US Open 2017: Day One Recap (Men’s)

Sockeye handed Revolver their first loss of the season.

Sockeye’s Zane Rankin (left) goes up with Revolver’s Antoine Davis. Photo: Jolie Lang — UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s reporting on the Men’s Division of the 2017 US Open is presented by Universe Point cleats. All opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Universe Point!

In one of the most exciting US Open opening days to date, the Men’s Division offered up some thrilling matches and surprise upsets. Here’s a look at the biggest stories of the day.

Sockeye Looking The Part Of Title Contender 

After an offseason that saw so much preseason chatter centered on Revolver, San Francisco’s undefeated performance against a strong field at the Pro-Elite Challenge seemed to suggest an air of inevitability. And that’s not unwarranted: they nearly won the championship last year and seriously upgraded their roster.

Meanwhile, Sockeye barely escaped prequarters against the second best team from Boston before getting shellacked by Ironside in an ugly quarterfinal game. On paper, Sockeye is supposed to be the team to challenge Revolver for a championship this year but that’s been true before and they’ve fallen short.

On Saturday, Seattle certainly looked the part. In particular, their defense did a tremendous job of making a stacked Revolver offense work for their points. Even when San Francisco scored, it seldom did so easily. Sockeye did a great job of taking away Revolver’s first looks, in part because they were seamlessly switching matchups when the opportunity arose. Their defensive communication was excellent. Sockeye was also mindful of containing Nick Stuart, being unafraid to help deep when he was in isolation to force the throw elsewhere.

All the normal caveats apply to this win: Can Sockeye beat Revolver when Grant Lindsley and Ashlin Joye are on the field? It was just a pool play game at the US Open: does it even matter? It was just last year that Sockeye beat Revolver in a close game at the US Open: what did that prove?

But it can’t be said that this isn’t a meaningful win for Sockeye, even if Revolver goes on to win this tournament. It was the first loss of the year for Revolver. Any talk of a potential undefeated season is over before it could even gain any momentum. Seattle has shown it can not only win against Revolver but do so coming from behind. Sockeye is by no means the new favorite, but they’re starting to look the part.

Absences Have A Wide Effect 

While there were a number of big upsets on day one of the US Open, there was also a troubling number of big names missing. Revolver’s O-line clearly missed Ashlin Joye and Grant Lindsley, arguably their two most important contributors. Revolver obviously has depth in the extreme, but both Joye and Lindsley are perhaps the best at what they do; they’re nigh-irreplaceable. Without them, Revolver’s offense looked out of sorts at times throughout the day, particularly in their loss to Sockeye. Nicky Spiva of Truck Stop was also MIA, and Truck certainly could have used his steadying presence in their loss to Bravo (although they did manage to beat Ironside later). Sub Zero’s Josh Klane, Bravo’s Mark Rauls, Revolver’s Sam Kanner… the list goes on.

Yet the team that suffered the most from absences was undoubtedly Ring of Fire. An extended flight delay caused Jon Nethercutt, Noah Saul, Henry Fisher, Sol Yanuck, and Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, among others, to miss Ring’s first two games. With so many of Ring’s most important throwers missing, Ring struggled in the moderate wind. They were soundly beaten by Revolver in the first round with just 14 on the sideline and then blew a lead against the pool’s bottom seed, Sub Zero. Some of the players in question arrived in time for Ring’s final game versus High Five, a game they managed to win on double game point. But Ring won’t have Nethercutt, Yanuck, or Gouchoe-Hanas for the rest of the weekend, as they are off to coach Triforce at YCC. While they were unlikely to make the championship bracket anyway (only the top two from each pool do), more mediocre results will almost certainly doom the Southeast to another one bid year.

Brodie Smith Returns To The Field, Kurt Gibson Returns From Pec Injury

Ironside looked good on Friday, in no small part due to a powerful duo in Kurt Gibson and Brodie Smith. Smith, playing for the first time since 2014 with Johnny Bravo, looked like a capable ultimate player in his first few games with Ironside. In years past, even in years when he won Championships, Brodie’s impact was hampered by obvious physical limitations as he tried to return from injuries too quickly. At least for today, we saw a healthy Brodie who looked quick on his feet, not just powerful with his throws.

