So much to learn from this early season staple.
February 20, 2020 by Patrick Stegemoeller and Daniel Prentice in News, Recap with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s reporting on the 2020 college season 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!
After a couple years of two or three top teams putting the rest of the division in a headlock, this year’s Florida Warm Up seems to indicate that 2020 may be wide open. Surprise champions Michigan Magnum outlasted Texas Tuff in the championship game, but even that unexpected result fails to completely capture the off kilter energy of the tournament. Because of the asymmetrical scheduling, some key injuries, and the general wackiness of an early season tournament, the results from the weekend were anything but predictable.
Four top five teams attended Warm Up but none were the one to go undefeated in match play. That would be Tufts, who was promptly obliterated by Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals. Michigan needed double game point to beat Cornell but would then go on to upset Brown in quarterfinals and Carleton in semifinals. That’s the same Carleton team that took BYU all the way to double game point after BYU had beaten the brakes off of Michigan 13-4.
Because so many key teams were at Warm Up, it’s tempting to view the results as a good indication of how the teams will stack up for the rest of the season. But while most tournaments offer a linear progression from pool play to bracket, with the teams that make it the furthest in the bracket presumably also the teams that played the best, the asymmetries of Warm Up necessitate a more holistic analysis. The best team there, BYU, didn’t play in the bracket at all because of their Sunday policy. Minnesota and UMass showed that they were clearly among the top eight teams at the tournament but missed the championship bracket because of their difficult schedules. Meanwhile, Northeastern made it into the bracket despite not beating a single team that made Nationals last season.
While the results may not have a 1:1 correlation with quality of performance, there was a lot to learn about the teams who were in the mix and for the division as a whole. Of course, much of what we learned just serves to raise more questions about the overall shape of the division and what the rest of the season has in store. 2020 could be a wild one.
Surprising Teams Reach The Final
It’s common pablum to talk about how teams grow over the course of a season, but how about over the course of a tournament? While other teams had peaks and valleys, Michigan MagnUM’s performance at Warm Up only went in one direction. After getting shellacked early by BYU and barely holding off Cornell, a team they bageled a year ago at this tournament, the pieces started coming together for Michigan. The offense moved the disc more confidently, the defense’s switches and rotations got tighter, and instead of wilting under the heavy workload of nine games, Magnum looked stronger every time they stepped on the field.
“This is what we preached. This is the energy level we want to find,” said Michigan coach James Highsmith after their upset of Brown. “And that’s us channeling that energy and intensity onto the field.”
Historically more of a lunchpail and hardhat team, Michigan isn’t supposed to beat you with dazzling disc skills. But the way Eli Weaver and Raymond Lu slung the rock around the fields demonstrated that the rising tide of the sport’s technical development lifts even blue collar boats. Weaver had almost every first half assist for Michigan in their semifinal upset against Carleton on Sunday morning, putting flick hucks perfectly into the coverage gaps of CUT’s switching defense. The second half was Lu’s time to shine, as he kept the disc moving despite increased defensive pressure in the handler space and converted several tricky endzone sets. His upwind Callahan to tie the game in the second half wasn’t too bad either.
But more so than the flash of a couple top throwers, it was the depth of Michigan that carried them to a win in the finals and allowed them to emerge victorious on the weekend. Already missing their best defender Jeff Gao to a dislocated shoulder from earlier in the weekend, MagnUM suffered another blow when Lu collapsed from vicious cramps in his quads and calves during the final. No matter: Cian Johnson and Jared Schwallie stepped up on offense, abusing defenders in the deep space. Sophomore Theo Shapinsky played both ways, firing back shoulder blades and taking off deep to score goals of his own.
“Our players are so flexible and interchangeable across our offensive sets,” noted Highsmith. “It makes it so much easier for us to put them in various positions to succeed.”
Attrition was certainly a big theme of the tournament, and Michigan’s ability to overcome it made them deserved winners on a wonky weekend. The team’s conditioning shown, as they didn’t fade down the stretch the way other teams did and they filled all the holes in their lineup that injuries presented.
