D-I College Championships 2019: Cal Poly Outclasses Michigan In Quarters

Cal Poly was better rested and much sharper.

Cal Poly SLO’s Nate Pettyjohn at the D-I College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

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After sealing the pool win before their last pool play game, Cal Poly SLO was able to rest a little more and a little earlier in this Texas heat. Conversely, Michigan snagged all three of their wins coming into quarterfinals on double game point, including a grinding win in pre-quarters over Oregon. It was no surprise, then, that Cal Poly looked like the fresher, deeper team and earned a 15-10 victory over Michigan in the men’s quarters with superior play.

The game started with Cal Poly on offense going downwind, and the teams traded three downwind holds before Cal Poly got a pair of breaks to take a 4-1 lead. Cal Poly’s fresher legs showed up with their cutters working harder and their defenders applying more pressure.

After going down by three, Michigan gathered themselves and were able to hold downwind, and understanding the moment, stacked the upwind defensive point. Michigan got the upwind break back on a big point by senior 42 Ben Sadis. They were able to convert the subsequent downwind break, finally putting pressure on the Cal Poly offense then scoring in one throw to Jeff Gao, putting it back on serve at 4-4.

Cal Poly took a timeout and gathered themselves and looked composed for the rest of the half. The teams held out to 6-5 when Cal Poly converted an upwind chance, taking a 7-5 lead, thanks to a gorgeous huck by Calvin Brown. They converted the following downwind break as well to take half 8-5.

The second half opened with four straight holds, and at 10-7, Sean Liston got a great block and SLO converted to snag another upwind break to go up 11-7. They completed the break on the next point, extending the lead to five, 12-7. The rest of the game had turns by both sides, but they ended up trading out holds until Cal Poly SLO won 15-10, eliminating Michigan.

Even though they were playing with no pressure, Michigan came out a little antsy for the big moment, and Cal Poly’s throws connected more often than Michigan throughout the game. Cal Poly’s coach, Cody Mills, mentioned after the game that handler Calvin Brown (six assists, one turn) was a key to helping their offense attack the Michigan transition zone, working well with Caleb Merriam in the handler space. Expecting their junk look, he was happy with how well the cutters spaced the field, and their preparation showed, as their zone offense looked comfortable all game. On defense the Cal Poly marks were a focal point and helped contain Michigan’s throws. At the point of attack, Cal Poly did a much better job dictating the terms of engagement, getting multiple turns by funneling Michigan’s offense closer to the open sideline with every throw until they ran out of space. Cal Poly also got a great performance from Dillon Whited, who notched four goals, three assists, a block, and just one turnover.

Michigan got another great performance by one of the tournament’s breakout stars, Jeff Gao, who scored five goals. Michigan graduates just two players from a squad that surprised almost everybody, and they look forward to the likelihood of a healthy year from one of their best players, Raymond Lu, next year to help build on this year’s success.

Cal Poly SLO is looking forward to an exciting semifinals contest against North Carolina, the clear tournament favorite. Mills feels good about the team’s mental approach coming into the big game, and mentioned that the team is going to lean into the pressure and the spectacle of the moment. On a team that “plays better as the aggressor,” per Mills, they plan to use that adrenaline to make the most of their biggest opportunity yet to come during the best season in team history.

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