Massachusetts drops their opening game in Pool A while the Hodags roll in Pool C.
May 27, 2016 by Patrick Stegemoeller and Simon Pollock in Coverage, Recap with 0 comments
This article is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate!
Georgia leapt out to an exciting start to the weekend with an early upset of Massachusetts in the marquee matchup of Pool A today. Jojah took advantage of a disc-bobbling Zoodisc offense, showed off their impressive speed on offense, and capitalized on big second half turnovers to pull out a 15-11 win.
“I think this season in college has shown that you have to come prepared against every team, so this is a step in the right direction, but we’re not looking past any of the other three teams in the pool,” said Jojah veteran and star Sam Little after breaking from the post-game huddle.
Little was instrumental in quick-striking scores alongside Nathan Haskell, and took turns with other Georgia defenders rotating through assignments on UMass’ star, Jeff Babbitt.
Babbitt looked largely himself in the loss — save sporting a new blond ‘do — earning the highlight of the first half by laying out at shoulder height up the line for a high release flick, which tied the game 4-4 early. But the miscommunications had already set in for the #1 overall seed.
Early hucks from rookie star Tannor Johnson both missed and found fellow cutter Conor Kline, but UMass couldn’t muster enough strength to hold consistently against a physically fit Georgia. Johnson had his moments, although he and Babbitt both had near misses on block opportunities that spectators have become accustomed to seeing them get.
Both teams have the leadership and poise to push forward and let this game go, but the win has to make Georgia happy after losing key contributor Parker Bray earlier this month.
Texas A&M 15-13 Washington
Texas A&M Dozen never led in their first game of the weekend against the Washington Sundodgers until Dalton Smith and Ben Lewis linked up for two straight goals — first to take a 14-13 lead and then to seal the game 15-13 on the very next point. The win went to seed, despite a solid game played by Washington that relied on a more consistent top end to stay barely in front.
Dongyang Chen1 recorded his first assist of the weekend, finding Khalif El-Salaam for a break that put Washington up 8-5 as the first half came to a close. El-Salaam was his impressive self all game, recording three goals and seven assists in the losing effort.
Smith’s performance was nearly as good, with three goals and six assists, but that’s become run-of-the-mill for a player who is expected to do nearly everything for his team. Smith’s co-captain Lewis was good for four goals and the winning assist.
Wisconsin 15-9 Michigan
Wisconsin came to play this morning in Raleigh, blowing the doors off of Michigan in the first Pool C action of the weekend. Even with the six point final margin, the game wasn’t as close as the scoreline indicates — the Hodags were largely unchallenged from the first point. The game started off with classic Wisconsin offense, Avery Johnson found Craig Cox on an in cut and the gigantic Cox turned and immediately released a flick bomb to a streaking Ross Barker for the score. This was the story all game for Wisconsin’s offense; moving the disc quickly and confidently, often scoring in under five throws.
While the offense for Wisconsin was solid, it was the defense that really stood out. The Hodag D-Line, led by standout senior Sterling Knoche, was tenacious from the jump, never allowing Michigan’s offense a chance to get into rhythm. Magnum’s offense was a mess the entire first half, as physical defense on the handlers stymied resets and forced several deep shots to well-covered receivers.
With the score 8-2 at half, Wisconsin opened up their rotations and got some reps for the younger players on the team which allowed Michigan to keep pace, but the game was never in doubt. Wisconsin won every small battle, getting to the spots they wanted in the handler set and coming down with seemingly every jump ball downfield. There is still a lot of tournament left for Michigan, but they will have to dial it in against Harvard this afternoon if they hope to make it into the bracket.
Harvard 15-10 Connecticut
UConn, the Metro East champs and bottom seed of Pool C, were able to hang tough with third-seeded Harvard, but ultimately ran out of gas in the second half.
Harvard’s offense was sharp all game, driven forward by senior handler and Callahan nominee Mark Vandenberg, who finished the game with a goal and three assists. No matter what look UConn’s defense threw at Vandenberg and Harvard, the result was almost always the same, as hard cutting on the force side and confident around breaks consistently put Connecticut’s defense on its heels.
UConn coach Brian Jones tried out a variety of zones in an attempt to stop Harvard’s momentum, but more often than not the intelligent popping of John Stubbs was able to undue Connecticut’s cups and traps. Stubbs only scored one goal in the game — a modest total for the superstar player who often accounts for much of Harvard’s offensive production — but the gravity he exerted all over the field with his cutting freed up open space for his teammates.
Led by John Wodatch, UConn’s offense was able to keep pace with Harvard for much of the first half by churning hard cuts into the deep space and winning battles in the air. They wouldn’t get any closer than 9-7 however, as the superior depth of Harvard proved to be decisive in the second half. UConn players were a step slow and an inch short on several key plays in the second half, and Harvard finally put the nail in the coffin on a nice flick huck from Alex Hem to Adam Ehrenberg that was just out of the reach of Wodatch.
Who returned to the Sundodgers at Regionals after struggling through the season with a hamstring injury. ↩