But are Michigan suddenly championship favorites? Not yet, but they are further along at this point in the season than they have been before, with all the opportunities and challenges that presents. “We certainly have a target on our backs now,” said coach Parker Howard. “We earned some respect from top teams, knowing that we can compete with them. Easterns will be tougher for us, knowing that we won’t have that underdog mentality as much and will need to carry ourselves confidently.”
Michigan will have to get better to be in Championship contention at Nationals. They didn’t see a ton of zone this weekend, and they sometimes struggled to pick up on switches against rotation heavy defenses like BYU. They were somewhat fortunate to beat Carleton after getting broken late and needing a Joe White gaffe to give them the disc back on double game point. But they’ve positioned themselves as a legitimate title contender that we haven’t seen before and that no one but them saw coming.
No team had a tougher weekend to read than Texas. They showed up without key handler Matt Chambers and D-line starter Gage Edblom, lost arguably their best player Noah Chambers early in the tournament, and were without standout cutter Vinay Valsaraj for the vast majority of Sunday. Warm Up was a tournament of attrition for many of the teams in attendance, but perhaps no team was missing more value than Texas.
With all that considered, making it to the final should be pretty damn impressive. But Texas also never got to play any of the tournament’s top dogs outside of the final against Michigan, making it even more difficult to see how they stack up compared to the country’s elite.
Texas wasn’t exactly thrilled about that fact either.
“I don’t think anybody on our team was happy when we saw the schedule,” said head coach Calvin Lin. But assistant coach Reid Bacon was quick to credit the teams Texas did get to line up against in the bracket. “You know these teams upset these other teams for good reasons,” he said. “Georgia Tech brought it played hard. Michigan is obviously great.”
Lin and Bacon seemed more fine with missing so many of their players. “No one remembers who won Warm Up ten years ago. A championship is what we’re playing for. Growing depth is huge here [at Warm Up.] The fact that we were missing [those players] was pretty nice actually, not that we’re not missing them,” said Bacon.
“In terms of our mindset, it didn’t change,” said Lin. “We were here to win every game and get better.“
One player in particular who benefited from the increased touches was freshman handler John Clyde. At times, Clyde was prone to some rookie mistakes, forcing throws that weren’t really there. But he brought high end throwing ability and veteran confidence to the depleted Texas handler core on the weekend.
“He’s 18 years old and playing like he’s been playing for 20 years. He made some bad hucks sometimes but he immediately pulled it back. He was playing within himself very well,” said Bacon.
Clyde and Jake Sames both impressed in the Texas O-line backfield, which should only get stronger as Texas’ starting rotations are back and fully healthy.
Given the missing starters, it did feel like we didn’t get to learn a whole lot about Texas on the weekend, in spite of their run to the final. They’re gritty and athletic on defense, play aggressively on offense, and don’t quit when down a few breaks, as evidenced by comebacks against Georgia Tech in semis and against Michigan in the final. They also have some high end talent that should be able to stick with many of the best players in the country. But we likely won’t know exactly how good they can be until we see them at full strength and against more of the top 10 teams in the division.
BYU Comes Up One Point Short of Immortality
We won’t bury the lede any further. Michigan may have taken the Warm Up crown, but BYU was the best team at the tournament. Their schedule was brutal, particularly on day two, and they still were a single point away from going undefeated against their daunting slate of opponents.
On Friday, they handled Wisconsin, gave tourney champs Michigan their only loss in a blowout, eased past Auburn, and fought their way to a close win over a competitive Minnesota. But it was their Saturday play that really proved their mettle. They ended their weekend with four straight games against teams with Nationals bracket hopes in Carleton, Pittsburgh, UMass, and Brown.
The Carleton and Pittsburgh matchups both went to double game point, with BYU holding clean to win on hucks both times. They had a slightly easier time against UMass, breaking on the final two points of the game to win 12-9, despite obvious fatigue.
