they’ll have to go home 0-2 before getting to see Cincinnati tomorrow and hoping to garner their first Nationals win.

  1. Alex Rummelhart
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    Alex "UBER" Rummelhart is an Ultiworld reporter. He majored in English at the University of Iowa, where he played and captained IHUC. He lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois, where he has played for several ultimate teams, including the Chicago Wildfire and Chicago Machine. Alex loves writing of all types, especially telling interesting and engaging stories. He is the author of the novel The Ultimate Outsider, one of the first fictional works ever written about ultimate.

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