Pittsburgh Fearless In Upset Over #1 Carleton

The baddest men alive.

Pittsburgh’s Mike Ing. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

Coverage of the men’s division at the 2018 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

In the biggest surprise at the men’s College Championships, Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur advanced to the final on Sunday night with a 15-11 win over top-seeded Carleton. The upset ends Carleton’s chance for a title repeat and sends the upstart Pitt team into a championship showdown with North Carolina Darkside.

The first point was emblematic of the entire contest, but, at the time, it was just Pitt finding a flow against the CUT defense. Mike Ing boxed out Tim Schoch and went up for the 1-0 hold. The defense was tight, but Pitt’s best were just too good.

“Mike Ing deservedly gets all of the eyeballs,” said Carleton coach Phil Bowen. “But clearly they have more than just Mike.”

CUT scored an early break, but the Pitt response made the lead short lived. For most of the first half, the game was a tight contest that featured freshman playing the biggest game of their young careers. CUT appeared to have that facet of the game won when freshman Harry Wolff Landau showed a burst of speed to outrun Pitt rookie Harry McNamara for the 5-5 goal.

The goal felt quintessentially Carleton. Dillon Lanier had his fourth assist of their first five scores, and a speedy freshman shone bright in the high pressure moment. Those who know what CUT has been able to do this season felt that the run might be coming for the favorites. But Pitt’s mentality kept them focused on the task at hand, and they weren’t about to shy away from a fight.

“[Assistant coach] Marcus Ranii-Dropcho had an incredible gameplan,” said Pitt head coach Nick Kaczmarek. “He knew what he wanted to do the whole way.”

With the 6-5 lead, Ing took over the game. A few Carleton turns offered Pitt an opportunity, and he took advantage with a big sky for the 7-5 lead. It was the first time in the game that Pitt was up a break. Pitt had failed to capitalize on break chances earlier in the game, lacking offensive firepower. But with Ing in the game, the offense felt different, and it was.

Carleton had two chances to get the break back in the first half, both inside the red zone. First, Joe White threw a scoober into the ground. Then, Alex Olson led Eric Taylor way too much on a backhand. Pittsburgh held for the 8-6 halftime lead on a walkoff lefty backhand from Jonah Wisch.

The missed opportunities brought the first sense of panic to the CUT faithful. Some offensive miscues that didn’t carry much weight earlier in the week were now being exploited by an explosive team with superior intensity.

Out of half, CUT was just as efficient as they were in the early goings. Henry Fisher got on the board with a goal, if only to show how relatively quiet he’d been up to that point. Despite the cleaner looks, they still needed a break to get back into it.

Enter Noah Robinson, whose second half performance slammed the door shut on any potential Pitt offensive miscues. A sky over two CUT defenders for the 10-8 lead was one of his four second half goals. Only a moment later, Dillon Tranquillo registered a huge layout block that set up a quick Pitt break. The energy of Carleton had been sapped and it would never come back.

Robinson, standing out as the best deep cutter in the game, dominated the final moments, with a big sky in between Joe White and Eric Taylor for the 14-10 lead. Carleton forced him under on the final point in hopes of keeping him out of the end zone, but Robinson’s smooth huck to Matt Hanna sealed the 15-11 upset.

“Noah has had some injury bugs, and missing that time is missed time to develop confidence in yourself as a player,” Kaczmarek said. “We knew this is what he could be. I think it’s a huge testament to his own work physically, and even more so his mental toughness.”

Pitt has come a long way since their early season struggles. A win over UNC at Easterns gave them belief, and they pushed a new identity all the way to a national final.

“I’ve told them multiple times, I can’t put my finger on what you guys are quite talking about,” Kaczmarek said. “They switch mentalities and try on different identities. This tournament it’s ‘the baddest man alive’ and it’s working for them.”

Can they be the baddest for one more game?

  1. Preston Thompson

    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 ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@pston3).

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