They clearly had little left in the tank for their final matchup with Brown, and then lost their best player for the game when Jordan Kerr got rolled up from behind on the game’s first point. They still managed to storm back from 7-4 down with three straight breaks to start the second half and had another break that would have given them a late lead taken off the board on a travel call. They fought all the way to one final double game point, but couldn’t get the final break they needed for the undefeated weekend. Brown held on a single efficient possession.
But it doesn’t really matter. BYU still proved themselves the best team in the tournament in spite of the loss, and they have the strongest argument to be the number one team in the country right now. If they don’t lose Kerr, or get to swap even just one of their Saturday games with one of their Friday games, they likely go 8-0 against a murderer’s row schedule.
Their roster is loaded. Jordan Kerr is unlike any player in the division. He has all the physical and technical tools of any of the country’s best players. But he has a precision and efficiency that are unparalleled. He doesn’t have the same volume of touches of many of the other players you’d consider to be the three or four best in the country. Instead, he bides his time to make the most damaging plays to defenses, cutting under for huge gainers and always finding the next throw immediately.
Braden Eberhard is exactly what you want as your O-line’s center handler; Devon Terry has a real argument as the best deep player — offensively and defensively — in the division; Taylor Barton is a rare cutter-defender/expert handler combo to lead the D-line; and Joseph Merrill is a brick house cutter that can grind out unders or roof defenders deep. Beyond those five, they have an army of big, physical cutters and defenders they trot out to fill the lines.
They work their resets masterfully and often gain yardage in big chunk plays before ping pong the disc before helpless defenses can even start a stall count. They’re also as dangerous as any team in the deep game. On defense, their physical advantages downfield allow them to play aggressively nearer the disc, oftentimes poaching off for heads up interceptions on seemingly open resets.
If there was one area where the team fell short on the weekend, it was not in their loss to Brown. There were a few times throughout the weekend when the team’s physicality crossed the line in opponents’ eyes, and anger particularly boiled over in the Brown game when a bad bid took out Sol Rueschemeyer-Bailey for a few plays.
“When we’re fresh, I think we’re really fast and we’re able to get in and out very safely and I think a combination of fatigue and fatigued decision-making led to a couple of unsafe situations and that stinks because we have to just own that,” said head coach Bryce Merrill. “The individual players have to own it but ultimately as the coach I have to own that too. So it is something that we’re glad to take back. None of them were day ending…injuries but…it’s that chippiness, it’s that ‘Oh, that stinks to watch one of their players go down and have it be our responsibility.’ So we’ll be better about that.”1
There was also an incident late in the game against Carleton when Joseph Merrill was accused of lying and cheating by making a late call on a play that would have been a huck turn to give Carleton possession with a chance to break.
“There was a rules discussion after the game with Carleton and they felt there was intent to cheat and that also stings because we are not a win at all cost team and we don’t value that,” said coach Merrill. “There’s just a lot of things that go into that, but [Carleton] felt very validated in that and so you have to recognize where they’re coming from and if they felt that we would be willing to intend to cheat, then we we have to own that too. We’re at this level…people know us and expect more of us and expect us to compete at a high level and so I think we sort of need to own that and be better about it.”
They were a couple of moments that scuffed the shine of BYU’s weekend a bit, but they do seem to be taking full ownership of those incidents and looking to improve in those areas.
Beyond those moments, though, BYU had a fantastic weekend. They were fun to watch, capable of succeeding in different offensive styles, imposing defensively, and by every definition a complete team. They proved once again they would be national title contenders if they were able to compete deep in the series.
What If’s and Almosts for Carleton and Brown
Carleton was two points away from being the clear number one team in the country. Double game point losses against BYU and Michigan, both with a certain amount of contention and controversy, capsized Carleton’s hopes of winning their second Warm Up title in three years.
At their best, Carleton were imperious. The strength of Carleton is the immensity of their top end talent, and when that talent is fully brought to bear, the result is overwhelming. Their destruction of Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals was the highest point anyone reached all weekend, a 15-10 victory that felt more like 150-10.
