May 23, 2015 by Patrick Stegemoeller and Simon Pollock in Coverage with 4 comments
UNC 15 – 11 Maryland
With few clouds in the sky, the temperature started to rise this round in Pool C on the men’s side. North Carolina squared off with Maryland, both playing their first game of the day. Illinois, coming off a rough loss to Oregon, took on a formidable Florida State.
A Maryland win would have drastically changed and evened the playing field here in the Pool, but North Carolina took command early with stifling defense and kept the lead all the way to a wide margin win at 15-11. Though Maryland had perhaps the most experience and preparation for the plethora of Darkside defenses, Jon Nethercutt, Ben Snell, JD Hastings, and Matt Gouchoe-Hanas had little trouble breaking Maryland marks.
There were bright spots for Maryland early in the first half, mostly from great defensive plays by John “Jonny Frisbee” Walden and Ryan Swift in deep space on hucks from Nethercutt and Snell. Nate Pascale drew the matchup with Snell and was a frustrating mark, generating pressure and a turn in the first half on the bigger Darkside captain.
The biggest difference-maker was defense, as has been the story for North Carolina so far this tournament. Calls from the sidelines effectively helped Darkside marks shift their force at critical moments entirely up-field, taking away any resets to the Maryland backfield and pushing throws far across the field or into the defense.
With the victory, UNC controls Pool C at 3-0 and will likely rest a bit in their afternoon matchup with Oregon.
Florida State 15 – 11 Illinois
As Darkside pulled away from the Space Bastards, Florida State battled through a bad cases of drops against Illinois. The latter team has been dialed in on their hucks early during most first halves, and Nick Prozorovsky has been a goal scoring machine when his teammates can find him with footsteps. The outcome in this game wasn’t nearly as clear as it’s Pool C counterpart this round, but a re-focusing huddle in the first half helped FSU take control and pull away for a 15-11 win.
The FSU drops kept Prozorovsky and his team alive in the first half, and they overcame a slight deficit to put DUF on their heals at 7-7. A lack of physicality was frustrating the Florida State leadership early on, and in a first half timeout coaches asked specifically that their players put more emphasis on hitting the deck.
Pulling at 8-7 out of half, FSU took the call for bids on defense to heart and immediately started to influence Illinois mistakes. Both Larocque brothers were very strong in the second half, and though Illinois still got their shots, there was little question about which team would control the rest of the game. DUF picked up two breaks to start the half and never looked back, ending the game on a strike of a hammer from Andrew Roney to Drew Larocque.
With the loss, Illinois hangs level with Maryland at 1-2 in the pool, but they have the head to head win and the edge should it come to a tie after today’s 2:30 round.
The win pushes FSU to 2-1 and ahead of the rest of the pack. A win over Maryland will seal them into second place in Pool C and likely produce a matchup with Texas A&M if results hold.
A Maryland win would make the pool interesting, especially if Oregon manages a win over a likely resting UNC. In that case, Maryland, FSU, and Oregon would all sit at 2-2 and tiebreakers would come into effect.
Colorado 15 – 10 Cornell
With a showdown against Massachusetts for the top spot in Pool D looming this afternoon, Mamabird used this game against Cornell as a chance to work on some poacher zone looks that they may utilize today against UMass or perhaps at a later stage in the weekend. The 2-3-2 zone that has grown in popularity the past few years did a good job of shutting down Cornell’s early action and making them move the disc around a lot before they could get anything open downfield.
Against a team like Cornell that doesn’t have tremendous disc skills, forcing them to make a lot of throws can lead to easy turns off of simple physical errors, and Colorado got more than one break after a Cornell drop or throwaway.
Several of Mamabird’s top players took points off at the end of the game, in anticipation of needing those legs for their game against UMass. Trailing 8-4 at halftime, Cornell cleaned up their offense against Colorado’s looser lines and kept the game respectable, at one point narrowing the deficit to 3 points, but Colorado was never flustered and cruised through the second half to take the game 15-10.
Minnesota Outlasts Texas A&M 15-13, Goes 3-0
It was a great match, livestreamed on the showcase field, as Minnesota Grey Duck went toe-to-toe against Texas A&M and pulled out the close win 15-13.
