Men’s Round 1 Recap, Presented By Spin Ultimate

Auburn provides the shock of the first round, knocking off Pitt.

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Pool B

The first round of Pool B almost had two surprise upsets. Instead, we got two hard-fought holds.

Oregon 14-12 Case Western Reserve

Case Western started their maiden Nationals against overall two seed Oregon, and they proved quickly that they had nothing to lose. The Gobie came out in a defense that could best be described as “unpredictable.” They sent a poachy two-person cup down on the handlers, but alternated between loose zones tight person-coverage downfield. The defense made Oregon work, as they routinely were forced to throw the disc 20 or more times per offensive possession, searching for a way through.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem for an experienced Ego. But in the first half, throws weren’t hitting their targets. Tied at five all, the energy was low for Oregon. Simple drops and throwaways depressed their sideline, made worse as Case Western finally started to convert on their chances. The D-line offense for Case fell into a simple rhythm: Joe Marmerstein throws a break, and then immediately gets it back. They worked their will on the Oregon O-line, and took half with a surprise 8-5 lead.

At halftime, Oregon knew that energy was a big factor and they addressed it. Out of the break, consecutive Ego breaks were followed by a series of traded holds, with the teams knotted at 12-12. With the game capped at 14, the Oregon defense stepped up big time. Case Western looked calm and collected as they drove down the field, but a goal line block from Jacob Lambert was the turning point for Ego. They made the full field break conversion look easy to take a 13-12 lead. They wouldn’t allow the game to go on much longer, with another break sealing it for the favorites.

Still, Case Western exposed holes in the powerhouse program — holes that a better team may be able to capitalize on later in the day.

North Carolina 16-14 Florida State

Florida State and UNC squared off in a game that could have big bracket implications. Top heavy rosters on both sides relied on their veterans to make plays, and in the first half it was all DUF. Connor Holcombe and Bobby Patterson ran the show for the FSU offense, alternating touches both in the handler spots and downfield. Patterson had a truly standout performance, finishing with nine assists in total. Between his offense and strong defense, FSU opened up a 13-9 lead with a chance to close out an upset win.

UNC made a clutch in-game adjustment to get them back into it. Matt Gouchoe-Hanas made a switch to the D-line to cover Connor Holcombe, while Aaron Warshauer made a few clutch blocks on Bobby Patterson to force break opportunities. UNC clawed their way back with a 5-1 run to tie it at 14, and like Oregon Ego, they wouldn’t look back. An FSU loss makes their next matchup against Colorado Mamabird even more important, while UNC could have their sights set on bracket play by the end of the day.

Pool D

Auburn 15-13 Pittsburgh

One round down and already a sizeable shakeup in Pool D as fourth seeded Auburn takes down Pittsburgh.

The game seesawed a few times. Auburn’s defense capitalized on some early Pitt mistakes to put Aetos up 6-4. During an ensuing timeout, captain Trent Dillon rallied his team with a passionate speech and Pittsburgh would rip off three breaks in a row to take half 8-6. Even as Pitt handler Saul Graves found Carl Morgenstern for an upwind(ish) break at 12-10, Auburn never waivered, and would soon rattle off three breaks of their own.

“We knew we could create turnovers,” Aetos coach TJ Martin said amidst the kind of fanfare that goes along with upsetting the tournament’s fifth seed. “As long as we just converted. We weren’t converting there at the end of the first half when they had that run.”

At 13-12, Pittsburgh’s offense suddenly tightened. A Max Thorne force side throw that Dillon couldn’t quite dig up, an up-line try between Jack Slevin and Pat Earles that misfired, and a close in/out call when Andrew Lehmberg was instantly ruled out by observers after an in-cut. Each of those miscues would lead to an Auburn break, the last of which coming on a Ryan Landry hammer that Samuel Murphree bobbled a comical number of times before gaining possession from his back for the game-winning goal.

The player of the game was Aetos lefty Marty Newman, who was tasked with guarding Trent Dillon. Newman was rock solid on defense and also threw two of Auburn’s last three goals. This was a great first game from Auburn, who will look to roll that momentum into their 12:30 game against Carleton.

Carleton 15-6 Utah

In the other Pool D game, Carleton’s experience overpowers Nationals-newcomer Utah.

“It’s nice we get to start the tournament with a relative unknown,” Carleton head coach Phil Bowen said in an interview Monday evening. “Hopefully that sort of sets the tone of us making sure we’re taking care of our own sets and our own focuses and playing our own way.”

Though the game was far from clean, CUT came out and did a lot of things right against an athletic opponent. They made solid defensive switches against Utah’s horizontal stack and reset the disc well. Junior Jake Ritmire had himself a game with three assists and a goal.

This was a perfect situation for Carleton, who is playing their first game at Nationals in two years. The first game is out of the way and now this is just like any other tournament.

This was a bit of a “Welcome to Nationals” game for Zion Curtain but there’s a lot of upside to this team if they can get acclimated to the big stage. Utah has some huge dudes on their roster and they’re not afraid to put it up and let their athletes make plays. Josh “Crow” Zdrodowski has a good skill set and sees a lot of action around the disc as his defenders are happy to have his 6’7” frame anywhere but in the deep space.

Hey, Zion Curtain was only down 5-4 before it was 15-6. The burning question for this team is whether or not they can string together two good halves and play spoiler themselves.

  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).

  2. Tad Wissel
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    Tad Wissel is an Ultiworld reporter.

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