“Pitt in quarters was our highlight of the weekend,” said Stanley Birdsong after the tournament. “Offense felt easy, we were hitting the throws that were there. Our defense was sick. We gave our D-line a lot of chances and they converted a good amount of those too.”
There were passages of play throughout the weekend when Carleton hit that same level, but not consistently over the course of a game. They hung an early lead on Brown Friday night with aggressive fiel- bending offense and pulled away from UMass down the stretch with shutdown matchup defense. But they also let some teams hang around, largely due to a D-line offense that was less than clinical.
This created a “playing with their food” impression, particularly in their 13-10 win against Northeastern that could have been significantly more. Carleton needed to bring some of their offensive mainstays like Dillon Lanier and Andrew Roy over to punch in breaks, and there seems to be a clear gulf in class between the top line of Carleton players on offense and the rest of the team cycling through D-lines.
This quality was not their fatal flaw in the semifinal upset at the hands of Michigan, however, as underperformance from the best players proved to be decisive. On double game point, Michigan all but baited Joe White into throwing an ill-advised upwind huck that was gobbled up by the deep defense. That is life with White, unquestionably the most dynamic player at the tournament, but that dynamism resists structure. White’s ability to do just about anything on an ultimate field tempts him to try to do everything, which can result in him hijacking Carleton’s offense.
Of course, having the best player on your team heavily involved in the offense is generally a good thing, but Carleton has so much talent on their offense that it is inefficient to let one player dictate the action to such a degree. A big part of CUT’s journey this year will be figuring out how to maximize their talent and not rely on White to do everything, something that hurt them last year and may have caused them to miss Nationals when he got hurt at Regionals.
When players like Birdsong and Lanier were getting every third or fourth touch, the results were noticeably cleaner, but there doesn’t seem to be a system in place yet that leads to an optimal strategy being deployed point after point.
“Nobody on our team is going to do everything they can possibly do,” said Birdsong. “When we roll out a really good O-line, there are going to be two or three people on that line who are doing less than they theoretically could. But that’s something we’ve been working on this year, and I’m pretty confident that we had a good start and are going to keep getting better with it the rest of the season.”
There is a sense that Carleton may not be more than the sum of their parts, but given the quality of the parts it may not matter. They can throw out a line with seven Nationals-caliber club players on it, something no other team in the country can match. If Carleton can find a structure that allows their excellent parts to function optimally, it could be game over for everyone else.
Brown’s weekend started on a sour note before a single point of ultimate was played. 2019 Player of the Year second runner up John Randolph laced up for warm ups on Friday morning, but couldn’t play as a result of an ankle sprain he’d suffered on Monday.
Without him, Brown never quite hit the heights expected of the defending champions. They got the win against BYU to end match play, but otherwise they failed to bag any marquee wins.
They played well in the middle stretch of their game against Carleton but started very poorly, falling being 4-1, and looked completely inept on offense on the final two points of the game when they only needed to hold out to win. They also played down to LSU and Auburn, beating the two clubs, which went a combined 5-13 on the weekend, by three total goals. In fact, their only win that was by more than two goals was in their first game against Central Florida.
The loss to Michigan in quarterfinals could be written off to exhaustion, coming off back-to-back double game points against Pittsburgh and BYU. But Brown’s performance overall doesn’t deserve a complete pass.
Their biggest issue on the weekend was their inability to get easy holds. In race to a title a season ago, a lot was made of Brown’s handler weaves and dominator sets. Their small ball game was often unstoppable and, in fact, we saw a lot of teams emulating that style of offense at Warm Up this weekend. But Brown was also able to get holds in the blink of an eye through Randolph and Mac Hecht fairly regularly last season. They couldn’t find those types of holds in Tampa.