Kurt Gibson also returned to the field after missing a few months of even being able to run due to a pectoral tear suffered when cliff jumping. (He showed off his scar from surgery). He was a bit slow to find a rhythm but looked dialed in against Clapham yesterday morning. It was an entertaining performance from the long-time teammates, punctuated occasionally by the classic Brodie assist celebration: fists clenched and a loud and proud “LET’S GO!”

With eleven assists to his name, Gibson sits just behind Jimmy Mickle as the assist leader in the Men’s Division.

Gibson put up five of those assists in a losing effort against Truck Stop, so Ironside now needs a win against Johnny Bravo today to stay in contention for a spot in the bracket.

Game of the Day: Seattle Sockeye v. San Francisco Revolver

In their second meeting this season, #3 Seattle Sockeye delivered #1 San Francisco Revolver their first loss of the season in a 17-15 thriller.

The first half featured a lot of trading without either team opening up a significant lead. Both teams had managed one break when Revolver was up 7-6 pulling to Sockeye.

Cassidy Rasmussen was playing on the D-line for Revolver, as he did at the Pro-Elite Challenge. It’s an embarrassment of riches that San Francisco can afford that luxury, and he came up big in the final point of the half. With Matt Rehder eyeing a deep huck, Rasmussen snuck into the lane and blocked it before it had traveled more than ten yards. He followed it up with a goal to bring Revolver to half up 8-6.

The two teams traded holds in the second half until Dylan Freechild ripped a nice backhand huck to Trent Dillon for a break to tie the game at 10. After Nick Stuart threw it straight to a Seattle defender on the next point, Sockeye broke again to take their first lead of the game, 11-10.

In the second half, Freechild was playing points on both offense and defense and it was working for Sockeye. He had his third assist of the game to give Sockeye a 13-12 lead. Revolver punched back, though. With multiple defenders committed to taking away the deep huck to Nick Stuart, the under cuts opened up for Revolver and Simon Higgins found Joel Schlachet for a score to tie the game. An ill timed bobble for Matt Rehder was only secured with one of his feet out of bounds, gifting San Francisco the disc which led to a break and the lead.

The Revolver offense had the disc with the game tied at 14, but Seattle played suffocating defense, trapping George Stubbs on the line near Revolver’s own end zone. He was left without any good options and stalled out before he was able to punt the disc downfield. That led to an easy Sockeye break.

After two more holds, Revolver was receiving with Sockeye holding onto a 16-15 lead. Double game point looked inevitable. Joel Schlachet got open deep and came down with the disc right next to the Seattle end zone. Simon Higgins was unmarked in the end zone, wide open and ready to catch the game tying goal. Schlachet released a flick but BJ Sefton read the throw perfectly and came through with a layout handblock. It was undoubtedly the play of the game during the best game on Friday in the Men’s Division.

Trent Dillon followed it up with a huck to Freechild to officially seal the 17-15 Sockeye win and pole position heading into the final two rounds of pool play.

Quick Hits

  • Johnny Bravo finished 3-0 with a big win over Truck Stop in round one. It was a big bounceback performance after a sluggish start at the Pro-Elite Challenge.
  • The international teams — ClaphamInside Rakete, and CUSB Bologna — went a combined 1-8 on day one, and the only win was Clapham over Rakete. There’s quite a gulf still between the top US teams and the best of Europe.
  1. Nathan Jesson

    Nathan Jesson is Ultiworld's lead AUDL reporter. He has been covering the league since 2013. You can reach him on Twitter @semiproultimate.

  2. Charlie Enders

    Charlie has been playing Ultimate since his freshman year of high school. He graduated from Saint John's University in 2014, where he was a handler for BAM*. He now captains Spirit Fowl, a mixed team out of St. Paul.

  3. Hugo Sowder
    Hugo Sowder

    A former player out of UNC Asheville and founder of Seven on the Line Productions LLC., Hugo has been involved in the North Carolina ultimate scene since 2010. As a freelance filmmaker and content creator he hopes to give back to the sport and community that's given so much to him. You can follow his adventures at https://twitter.com/Hugosowder

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