Ring of Fire Gets Revenge on Florida United: Prequarters Recap (Men’s)

Josh Mullen (Ring of Fire #3).
Josh Mullen (Ring of Fire #3). Photo: Jolie J Lang — UltiPhotos.com.

Ring of Fire avenged a Southeast region loss to Florida United today with the stakes infinitely higher. At the end of Thursday, Ring coach Mike Denardis was thinking ahead to their upcoming matchup. “We had some hiccups in that first game, and they ran away with it,” said Denardis. “I think our guys are headstrong enough that it’s not a big deal.” Headstrong was the perfect word for it.

Before the game even started, you could say a few things for certain: it was going to be chippy, and it was going to be close. The game started with sloppy offense from both teams. Turn after turn gave the Ring defenses chances that they wouldn’t spoil. Ring started up 1-0 with a goal from Dennis Tarasi. 

They kept that energy up through what is now considered classic Ring of Fire fashion: booing themselves. Some, like Stephen Bender, even went as far as cheering for Florida United for the entirety of the game. The energy of the sideline from Ring completely drained Florida, while on the field Raleigh’s O-line defense was clutch in making sure they kept the game in hand.

United was able to stay in it early by utilizing trust throws. With the disc stuck on the sideline, Cole Sullivan pointed deep from the back of the stack while standing perfectly still. Mischa Freystaetter put a huck past the defender, at which point Cole finally attacked it for the goal. This small moment was the jumpstart that helped their offense take shape.

Florida United got their first and only lead at 5-4, when Nethercutt dropped a centering pass off the pull from Jared Inselmann. With a short field, United was patient for the break. For the most part the Florida offense seemed happy to huck it on offense, with a relatively low percentage of success. A zone look from Raleigh took away the Florida break, and they were quickly trailing again.

The break chances for both teams kept coming, but the defense from the O-lines held firm. Both teams were prepared for the sloppy points, and Raleigh’s energy was the difference maker. “That’s one of my biggest must-have’s,” said Denardis after the game. “The energy has to be in the right spot.”

That high level intensity certainly has its downfalls. Around five-all, Mitch Dengler issued the first TMF of the game to Ring of Fire for aggressive marks. Ring of Fire would eventually total three TMF’s for physical play while United received one technical for swearing.

With the score at 7-6 in favor of Raleigh, the game had a pivotal moment. A sloppy turn from Florida led to an immediate shot deep to Roy Williams, who was covered by Cole Sullivan. The heavy reliance on Sullivan showed, as Williams had plenty of space to run under it for the score and the 8-6 halftime lead.

Halftime is vital for teams like Florida. For a team that feeds off of each other’s energy, United needed to bring it together in that ten minute period and start believing they could get the breaks back. But instead the sideline was quiet. Players were throwing while the Raleigh sideline behind them laughed and danced their way into a team huddle. Ring would not give up the lead, or even be broken twice in a row, for the rest of the game.

A stall nine throw out of half for Ring of Fire was a lucky break that broke the hearts of Florida. The deficit was beginning to seem insurmountable. Another break soon after put the scoreline at 11-8. Then United found life in Chris LaRocque, who picked up a turn and threw an immediate cross field blade perfectly into the hands of Alton Gaines. Suddenly, there was a burst of energy from the Florida squad.

On the following point, a third TMF for Ring forced the Raleigh offense to start inside their own endzone. The momentum seemed to be completely with Florida. A turn gave United a short field to work with, but they couldn’t capitalize. The momentum was snatched away as Raleigh held for a 12-9 lead.

Another Florida break to close it down to 13-12 couldn’t phase Ring of Fire. Jarret Bowen shouted, “47 points until we’re national champions!” as they took the field on offense. Ring closes out the tight contest 15-13, earning a spot in the quarterfinals against Machine.

In a tough loss, Mischa Freystaetter was a standout player. He totaled six assists and two goals, making him by far the most valuable asset to the young United team. In Ken Porters first game of Ring of Fire’s Nationals campaign, he registered one block, one score, and one assist. His ability to get open downfield was priceless for both Inselmann and Nethercutt in the backfield.

“We had a gameplan that was way better than the one at Regionals,” said DeNardis after the game. “We stuck to it and it got us momentum early.” The energy level that Ring plays with is no accident. And not only does it help win games, but it helps ramp up throughout the tournament as well. “I still don’t think this is our best game,” DeNardis noted. The addition of Jared Inselmann makes this a more dynamic team offensively, but they’ll have to be more consistent to take on Chicago Machine.

“I know them well,” said Denardis. “We have to prepare ourselves just like every other game, for the next opponent.”

  1. Preston Thompson
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    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).

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