“It was a tight game,” said Coach Tallis Boyd after the win, “They’re a good team, and they’ve got a couple guys who are really good.”
Those guys would be Dalton Smith and Matt Bennett of Dozen Ultimate. Dalton Smith returned from a leg cramping injury yesterday, but mainly played only offenses points, unusual for him; his counterpart played nearly every single line.
Those two were the studs as usual for Texas A&M, and along with emerging stars like Carson Smith (Dalton’s younger brother, a freshman) and veterans Ben Lewis and Bobby Lewis, they showed why Dozen was named the #2 seed overall. It was a great game, most notably on the throwing side, for the boys from Texas.
But Minnesota had stars too, guys like Ben Jagt whose height saved Grey Duck more than once on high stall floaters, and Josh Klane and Soham Shah who were the rocks in the backfield for their offense. What made the difference in the end was the many names you can (or can’t) list after Minnesota’s top three, especially those guys on the defensive end who few people talk about, but who stepped up to get breaks.
After trading initial points to go 2-2, with Dalton Smith showing early that while he wasn’t playing every other, he was still the dominant force of old, Minnesota turned a tight swing pass, and A&M attacked. Ian Smith found Matt Bennett for the goal to lead 3-2.
Trading to 4-4, A&M worked the disc to the goal line before Matt Bennet threw a tight turnover that hit the turf. Smith and Bennett are no strangers to throwing the disc away (when you play and touch the disc as often as they do, it is bound to happen, and they are aggressive and creative with their throws); in this game, he was largely under control.
Still, this one mattered. Tight defense near the upwind endzone led to the turn. Minnesota hucked (it was called back on a travel) and then hucked again with Haus scoring to break and take the lead5-4.
Back on serve, A&M turned another swing. Minnesota’s defensive line played admirably, but contains a bevy of speedy players who most people can’t name. Van de Moortele is the center distributor when they get a chance, and he threw a nice I/O break to score upwind 6-4.
Dozen had to go back up against the wind, but they showed remarkable poise and confidence throughout in moving the disc that direction. It was all give-and-gos this point between the duo of Smith and Bennett before a floaty turn near the endzone gave Minnesota a chance. Grey Duck squandered their shot and A&M got the O with a Smith I/O break, Dozen then putting Dalton Smith on defense for the first time. It would pay off big.
A nice pull into the corner from Bennett and tight 3-3-1 junk forced a long pass that couldn’t be caught on the sideline. Dalton Smith did not hesitate, hucking a huge downwind backwind to a diving Ochoa to make it 6-6 with Minnesota receiving on serve.
The zone was thrown again but it was a smooth downwind point for Grey Duck, Klane to Osgar to Jagt along the near side for a quick score 7-6.
Minnesota got another chance, Anderson defending an (underthrown) huck by Dalton Smith. But they wasted another shot and A&M got it back with Smith’s defense. He would throw the goal to his brother to tie it at 7.
Minnesota got the first of two lucky breaks with the observers in this game. First, near the endzone, a three-player collision ensued leading to a drop. The observers sent the disc back on a contested foul without a ruling and Grey Duck scored quickly, Mekler to Klane to take half.
In such a tight game, it was a simple matter of how to get breaks. Both teams experimented with zone in the wind, A&M relying on a tight 3-3-1 completely, as it gave them chances. Minnesota faced pressure and gave a few turnovers, mostly on hucks or contested swings. But A&M only got blocks from their stars; Dalton Smith baiting deep shots in the zone, with Matt Bennett playing rover in the lane, were the only ways they could have their studs on the line. If they went man, the two would likely be too tired to make an impact.
Not true for Minnesota. The second half saw the unknown defenders of Grey Duck come up big. After trading to 10-9, Reese Hornnes came up with a big layout block on an under cut and Polleto fired a deep bomb to a skying Mahoney, nabbing the upwinder.
A&M continued to show incredible confidence in themselves. They had the disc on the back of their goal line, moving upwind, after Dalton Smith failed to stop a bladey pull, but they still worked it calmly up the field twice, only to fire a hammer from Smith to a diving Ben Lewis, who made an incredible catch in the upwind endzone right on the line’s edge (the play of the day, if not the weekend). Lewis had made a similar layout to end the game against Cincinnati the previous day.
