Central Florida and UNC Both Look For Return To National Final: Preview Presented By Ultimate Central

UNC and the Towel Squad.
Part of the UNC Towel Squad. Photo: Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com

In 2013, UCF shocked the country with their semifinals domination of a stacked Carleton team. In 2014, UNC made easy work of a red hot UNC Wilmington that had unshakable energy all tournament. Tonight they’ll meet for the fourth time this season. UNC can now be considered a national powerhouse. UCF has been impressive, but no one expected them to make this sort of run into the semi-finals. Darkside may be thanking the Dogs of War for removing tournament favorite Pitt from their path, but UCF has plans of their own. Finals, or bust.

Mike Denardis has gotten his squad to their second straight semifinal by taking out former champions Colorado. Jon Nethercutt has played extremely well, creating the initial matchup issue for the Dogs of War. UNC also utilizes the deepest of defensive rosters. Contributions come from everywhere, including two players who have now returned after injuries during the regular season: Tim McAllister and Vikram Sethuraman. They’ll need their depth for a UCF team that only had three second half turns against Pittsburgh.

“Brawley and Jeremy play a lot of points, but they knew going into the season that that was their job,” said UCF head coach Andrew Roca. UCF was able to loosen up lines slightly against Pittsburgh, mainly because of their contribution from the younger players. “We’re finding out how we win games,” said Roca. UCF will have around eight hours to plan for Darkside, and they may need every second to plan out their assignments.

There are two main matchups that could decide the outcome. UNC’s JD Hastings will lock down on UCF handler Alex Bullock and attempt to keep him from breaking through the Darkside junk zone. Bullock unleashed hammers against Pitt, but the weather has gotten progressively worse. Over the tops may be difficult for the Dogs of War in the chilly rain.

UCF will more than likely put Brawley Adams on Nethercutt, who played all but three points of UNC’s quarterfinal against Colorado. Adams is a physical defender, and he’ll do his best to throw Nethercutt off his game. Jeremy Langdon may take this matchup in an attempt to give Nethercutt a bigger mark to deal with, but that could leave Ben Snell open downfield, creating an issue for the UCF defense. And with Nethercutt currently tied for the most assists at nationals, Snell knows how to get open.

It will be interesting to see what direction UNC goes defensively against the Dogs. Clearly UCF has no fear of attacking the deep space with Adams and Langdon feeding big men Michael Fairley and Stuart Little downfield. Snell is the biggest of the UNC lockdown defenders and can handle on Little and Fairley, but the draw for the other remains unclear. UNC may even choose to try and avoid assignments by deploying one of their fresh junk zone looks. Their clam and 3-man cup zone looks gave Colorado fits in the quarterfinals and could bring them continued success in the semi.

Carolina had particularly good results with their zone look that flexes off of handlers in the middle of the field with a clam-like wall behind them. Once the disc moves to a sideline, two handler guards combine with the middle of the wall to form a trap cup on thrower, with the last guard manning up the first dump reset. UCF had no trouble with Pittsburgh’s zone look, showing comfort throwing over the top and through the cup off of handler crashes, but UNC’s look is very disciplined and could be equipped to adjust. If Carolina can generate turns in their zone, they will likely win the game–they are able to add Nethercutt to most zone D-lines and he is, as expected, absolutely deadly running the D-line offense with a high break conversion rate.

Both of these teams have avenged their title losses — UCF over Pitt and UNC over Colorado — before meeting up tonight, and now both will look to the future with an opportunity at their fingertips.

  1. Preston Thompson
    Avatar

    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 (preston.james.thompson@gmail.com) or follow him on Twitter (@pston3).

  2. Cody Mills
    Cody Mills

    Cody Mills is an Ultiworld contributor. He is a former captain and coach of the Stanford men's team and currently coaches Cal Poly SLOCORE. Before retiring due to injury in 2014 he played club for Boost FC and in the MLU for the San Francisco Dogfish. He also runs frisbee-rankings.com

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