Cal Poly blew by Stanford in San Luis Obispo.
May 3, 2016 by Simon Pollock in News, Recap with 11 comments
SEATTLE — After two close wins over UC San Diego and a one-point loss against UC Santa Barbara at SoCal Conferences, Cal Poly SLO cruised to a regional victory this past weekend, demolishing a worthy Stanford opponent 13-8 and taking the lone bid to Raleigh out of the Southwest.
Cal Poly proved a formidable opponent and kept the weekend practically drama free. No team came within five points of the tournament’s hosts. When it came time for the final, with an afternoon wind blowing strong, SLOCORE used fearless hucks and athletic defense to take apart Stanford and cap their first Southwest title. The upset marked one of the more exciting stories from the weekend, which hosted every single D-I regional tournament and played all except the Metro East to conclusion.
“This is the first time that SLOCORE has ever competed for this spot, in at least 10 years, since I can remember. Since I have been playing, since the alumni I talked to have been playing, they have not had a chance to compete in the [region final] ever,” coach Peter Raines — an SLO alumnus — told his team in the huddle before the final.
Footage from the windy contest shows a physically out-matched Stanford team, one whose offense struggled to stay patient in the wind, biting off a couple of yards at time to handler crashes against the SLO zone. Bloodthirsty throwers lost their cool and tossed up risky hucks at times, while Cal Poly defenders managed to get themselves into all the right spots, contesting hucks and slapping down throws up the line.
“SLO did a great job of playing to their strengths, and we got caught on our back foot on our O-line defense and couldn’t execute adjustments to stop them. They came down with everything in the air and really attacked the disc incredibly well. Our D line was able to get breaks, but we ended up giving them back with tired decisions and ultimately, just getting skied,” said Stanford head coach Ryan Thompson after the loss.
Injuries hampered a confident and strong Stanford squad, which had played well all season, particularly on defense. Standout rookie Nick Hirning returned from surgery on his finger, Sam Kunz was out until the final with a sprained ACL, and at least two other D-line absences put Bloodthirsty O-line starters in two-way spots. Between a tough wind and a hard place, the hungry SLO defense outplayed the Stanford O-line, and ran away with the game.
“After our first couple games, I could tell that this was going to be our best tournament. On Sunday, we looked really sharp against [UC Santa Cruz] and [UC] Davis, and you could just feel the momentum building. I never thought we were going to run away with it,” Raines said. A less-than-perfect showing at a weather-heavy Huck Finn capped SLO’s season, but those same windy conditions gave the team a much-needed challenge. By the time winds were buffeting their home fields in during the afternoon on Sunday, flocks of cutters were ready to anticipate hucks for field position, and came down with some exciting catches.
The team’s bid-earning performance was the latest signal of major change in mentality. “When I played, the team was dependent on a couple of players to succeed,” said Raines. “There was talent top to bottom but we ran everything through a couple guys. For the past few years, SLOCORE has been shifting to using the whole team to win tournaments. Every person on the team contributed in a big way this weekend.”
The win-as-a-team mindset combined well with SLO’s bench, full of young athletes excited for shutdown defense and big catches. From the outset of the regional competition, the group was confident and focused on making the game-to-go.
SLOCORE easily locked up a bye to quarters in the one-bid, 16-team bracket on Saturday, beginning their undefeated weekend with a strong run through Pool C and outscoring opponents 39-16. Fellow pool winners Stanford (Pool A) and UC San Diego (Pool D) breezed into quarters as well, with equally impressive blowout wins.1 SLO continued on Sunday with easy wins over UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, while Stanford did the dirtier work of taking out UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego.
By time time the finalists sent their starting lines out for the opening pull, a crowd had assembled on a nearby hillside, with an obvious bias toward the host team. “It definitely helped to have the crowd going crazy whenever we made plays,” said Raines.
The point that sent Cal Poly-SLO to Nationals was fittingly a break. Here’s captain Chris Cogswell on the break that will be remembered in San Luis Obispo for seasons to come:
Down wind O point. Turn on an over thrown huck from senior captain Tim Okita to senior cutter Aaron Shi. On defense we had been stressing to not let off any unders the whole game, especially up wind, and let our athletes make plays over the top and that’s what happened. Nate Pettyjohn eats up a floating huck for the catch sky D. Back on O, huck from Tim lands on a crazy come-from-behind grab by graduating senior cutter Tom Konogeris, dish to fellow graduating senior Joel Anton, laser huck to a baseball sliding grab by sophomore Camden Reynolds in the front corner of the end zone for the win. Offense had been clicking all weekend and showed it throughout the finals.
Cal Poly-SLO heads to Raleigh with seven full tournaments in hand, good for 50 games played, including Conferences and Regionals. That’s the most tournaments played for any Nationals qualifier in the Men’s Division.
Correction: an earlier version of this story identified UCSC incorrectly as the University of Southern California. It has been changed to UC Santa Cruz. It also misstated SLO’s one-point loss to UCSB at conferences as win.
Chico State managed to edge out UC Santa Barbara in an upset for the top spot in Pool B. ↩