Sol Rueschemeyer-Bailey and Ken Noh did find a lot of success running those handler weaves, but Brown has to find a way to get those easy, momentum building holds too, not just the grindy ones. Getting Randolph back will absolutely help with that, but Brown probably needs to find a more consistent mode of hucking for the offense as well. Rueschemeyer-Bailey and Noh are both capable of the big throws, but their skillsets are both maximized as more small ball handlers. Dylan Villeneuve took a lot of the team’s deep shots, but he seemed to be pressing and didn’t have a great weekend.
Hecht, now on the coaching staff, didn’t seem too concerned about the team’s lack of quick offense. “I think we’re workshopping sort of what our identity will look like as an offense still,” said Hecht. “There’s not like a secret sauce. We’ve got good players on our offense. I don’t know, I think it’s more just like chemistry building, a full season of playing together and I think it’ll start to coalesce.”
Hecht continued, “Usually around this time we get some easy buckets but then also it’s really bad, so I’m not worried. I think that it’s more like we’ve got some branding and identification things to figure out, but I’m confident that they’ll be able to do that.”
Another area where Brown clearly missed having obvious, go-to players was at the end of the game against Carleton. Too many players were trying to make the big play to win the game, causing the usually well-structured offense to dissolve into chaos.
“I didn’t see franticness. If anything I saw too many guys trying to make the play at once in like the effect of that is you have seven guys that end up close to the disc and it looks like shit,” said heach coach Jake Smart. “And I think that’s good. We have a competitive team that they all kind of want to be the guy and you just gotta calibrate that a little bit. That’s essentially what I said [to the team.] Sometimes the play you make is to stay out of play.”
Many of Brown’s current top players were key components of their title run last year, and their roster is undoubtedly still talented enough to win a championship in 2020. But at Warm Up it was clear they have some work to do in figuring out how those pieces fit together minus some of the key pieces they lost from a season ago.
Ultimately, Brown’s Warm Up performance — while still a disappointment — did nothing to cause us to rethink what their 2020 ceiling can be. It just proved that they still have some things to figure out before they can get there.
Mixed Results But Positive Performances For Pittsburgh and Minnesota
It never quite came together for Pittsburgh this weekend. There were moments, fits and spurts, where it all crystalized and you can see it. A defense with the physicality and intelligence to switch 1-7 across the line, and an offense that punishes any mismatch. Three, maybe four points at a time, Pitt looked like the best team in the country. And then it would fall apart.
Pittsburgh’s results this weekend were disappointing for a team with title ambitions, but the bones of a contender were there. If close losses to Brown and BYU had gone the other way, the story would be very different for Pitt, but as it stands, the team has losses on its ledger to all of the top ten teams it played. Pittsburgh showed at Warm Up that they both belong among the best teams and also need to improve before they can put together a series of wins against other top teams.
Pittsburgh’s insistence on doing things the hard way may pay off in the long term, but it made life difficult at Warm Up. Unlike most teams, Pitt’s best player is anchored on the D-line. Playing Michael Ing on defense is a big boost on that side of the disc, but it doesn’t make the O-line’s life any easier. Without a do-it-all cutter, Pitt’s O-line relies heavily on its handler core to open up the field.
At times it works; Will Hoffenkamp looks like the best handler on the planet weaving the disc around bewildered defenders, Leo Warren is dropping flick blades onto the back shoulder of cutters, and Will Helenski is capping everything off with emphatic grabs in the endzone. Then, a few points later, Hoffenkamp’s disc movement is just going in circles, Warren is airmailing hucks, and Helenski is completely out of the play.
Defensively, the team is trying to execute high level switch and poach schemes while also shutting down matchups in single coverage. By and large, it was quite successful, and Pitt’s defense was the second most impressive behind BYU. But occasionally, the chain of priorities would get muddled and cutters would bust free in the deep space with no help defense there to contain. On double game point against BYU, Pitt gave up a two throw score by not having any help over the top. On double game point against Brown, they couldn’t generate enough pressure on the handlers to force a turn. There is still work to be done, but the defense is off to a good start.
