May 28, 2017 by Preston Thompson, Patrick Stegemoeller, Cody Mills and Tad Wissel in Recap with 0 comments
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!
The four prequarter matchups in the men’s division each had heavy favorites. And those favorites proved their status was legitimate, for the most part cruising to quarterfinals berths.
CUT Rides First Half Run To 15-11 Win Over Michigan
Michigan MagnUM ran square into a Carleton team that had been rolling all day, and some first half breaks were impossible to recover from. Carleton locked in their quarterfinals spot with a 15-11 win.
CUT had been slowly finding their offensive rhythm all weekend. Their O-line was the best it’s looked yet, progressing with each passing game. The hucks that missed against UNC and others connected against Michigan. With the game tied at 4-4, attention turned to the defense. Or more specifically, attention turned to Joe White.
Over the next four points, White registered two assists, two goals and two blocks. No one could stop the freshman as he scorched defenders and showed poise beyond his years. Similarly, freshman Stan Birdsong was a force on offense, with multiple break throws to set up goals. The two freshmen combined for three blocks, four assists, and five goals in the game.
In the second half, Michigan significantly improved their offense, but couldn’t manage to slow down CUT. A lone Michigan break came too late, as Carleton was more than happy to trade holds until their 15-10 win.
“We had a run against Colorado, and a run against Michigan,” said Carleton coach Phil Bowen. “Those two runs, where we had some momentum and confidence, that’s the best we looked all weekend.”
Despite the dominant performance, Bowen has still found ways to push CUT forward.
“We’re always trying to have an upward trajectory,” said Bowen. “What’s left is for our offense to work with the confidence that our D-line has.”
El-Salaam and Washington O-Line Head 15-12 Victory over Oregon
After breaking their 22-game losing streak against Oregon Ego in the final of Northwest Regionals earlier this month, the Washington Sundodgers started a winning streak of their own when they eliminated Oregon in prequarters with a 15-12 victory. Washington continued their trend of playing solid offense, yielding only one break in the game, while the D-line efficiently converted the handful of turnovers they earned into breaks.
Though Oregon drew first blood with a break (the only one they would get all game), Washington quickly won it back and eventually took half up one net break. It was a lead they would not relinquish, extending it by an additional two breaks later in the game and trading out for the win.
Washington’s offense was a combination of both lucky and good. For the most part, UW could do no wrong; even when they made a risky decision they bailed themselves out with a big play. That was the lucky part, but there was also plenty of good. DY Chen and Steven Benaloh distributed the disc with confidence, Cooper Schumacher was a workhorse cutter downfield, and Khalif El-Salaam opted from time to time to make a mind blowing catch or throw. The Washington O-line was in the groove; their throwing depth was on full display as the comfortably broke marks all around the field, and their chemistry was outstanding. At times UW bounced the disc around so fast it seemed as if they didn’t even need to look where they were throwing.
The brilliant O-line performance of UW was in the face of an underwhelming defensive showing from Oregon. Leandro Marx took the El-Salaam matchup but struggled to hang with the Sundodger star. And down the line Oregon was simply unable to generate blocks (or efficiently convert the few they got). The Ego O-line played admirably well and moved the disc effectively – particularly Player of the Year candidate Adam Rees – but the D-line couldn’t ever get it going to bring them back into the game.
The star of the game was certainly El-Salaam. Though he gets a lot of attention from spectators and opposing defenses alike, this game he absolutely earned it. He stocked the highlight reel with layout catches and a sky, but he also added some virtuoso throwing moment. The precision of his away shots was mind boggling; he would sit hucks right at the back of the endzone for his receiver to run onto and but on a flight path that took the defender out of the play. He finished with 6 goals and 3 assists, which accurately represents his holistically outstanding performance.
Washington moves on to face UNC Wilmington in the quarterfinal round, which will match the humming Washington O-line with a scrappy Wilmington defense and, hopefully, El-Salaam with fellow Callahan finalist Jack Williams.
Pittsburgh Decisively Defeats Auburn 15-8
After a taxing day Pittsburgh centered themselves with a decisive 15-8 win over Auburn Aetos.
