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Catholic Tops Lakeside To Win Inaugural National Invite

Catholic was well prepared for the hot conditions this weekend.

Catholic celebrates winning the 2017 High School National Invite. Photo: Mark Olsen — UltiPhotos.com

The inaugural edition of the High School National Invite is presented by Spin Ultimate.

ROCKFORD, Ill. — The final game of the High School National Invite came down to a battle between Lakeside (Seattle, WA) and Catholic (Baton Rouge, LA). In the hot and humid conditions on Sunday afternoon, Catholic looked comfortable, while Lakeside, with a roster of just 14, struggled to maintain energy. The cross-country battle saw Catholic pulled away with an early run, taking home the tournament title with a 13-10 victory.

Lakeside came out strong early, breaking Catholic on the first point of the game. With the break came loud roars from the crowd, filled with a large contingent of players from the Northwest region. Despite the break and the crowd support, Catholic didn’t flinch. Catholic answered, with standout senior handlers Dylan Reviere and Matt Freeburgh doing much of the heavy lifting for the offense.

Catholic found heavy contributions from many of their seniors throughout the weekend. Like on most high school teams, the seniors were the team’s leaders,. “Matt Freeburgh and Dylan Reviere are key cogs to the team, absolutely,” Catholic assistant coach Michael Aguilar said. “We also wouldn’t be where we are without Parker Hanks and Preston Nelson.”

With the score tied at two, the Catholic D-line struck. Thanks to tremendous effort all over the field, Catholic put pressure on every Lakeside throw. Big plays and patient handler movement helped the Catholic D-line convert their break opportunities throughout the first half. Momentum ballooned quickly. With a high release flick from Reviere that floated over the stack to Hanks, Catholic took a 7-3 lead into halftime, one they would never relinquish.

“This year we really focused on hitting the weight room. One of the coaches at our school built us a program specifically for ultimate,” Tom Echols said. “We knew we were able to go deep into tournaments still running hard, and that definitely gave us an edge.”

The fire of Lakeside never let down, though. They continued to fight back and bid to make big plays and try to finish off a comeback. After trading points early in the second half, Lakeside took advantage of some miscommunications from the Catholic offense. Huge hucks from Lakeside brought their energy back into the game. A couple of breaks brought Lakeside back into contention, and the score sat at 10-9.

“No matter what the score is, whether you’ve just gotten broken three times in a row, it shouldn’t affect how you play the game,” Lakeside senior captain John Randolph said. “Mentality shouldn’t really change based on the score, we just want to get a block. We just have a great team culture. We’re scrappy, and usually we can pull together.”

Once again, Catholic answered the Lakeside fire with big plays of their own. Freeburgh and Reviere were models of consistency in the backfield for Catholic, working the disc flawlessly against the Lakeside pressure. The late patience of the Catholic offense helped to squelch the dreams of the Lakeside comeback, as they worked the disc effectively through every player on the team. Lakeside’s attempts at zone — perhaps to change the pace or perhaps to try to rest their legs — did not bear fruit.

As a team from the south, Catholic was well prepared for the heat and humidity. For the past week of practice in Baton Rouge, temperatures been in the mid-90s. While other teams struggled with the heat of the weekend, Catholic was dealing with temperatures to which they were accustomed. “The heat obviously helped us, coming from Louisiana,” Catholic head coach Tom Echols said. “For the past two weeks, we’ve practiced on turf all day. Last week, we practiced four times for four hours.”

With just fourteen players on the roster, managing legs played a big role in the Lakeside weekend. When combined with the heat and humidity, it became too much for the Lakeside players to handle. “Honestly, my legs feel like they could play another game,” Lakeside senior captain John Randolph said. “But, I don’t think I could play another game, due to the heat exhaustion. [The heat] is one thing I couldn’t really prepare for.”

Catholic’s win was about more than a deep bench and a comfort in the conditions. The team worked tirelessly to prepare for this tournament. “At the beginning of the year, they said they wanted to win the national championship,” said Aguilar. “They said ‘you set up what you need to do, and we’ll do it.’ So that meant they were in the weight room two or three times a week at six in the morning before school, and they were practicing regularly.”

Lakeside’s weekend was also tremendous. The Washington state champions and #2 ranked team coming into the tournament, Lakeside managed hard-fought wins over Center Grove and Grady in quarters and semis, respectively, despite playing with one of the smallest rosters at the tournament.

In no other tournament would a matchup between Louisiana’s Catholic and Washington’s Lakeside have existed. In a division where travel is relatively uncommon, this tournament gave teams a unique opportunity to experience different styles of ultimate and test themselves on a national stage. “Normally, all we get to see is southeast [teams],” Echols said. “When it comes down to the west coast, the Washingtons, Oregons, even the Ohios, we always get to hear about how good they are. Obviously it’s true, [Lakeside] was a very good team.”

Catholic will send many of their seniors on to LSU, a team on the rise thanks in large part to the influx of CHS players in recent years. They also take home hardware, including the National Invite cup, which will be emblazoned with their name and passed on to future HSNI winners.

“These guys put in the work and earned what they got,” said Aguilar.

  1. Zakk Mabrey
    Zakk Mabrey

    I helped start my HS intramural ultimate club as a junior at North Central HS in Indianapolis. At Indiana Wesleyan, I served as club president for three years, and was a captain. Now graduated, I live in Indianapolis, run D-III Midwestern Invite, and help with various other tournaments and ultimate projects within the state, while writing for Ultiworld. Catch me on Twitter @tnlzmabrey

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