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Old Favorites Advance, But the Fan Favorite Does Not: Quarterfinals Recap (Mixed)

San Francisco Polar Bears 14-13 Chicago UPA

For the second bracket game in a row, San Francisco Polar Bears flipped a halftime deficit into a universe point victory, this time upsetting the red hot Chicago The UPA 14-13 in quarters.

Though PBR notched an early break at 4-2, they fell back on serve at 6-5 and would trade with UPA through 11-10, at which point Chicago secured a crucial late game break to take their first two-point lead of the game.

With time winding down and needing to get an upwind hold and a downwind seal to get back in the game, San Francisco received a pivotal gift.

The observers handed Chicago their third TMF of the game—this one for cursing—meaning that PBR got to start their offensive possession at the reverse brick mark upwind (that is, 20 yards outside of their attacking endzone). PBR scored easily and placed UPA in the tough situation of needing to convert an O-point upwind to maintain the advantage.

The UPA failed to do so. And on their second chance to do so of the point, San Francisco completed the break downwind and forced a 13-13 double game point.

Chicago worked it down before placing a horizontal pass a bit too far. Although PBR committed a potentially game-ending drop, UPA returned the favor with one of their own, giving San Francisco the disc upwind with about 40 yards to go. In classic PBR fashion, the Bears stayed disciplined and didn’t take any look that wasn’t open. After about 15+ passes, Sam Adamson found Clay Miller on a bailout cross-cut, and Miller would break continue to An-Chi Tsou for the game.

The San Francisco team then proceeded to lose their minds with excitement. After a Thursday that almost saw them lose to Seattle BirdFruit, PBR returned Friday to defeat two great teams, Atlanta Bucket and Chicago UPA, in electrifying fashion.

Greg Marliave turned in a dominant performance with five goals and two assists, and Miller added in one goal and five assists of his own.

Captain Daniel Naruo said PBR wanted to take advantage of their young legs and run UPA into the ground.

They did just that.

The handful of long points gave San Francisco the advantage. Their disciplined cutting based on fundamental setups and lots of painstaking effort, along with their tight person defense and aggressive marks, wore down the much older veteran team.

After their storybook run, Chicago must be looking back at this game and wondering what happened. For a team with an average age of 34 and one player as old as 52, to think that this group of adults likely wouldn’t have lost the game if they hadn’t been caught saying any “bad words” must be deeply puzzling. It must be even more surreal for a team named The UPA to lose a game due in large part to a dubious rule instated by USA Ultimate. The curiousness is almost too much.

As for PBR, they’ll have a chance to return to their former glory and play in their fifth title game in only their sixth year of existence.

In order to do so, they’ll have to go through Seattle Mixtape on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT, a semifinals draw that seems much less doomed after the latter nearly fell to Washington D.C. Ambiguous Grey in quarters.

Though PBR and Mixtape play vastly different styles, Naruo isn’t worried about Seattle’s unpredictability or confidence for one simple reason: it doesn’t change how they play defense. “We’re the kind of team that stays tight the whole time,” Naruo said. “You don’t have to do anything different if you stay tight.”

Khalif El-Salaam (Mixtape #99) & Ambiguous Grey in the quarterfinals.
Khalif El-Salaam (Mixtape #99) & Ambiguous Grey in the quarterfinals. Photo: Paul Andris — UltiPhotos.com.

Seattle Mixtape 15-13 Washington D.C. Ambiguous Grey

With the disc eight yards or so outside the upwind endzone, trailing by one, Washington D.C. Ambiguous Grey looked poised to force an advantageous double game point where they’d be pulling downwind and on the verge of a momentous upset over perhaps the hottest team this weekend, Seattle Mixtape.

The stall gets a bit high, but Ambiguous Grey puts up a sweet upline O-I flick that curves around the defender and starts floating down toward the open receiver in the corner of the endzone.

Just then, Khalif El-Salaam poaches off his man and leaps up, side-swiping the disc out of the air just inches away from the receiver’s hands without making any body contact. Just a nice, clean roofing D from the side.

El-Salaam then picks up the disc, walks it up to the corner and rips an arcing backhand huck 80+ yards to Brad Houser for the 15-13 win over Ambiguous Grey.

You couldn’t draw up a more Mixtape way to win.

Even the way they played the entire match reflected the kind of freeform, loose style that got them there in the first place. O- and D-lines mixed and matched. Hucks were put up to cutters who only had a step or two on their defenders. Few, if any, offensive adjustments were made when those shots didn’t connect.

But that’s classic Mixtape swagger. If the hucks aren’t connecting, they’ll just play better D and the rhythms will eventually fall back into place.

The clash of styles against Ambiguous Grey’s conservative, dump-swing approach proved to be quite intriguing.

When Seattle’s huck game ran into difficulties in the rising gusts, Washington D.C. stayed true to their methods and managed to punch in a few breaks to inch back within striking distance whenever Mixtape began pulling away.

When Seattle began the game with two breaks, Washington D.C. clawed their way to a 5-4 lead. When Mixtape broke to half and held out of it to go up 9-7, Ambiguous Grey fought back to even it up at 12s. Even when Seattle got a late break to go up 14-12, Washington D.C. nearly tied it up again at 14s, if it weren’t for El-Salaam’s clutch help block.

Despite the loss, Ambiguous Grey proved throughout the weekend that despite their lackluster regular season results, the team from the nation’s capital was a legitimate contender this year. They would go on to beat Boston Wild Card in the fifth place semis, guaranteeing them a spot alongside next year’s other Pro Flight teams.

Mixtape will march deeper into the bracket with another chance to put on a semis fireworks show for the cameras tomorrow.

Considering how electric just about everyone on their roster has been playing this weekend, only a fool or a cynic would expect anything less.

Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust 15-8 Ames Chad Larson Experience

After trading to 4s, Drag’n Thrust unleashed a 7-1 run on CLX to jump out to a commanding 11-5 lead that they would coast into a 15-8 trouncing.

In a rematch of last year’s semis, Drag’n Thrust looked even sharper and repeatedly capitalized on CLX’s mistakes.

One of the odder things was that, on the whole, Ames didn’t even play that bad. A majority of their turns came on good looks that just barely missed the mark. But on the turn, Minneapolis simply executed like pros.

After steamrolling through pool play and prequarters, CLX hit a lull at the wrong time and against the wrong opponent and were sent packing, potentially ending their program on a less than desirable note.

North Central champions Drag’n Thrust—who won this match by the same score as their Regionals victory—will face off against a surging Boston Slow White in the semifinals for a chance to advance to the title game and fight for the illustrious three-peat.

Based upon how well Slow White has played most of this weekend, however, that opportunity likely won’t be the given that it might appear to be.

Boston Slow White 14-8 Boston Wild Card

Breaking on the first four points of the game and taking half 8-3, Boston Slow White went on to pummel regional rival Boston Wild Card 14-8 to advance to semis for the first time since 2007.

Much like their final pool play game against San Francisco Blackbird, Slow White came out sharp as an ice pick in the first half, connecting on shot after shot and moving the disc with precision. Before Wild Card knew it, the score was 7-2.

Though the wind would pick up and the second half would be much slower and filled with turnovers on both sides, Wild Card never really had a shot at climbing back into the match.

For the first time since Boston Invite in June, Slow White was finally able to best a neighbor squad that’s tended to have their number for the last few years.

Slow White will hope to ride this momentum into their toughest match of the weekend, semis against Drag’n Thrust tomorrow. If they can make Minneapolis work the same way that Blackbird and Madison NOISE did, they might be in good shape.

  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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