The big question for Pitt coming out of Warm Up is whether they are good enough to get away with the high level of difficulty schemes and personnel decisions they have made. If they can play at the standard that they hold themselves to, they’ll be a much tougher out than they were in quarterfinals this weekend.
They may have missed the championship bracket, but there is still reason to be optimistic for Minnesota Grey Duck. They went 0-3 on Friday, but those losses were by a total of six points against BYU, Pittsburgh, and UMass. They won every game from there on out, taking no prisoners in high margin blowout wins over Texas A&M, Wisconsin, and Central Florida. They even got a revenge win on UMass in the consolation bracket, although your mileage may vary on how much weight to give that result.
The top end talent is clearly the strength for Grey Duck. Cole Jurek and Wystan Duhn make for one of the best cutter/thrower combinations in the country, and the return of Jonah Malenfaunt from Australia gives the team additional size and throwing pop on the O-line. Cash Barber was a cutter last season but has transitioned well into a big role handling for the offense. These figures were responsible for most of the team’s success and, were able to go toe-to-toe against the best players on the top ranked teams they faced.
But Minnesota will need to get more production from the middle of their roster to be truly competitive against the best of the best. A comeback against Pitt came up short when Jurek was forced off by injury in the second half and the lack of depth behind Minnesota’s top players became apparent.
Warm Up was an exceedingly unkind format for Minnesota, both in terms of opponents and volume of games played for a top heavy squad. But it also may be the most representative of the grind of Nationals. Minnesota was certainly better than the 9th place finish they arrived at, but how much better is still an open question.
Surprise Semifinalist Surges Up Rankings
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament, Georgia Tech Tribe played their way into the bracket and scored an upset over Tufts to reach the semifinals. Falling to Texas in the semifinals and Carleton in the third place game, Tech only had the Tufts win as one against a team that made Nationals the previous year, but it’s enough to vault Tech into the top 25 and put the rest of the Southeast on alert.
The weekend started about as poorly as it could for the Tribe, falling into a 7-1 halftime deficit against Tufts. Instead of keeling over, they fought back to a respectable double game point loss. They managed to stay afloat the rest of Friday, then ran up the score on Northwestern and Cornell to sneak into the bracket Saturday night by a mere four-hundredths of an algorithm point.
The improvement continued into bracket play, as they blew out an exhausted and overmatched Tufts in the rematch 14-7. Will Lindquist and Tyler French used their length to shred marks and keep the disc swinging around the backfield, tiring out the already flagging Tufts defense. By the second half, it was no contest, and Tech gleefully ran all over their opponents.
Against Texas in the semifinal, they kept the momentum going, out hustling TUFF to an 8-5 lead in which the enthusiasm gap matched the scoreline. But as Texas woke up in the second half, a lack of disc skills across the depth of Tech’s roster began to catch up with them. A series of brutal drops from Logan Bonds led to breaks, and a lack of discipline against zone from the handling core saw the lead slip away. Tribe’s defense was fired up for double game point, but they didn’t have the chops to force a turn against Matthew Armour and the top end talent on Texas.
“We want to be in semifinals of a big tournament like this, but I think this is one of those things where we have to practice being here and to keep playing our game (in big moments),” said Tech head coach Cate Woodhurst.
Making the semifinals is absolutely an achievement for an unranked team, but Georgia Tech shouldn’t get ahead of themselves and book tickets to Milwaukee just yet. Their two best results are big wins over Northwestern – probably not a Nationals team – and a Tufts team that was down to 13 players by the end of the game. Every year, one of the semifinals at Warm Up fails to make it past Regionals, and Tech is probably the most likely semifinalist from this year’s crop to miss out. Going from out of the picture to having a target on them in the Southeast is a big step to take in one weekend, but it’s the kind of step that any team looking to break through into Nationals must take.
Race For Second in New England
While Brown should hold onto the New England crown, the regional picture behind them is murkier. Massachusetts was the best team per the eye test but was the only one of the three who didn’t get a chance to prove themselves in the bracket. They controversially missed out on a tie breaker with Georgia and were relegated to consolation play despite a 4-2 record with losses only to Carleton and BYU.
