Feature Game Preview: North Carolina v. Carleton (Men’s)

Lots of familiarity between the teams and a possible quarters bye on the line.

UNC’s Matt Gouchoe-Hanas. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s reporting on the Men’s division of the 2017 D-I College Championships 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!

Two title contenders will face off Friday afternoon, potentially with a much easier path to the final on the line. Both teams have struggled with injuries this season, but, when healthy, these are two of the best squads in the nation.

It’s impossible to look at this matchup without examining the coaching that propels both teams forward. UNC’s Mike DeNardis and Carleton’s Phil Bowen are two of the best coaches in the division when it comes to training young talent and preparing them for the big show. Where Darkside might have the edge is in their ability to peak at Nationals thanks to DeNardis’ thorough game planning. Not to be overlooked is the addition of Jon Nethercutt to the coaching staff in a bigger capacity than in years past.

“We focus on peaking at the right time from the start,” said Nethercutt. “I think most teams know at this point that focusing on process over outcome is an important developmental tactic, but it’s something we embrace from the start of the season.”

Game: #3 North Carolina v. #6 Carleton
Line: North Carolina -1.5
Time: 5/26, 2:30 PM Eastern
Video: Ultiworld Live

Carleton has been inconsistent this season but has shown flashes of brilliance where their stars show off excellent chemistry, stars that will be familiar with the UNC program. Henry Fisher, Sol Yanuck, Eric Taylor, and standout rookie Dillon Lanier all hail from North Carolina and are familiar with DeNardis, Nethercutt, and many players on the UNC roster. Fisher is one of the best deep players in the division and someone Darkside will surely need a plan for.

Elijah Long would be pivotal in their toughest pool matchup by far, but he is likely out due to an injury from Centex earlier this spring. Walker Matthews is coming off of an injury, but should be able to saddle up for the season finale.

The sideline edge goes to UNC, whose towel squad became famous in their title run in 2015. They double down on momentum with loud cheers and choreographed celebrations in a way the CUT simply doesn’t. If Darkside gets on a roll, they could roll off breaks.

Carleton has historically relied on disc skills up and down the roster; this year is no exception. Unfortunately for them, this iteration of UNC likely matches them in that category. Darkside can and will isolate nearly anyone in open space, forcing CUT to manifest lockdown physical defense that they haven’t this season.

The matchup of the game will come in the CUT backfield, with Nathan Kwon and company trying to slow down Sol Yanuck and Alex Olsen. Kwon was pivotal in Darkside’s unlikely run to semis last year. Darkside’s ability to pressure resets late in a game could throw a wrench into the game plan of any team they’ll play this week.

While it’s easy to see this matchup going either way, it will require Carleton to put all of the pieces together and have their stars show up when it counts. Luckily for UNC, that hasn’t happened for CUT in a few seasons.

Watch the livestream of this game on the Ultiworld Live page Friday afternoon at 2:30 PM Eastern/11:30 AM Pacific.

  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).

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