A big day for BYU, plus undefeated starts for Oregon and Washington.
March 26, 2016 by Simon Pollock in News, Recap with 0 comments
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SEATTLE –The Northwest Challenge men’s division kicked off today, headlined by a flawless performance from Brigham Young University. The team from Provo, UT, who played a full slate of four games instead of the division standard two due to their scheduling limitations, were the talk of the men’s side.
BYU rode a fundamentals-heavy offense alongside a slew of tall, athletic cutters working hard to earn the deep space. Lance Gardner was a backfield staple for CHI, who kept the resets coming when the offense was walking the disc down the field instead of gunning for the end zone. On defense, BYU showed a containment zone that did its job — opposing teams were forced into dozens of throws while being forced to the sidelines, only finding success when they could sneak breaks through the box or over the top of the first five CHI defenders.
The Provo team’s performance already suggests strong bid implications for the Northwest, even after the single day of play. They blew out Whitman Sweets, a top DIII1 team by 10 points, bested Brown by four, Victoria by five, and British Columbia by three. For those on bid-watch this weekend, those wins are over #47, #45, #13, and #11 in the USAU Rankings. If there were any concerns about Northwest teams putting their thumb on the scale for a great BYU performance to nudge an extra bid into the region, they were erased when UBC and Victoria ran top seven lines late to try and close the gap.
CHI head coach Bryce Merrill spoke with Ultiworld after their win over UBC in the third round and discussed the team’s desire to continue to move into the national conversation.
In the midst of bid talk and BYU’s day one appearance as the tournament’s cinderella story, Oregon and Washington each went 2-0. Ego finished the day relatively unscathed with wins over regional competitors Montana State and Western Washington. The Sundodgers — still suffering from injuries, sickness, and absence — managed their victories over Oregon State and Brown, but at times their goals felt like pulling teeth. Grad student cutter Cooper Schumacher’s absence was particularly noticeable, and the Washington deep game suffered without his tall, fast frame as a target down field.
Today also marked Victoria’s return to sanctioned play, a long wait for the Canadians who hadn’t taken the field for a USAU tournament since the Santa Barbara Invite nearly two months ago. The Vikes lost a heartbreaker to a charged up Whitman team on double game point, then immediately turned around to try for redemption against BYU. Their physical defense, and some stellar downfield play from Benjamin Burelle, kept Victoria in it until 10-9, but frustration seemed to get the better of them late in the day. With Burelle’s help the Vikes repeatedly broke through the BYU diamond, but they eventually got stuck with a few critical red zone turnovers.
There’s lots more action to come on Saturday and Sunday, as the tournament shifts an hour north to Burlington, WA.
Whitman is currently listed as a DI team, but they have indicated that they will be competing in the DIII series. ↩