Dig Stuns #1 PoNY, GOAT Gets Past Sprout (Northeast Men’s Regionals 2019 Recap)

Dig stunned PoNY in the 2019 Northeast Regional final. Photo: Sandy Canetti — UltiPhotos.com

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DEVENS, Mass. — “Boston wins the region, New York and Toronto take the other two bids” was an evergreen headline coming out of the Northeast men’s region for much of the past decade, until Dig’s arrival and PoNY’s ascension shook things up. But the balance of power was suddenly and shockingly reestablished by Dig’s 15-11 upset of #1 New York PoNY in the regional final.

After losing a tepid crossover match to PoNY on Saturday in which neither team’s defense put much into the game, Dig came screaming out of the gates in the final on Sunday afternoon. With a tricky zone look that forced PoNY to abandon the downhill offensive approach they had exhibited earlier in the weekend and a patient offense that exploited the missteps in PoNY’s cascading poach scheme, Dig turned in the kind of polished performance that you could expect from the top Boston team in the past. For the first time in a while, Dig really got the better of PoNY’s defense.

“I thought our defense was good but not great in the first half. We got a couple turns that we couldn’t punch in,” said PoNY coach Bryan Jones. “You want to build on that into the second half, looking at a couple personnel changes, maybe a little bit of a change to our philosophy, but Dig did a lot of the same stuff they were doing and it got a little bit more effective and we just didn’t make enough adjustments.”

It’s important to note that while Dig’s results appear the same as their Ironside forebearers, this Josh McCarthy helmed squad played a different brand of ultimate.

McCarthy Tweet

“[McCarthy] is really good at taking younger pieces and putting them together to make a complete puzzle,” said Jones. “He has usually been known for really good match defense, but this year he switched it up and had everyone buy into that zone that was so effective. They did a really good job of limiting what we wanted to do, which was hit big shots.

“Kudos to him, he was an early mentor to me and someone I looked up to a lot, so I’m glad he’s back in the coaching game.”

PoNY was better able to solve the zone by the end of the game, with Alex Thorne perfectly placing some of his patented blade throws into gaps in the second level of the defense, but it was too late. Dig’s offense made short work of PoNY’s defense in the late game and held out. Mac Hecht and Josh Markette found a comfortable rhythm, doing to PoNY what so many elite offenses failed to do over the past two seasons.

“At Pro Champs, we were super close in a lot of games against teams that we view as top-tier teams,” said Dig captain Noah Backer. “We really need to figure out how to win those games in the second half. We stuck with all of them for the first half, and the second half was always a little bit rusty, a little bit iffy. I think this kind of proves that we’re right there with them, and it just comes down to execution.”

The other side of Dig’s triumph is PoNY’s disappointing performance. The defending champs almost failed to even make the final, needing a late comeback to overcome Amherst Sprout in semis. Sprout’s offense was sparkling, with Jeff Graham turning back the clock and shredding PoNY’s help defense. With Graham clearing out poaches and opening up the deep space, Sprout was able to consistently create open deep shots.

Leading 12-11, Sprout had another sure clean hold with Graham clean through a blown coverage, running down a huck. But then in an instant the game, and Sprout’s weekend, capsized.

In completely open space, Graham collapsed to the ground holding his knee, and the disc sailed over his prone body for a turnover. Graham was out for the game, and Jimmy Mickle got to sub in on the injury for New York. He took PoNY down the full 70 for a break to tie the game, and Sprout’s offense faltered without Graham. They fell 16-14 to PoNY and didn’t have enough in the tank to get past GOAT in the game-to-go.

GOAT Leaves No Doubt In 3rd Place Game

Toronto GOAT saved their best for the biggest game, looking like a different team once the chips were down in the game-to-go. After needing double game point to get past Phoenix in pool play, they were a clear step behind Dig in a 15-11 semifinal loss that was less close than the score indicates. But when their season was on the line, GOAT found their old selves.

It was a vintage elimination game performance at Devens from GOAT. Tight handler defense flustered Sprout’s deep game at the point of attack, and aggressive vertical attacks off the turn lead to breaks. Mark Lloyd was launching towering flick hucks, Andrew Carroll was getting open at will, and while Sprout stayed within touching distance, the game was clearly unfolding according to GOAT’s plan.

Some athletic defense by Chris Bartoli and Cam Wariner kept Sprout close, and a couple breaks closed the lead to 10-9, but that would be as close as the Amherst outfit got. Once GOAT smelled the finish line, there was no stopping them, and a drained Sprout offense couldn’t keep up. Iain Mackenzie ended the tournament with an immaculate grab in between two defenders on a huck from Lloyd and the final results looked like they have for so many years: Boston on top, New York and Toronto coming up behind.

But as the three qualifiers leave Devens for San Diego, we’ll see if the old order remains or if Boston’s homefield advantage evaporates in the west coast sun.

Notes

  • As their results indicate, Amherst Sprout was a legitimate threat for a Nationals bid. Losing Jeff Graham in the PoNY game and then again in the game-to-go against GOAT meant that their offense just didn’t have quite enough dynamism to get past those two excellent teams, but you really have to wonder what might have been had he run down that wide-open goal against PoNY and not gotten hurt. Sprout captain Russell Wallack said the weekend was “hugely successful” and that making Nationals might have even been a challenge for the team. “Most of our team doesn’t want to go to Nationals,” he said with a laugh. “But we wanted to compete like we were at that level.”
  • Halifax Red Circus had a great weekend, coming from the 10th overall seed and finishing 5th with losses only to Sprout and Dig. They’re still a couple steps away from being a Nationals challenger, but the Nova Scotia ultimate scene is looking promising.
  1. Patrick Stegemoeller
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    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

  2. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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