It was tough sledding for the Auburn O-line in the early portions of the game as Pitt’s handler covers disrupted flow.
“They did a good job cutting off all the throwing lanes and making strategic poaches and they worked,” said Aetos captain and handler, Eric Sjostrom.
Pitt occasionally dragged the break side handler defender off of his man and into the lane, taking away a lane that skilled throwers like Sjostrom are used to exploiting. Before long Auburn found themselves in an 3-0 hole they would never return from. Hats off to Aetos. Many believed the boys from Alabama would never get past Georgia in Southeast Regionals and here they are in the bracket for the second year in a row. Top players like Martin Newman, Michael Volz, and Sjostrom stayed in the game until the end. Auburn went down swinging.
This was a “get right” game for Pittsburgh. En Sabah Nur lost to Wilmington earlier in the day and even seemed to be feeling some residual effects in a chippy final pool play game with Texas A&M. In the bracket, there is no margin for error. Pitt needed to win this one – and they needed to win it like this. Before prequarters, Pitt veterans reinforced a message of positivity rather than doom-and-gloom season mortality.
“Sam [VanDusen] reminded us that this is Nationals,” fifth year defender Kevin Tang said after the game. “We’re going to end this as happy and having as much fun as possible. Those two things helped us play with so much energy for this Auburn game.”
Happiness and fun were totally absent against Wilmington and Texas A&M. Pittsburgh will need to keep those two elements close as they square off with Massachusetts tomorrow if the hope to advance to the semifinals.
Wisconsin Outlasts a Fatigued Cal Poly SLO in Prequarters
Both Wisconsin and Cal Poly SLO entered their prequarter matchup having played the same number of games, but you couldn’t tell from watching them. After fighting their way out of the 0-2 hole they fell into on Friday, Cal Poly had expended most of their energy just to get into the bracket. Wisconsin on the other hand been able to rest many of their starters in an inessential game against Oregon in the last round of Pool Play.
“Getting to rest some of our guys definitely helped” said Wisconsin assistant coach Andrew Brown. “We were able to run our top guys and get out to a quick lead, and it became business as usual from there for us.”
Cal Poly’s top guys were in rough shape, particularly with Callahan nominee and D-Line stalwart Cameron Wariner, who was on limited minutes due to some brutal cramps.
After starting with a hold, Wisconsin notched a quick break on a huge grab from Nick Ladas. He looked locked in from the start, taking the toughest matchups on SLO’s O-line and then menacing Cal Poly with both his throws and size in the deep space. He registered two goals and two assists for the game, but his presence was even more impactful.
With the score 6-2, Cal Poly rallied a bit to keep the score line respectable. They were able to get as close as 7-5, but couldn’t close the gap any more than that. SLO’s Caleb Merriam got a layout block that gave his team the chance to pull within one, but Ian Sweeney’s huck sailed out of the endzone, and with it SLO’s last real chance to get back into the game.
After taking half at 8-5, Wisconsin could smell blood in the water. They tightened the screws defensively in the second half, and drove a tired SLO team to the brink of exhaustion. Playing a shell over the handlers that made SLO’s throwers bend their hucks around the poaches, Wisconsin forced SLO to either put hucks down the narrow channels tight to the sideline or grind out hard yards though the middle. Neither were a particularly palatable option and Wisconsin started piling up breaks in a hurry until in a flash they had a 13-7 lead.
To their credit, SLO never gave up, and their sideline stayed up despite the mounting deficit. “Our goal was to make the bracket at Nationals. Everything we did this game was icing on top,” said Cal Poly Coach Peter Raines. “We came out, we played our best. Just getting out on the field and competing with Wisconsin, well, they’re a very good team. I’m proud of how we played and what we accomplished.”
After Ross Barker overthrew a huck to Avery Johnson, SLO converted the break chance to make it 13-9. But Wisconsin wouldn’t let it get any closer than that, clinically finishing out the game 15-10 on another huck from Barker to Johnson. While Cal Poly left the field wearing smiles despite their defeat, Wisconsin were focused after the final point was scored, knowing that they still have a lot of work left to do tomorrow.