Minnesota seemed to have more trouble moving it upwind, several times having to rely on big skies from their cutters; Kautz snagged one and then caught the goal for 12-10 upwind.
A&M worked it to the endzone, but had a goal line turnover yet again. As the space grew smaller, Minnesota’s man defense grew tighter. Dalton Smith got the disc back with a nice sky deep d, but Anderson for Grey Duck would play excellent defense on the ensuing possession, denying the upline for Smith, pressuring the reset, and forcing a too-far scoober. Anderson was rewarded further when streaked deep and took home the 13-10 break goal with time running out.
A&M continued to fight, scoring on O and then turning on the defensive pressure and got another chance, with a Dalton Smith lefty backhand assist leading to a 12-13. Minnesota would get another lucky no-call then; after Dalton Smith defended a bladey huck in the zone, the contested foul was again lacking a ruling from the observer, which sent it back and Klane was much calmer in moving against the 3-3-1 after that. A slow march led to a Kautz goal, 14-12.
A huck-filled point ensued, but despite numerous D’s and turns, A&M found Bennett the other way. It was 14-13 and A&M had to break to survive. They almost pulled it off. In a tight 3-3-1 zone, Klane was forced into a stall 8 hammer that floated above three players. Ben Jagt, as he has done numerous times, came up huge to grab it. Then, ten yards out, Dalton Smith leapt up to block a swing on the mark, but Josh Klane’s quick hands caught his own throw and the last gasp was over. A hammer from Shah to Jagt ended it 15-13.
Dalton Smith and Matt Bennett are beasts and it’s a shame to see their team fall to 1-2 in the pool, but they simply didn’t have the legs to win.
“You can only try,” Boyd said in regards to neutralizing the two. “They’re really effective, but we have some good handler defenders to slow them down, and then we had good cutter matchups downfield.”
The duo couldn’t do it all, and specifically Dozen Ultimate’s defensive line had trouble getting the blocks that would lead to breaks. Smith turned it on late to help the defensive unit, but his sitting clearly hurt them for the majority of the game. If he had been out, this would have been no contest.
On the other hand, some quietly talented defenders for Minnesota got the late defensive goals (two over only one from Texas A&M) that made the difference.
Central Florida Cruises to 3-0, beating Cincinnati 15-10
There were just too many weapons for Central Florida and they ended up dominating Cincinnati 15-10.
Bullock is the man on offense, Brawley his counterpart for the defensive line, distributing freely to dominant cutters like goal-leader Stuart Little and key man Michael Fairley. Add in Jeremy Langdon and a host of role players, and this team couldn’t be matched.
UCF was shooting the ball freely and Cincinnati couldn’t take advantage of the few mistakes provided, including a dropped pull early on by the Dogs of War. Cinci looked a bit tired and a bit defeated, the sidelines quieter, the ability to cut the zone lessened.
It was put away in the first half 8-5, going to 10-5 at one point. Cincinnati made a late run to their credit, but UCF was playing true lines on O, far more open lines on D, and knew they had the thing in hand.
The Big Picture
Cincinnati heads straight into their final matchup with the also winless Western Washington, hoping to pull out a win for pride’s sake, and a very faint chance at the bracket (should Texas A&M fall to Western, it would lead to a theoretical three way tie for third with 1-3 teams).
With so much talk about Cinci and their decision to abandon Huck Finn, others may say they don’t belong here after their first three games. That simply is not true, as they are definitely a top 20 team; nevertheless, they are definitely in the bottom half of that twenty.
Central Florida, undefeated, has to win one more to take the pool, the bye into a soft quarters, and the far more likely chance at semis. But Minnesota has proven they too have depth to fight.
Grey Duck and the Dogs of War face off in the live-streamed 2:30 game for the pool, both undefeated, while a tired Texas A&M takes on Western Washington that same round.
The battle for the top will be yet another tight one and will be great to watch. Two similar teams, both ready and willing to bomb it to tall receivers, both with a horde of defenders, and each showing that depth is important at Nationals.
The test will be the defensive units; which group can capitalize on the mistakes of their opponents most efficiently? Each has proven they can play sloppy and waste chances, as well as make mistakes. It will be a game of athletic plays, with team defense the star of the show in this College Nationals.