Semifinal Veterans Ready to Face Off: Semifinals Preview (Mixed)

Saturday’s semifinal matchups in the Mixed Division feature a quartet of teams that have all been there before, most of which must be tired of “merely” getting there.

When Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust and Boston Slow White square off at 12 p.m. CDT and Seattle Mixtape and San Francisco Polar Bears at 1 p.m. CDT, they’ll be fighting for a history that extends further than just Thursday.

Between the Slow White, Mixtape, and PBR there’s a collective total of six second place finishes. Even Drag’n Thrust, the two-time defending champions, has two of their own losses in semis, which brings the total number of Saturday or Sunday eliminations at Nationals within the group to a whopping eight.

Needless to say, none of these teams will be suffering from first-time jitters. If anything, they’ll all be coming out amped up and desperate to redeem past mistakes.

Drag'n Thrust at the 2015 USAU Club Championships.
Photo: Paul Andris — UltiPhotos.com.

Even the resident national and world champs, Drag’n Thrust, will be looking to prove that their shaky early results this weekend were merely hiccups before the real showcase.

Nearly dropping games to Madison NOISE in pool play and San Francisco Blackbird in prequarters are anomalies for the most dominant team of the past two years.

Though they managed to rip through a very good Ames Chad Larson Experience, Drag’n Thrust has looked more fallible this weekend than they have in years. And that kind of peek at vulnerability tends to feed into opponents’ confidence.

Yet, they won’t be the only squad aiming to mentally recover from slip-ups earlier in the tournament.

Slow White got smacked down by Chicago The UPA in pool play. Everything from repeated deep shots being completed to some of their best defenders getting beat upline by a 52-year-old man, Slow White similarly revealed their ability to falter and lose the passionate intensity they’ve cultivated in just about every other one of their matches.

Polar Bears had to win both bracket games on double game point comebacks and have yet to really dominate a top tier contender this weekend. Although, perhaps grinding it out and stealing a victory at the end might continue to be enough.

Even Mixtape, after demolishing Drag’n Thrust in pool play, nearly threw it all away against Washington D.C. Ambiguous Grey in quarters and were only saved by some big plays in the final few points.

Moreover, though both semis provide their own intrigue in terms of styles, it’s tough to tell who has the advantage in either match.

Drag’n Thrust and Slow White play a seemingly similar game.

They like to send it deep but are more than willing to work it up when it’s not available. They feed off their D-line and can be scary good at converting breaks when on their game. And they rely on fiery sidelines to pump them up, especially Minneapolis, who seems to bring their entire extended family to every big tournament.

Both teams have a lot of tall cutters and wily handlers with big puts. Neither is very big on various junk or zone looks and mostly like to play tight person defense.

What this seemingly points to is a game less about strategy and much more so about straight up execution—a situation that, if anything, probably favors Drag’n Thrust and their recent history of showing up in the biggest games.

As for Mixtape and PBR, they’re almost polar opposites.

Seattle is always looking and waiting to jack it deep or go big in some way, and they seemingly only reset the disc or hit unders because they’re forced to. They earn most of their Ds from heads-up awareness and well-timed poaches. And they play and act like the mostly young players that they are: loud, brimming with energy, and interspersed with creative (but rarely aggressive) celebrations.

San Francisco, on the other hand, stays mostly subdued, likes to quietly take care of business and plays a much more conservative game. They don’t huck it much and they stick almost exclusively to tight defense with very few surprises.

Prior to Mixtape’s tight duel with Ambiguous Grey, it would seem like this was a near-guaranteed blowout for Seattle.

But after seeing what a team that values the disc can do against a huck-happy Mixtape when the latter are struggling and the former are on point, it’s tough to say.

PBR is still going to need their best game of the weekend if they expect to have any chance. But underestimating them hasn’t gone so well for some other great teams this weekend.

And if Mixtape’s delightfully inspiring run last year has taught us anything, it’s that you never want to bet against a team with the hot hand.

  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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