In those six games, though, UMass looked like a team that should be in the conversation for a top 10 ranking. They knocked off Minnesota and were competitive late into the game against both Carleton and BYU, while blowing out the teams elite teams are supposed to blow out.
Their offense was impressive, usually going through games with only a handful of turnovers. Jake Radack and Tannor Johnson make up a strong foundation for the O-line, with solid supporting players around them. But where UMass struggled was with their D-line offense. They couldn’t slow down some of the top players they faced like Joe White and Jordan Kerr, and they were terribly inefficient with their break opportunities. They still looked like the second best in the region, and a no doubt Nationals team that should contend for a spot in quarters, but if they can find a way for the D-line offense to be more effective, their ceiling could be even higher.
There wasn’t a blemish on Tufts‘ record when bracket play began, the only undefeated team through match play. But that record masked the attrition the team had suffered over the course of the weekend and they had a serious reckoning in quarterfinals, running completely out of gas en route to a 14-7 loss at the hands of Georgia Tech. It was not a pretty sight.
“We were down to 13 or 14 healthy bodies,” said coach Jack Hatchett. “And some of those guys weren’t even really healthy.”
Up until their unceremonious exit, Tufts had been the picture of solidity, taking care of business against LSU and Virginia Tech on Friday then dispatching Texas in their biggest match of pool play. The offense was a good balance of thrower driven vertical attacks from the likes of Caleb Seamon and cutter grinding, while the defense was quick to take fast break opportunities. But as bodies started dropping like flies and the miles added up on the team’s legs, Tufts lost the ability to grind down teams and the defense was far less aggressive.
“The put us in places where out cutters weren’t comfortable and we lost confidence in execution,” said Hatchett after their quarters loss. “We executed our plan so badly that it’s hard to figure out what to work on after a game like that.”
It’s tough to get a read on Tufts’ ceiling for the season based on this weekend given the extent of their injury problems, but the floor seems relatively high if they can stay healthy. There is a level of sheer competency across the roster that makes it hard to imagine them flaming out early at Regionals. But we’ll need to see some marked improvement if they are going to challenge Brown at the top of the Northeast.
Northeastern had a weekend similar to the team that knocked them out of the bracket, Texas. They went 5-1 in match play, and that one loss was a 13-10 loss to Carleton that was tied up 10-10 before Carleton pulled away at the end. But all of their wins were close wins over middling opponents, except for their five goal win over Florida State. They also went winless in consolation against regional rivals Tufts and Brown.
Head coach Dan Hourigan said the team is still adjusting to their newfound status as a Nationals caliber team.
“It’s felt a little like we just need to keep convincing ourselves that we can play at this level, which we think obviously can. I think there’s a little bit of imposter syndrome going on at the beginning of games for our team so that we’re working our way through it,” he said. “We’re a new team to sort of the the Nationals level of teams. Guys are having to recheck into like, ‘Yeah, we earned our way there legitimately.”
The weekend was also largely experimental for Northeastern, playing with different personnel lineups for each of their games. The team’s biggest star Ben Field was largely kept on the defensive unit, and the coaches were tight lipped as to whether that would continue. But based on what we saw at Warm Up, they aren’t at the same level as the top two teams in the region.
- Wisconsin won the games they were supposed to win, and lost the ones they weren’t. That may just be the sort of team they are this year, as neither the offensive or defensive units were spectacular, but solid enough to avoid any upsets. They don’t appear to have talent levels to seriously threaten the best teams in the country, but as long as they earn a strength bid they should be on track to keep their Nationals streak alive.
- They missed out on the bracket after getting blasted by Georgia Tech, but Northwestern put together a solid weekend, albeit one without a signature win. Driven by Kenneth Xuan’s excellent disc skills and craft handler cuts, NUT was probably the best of the teams that seem unlikely to make Nationals.
- Outside of Georgia Tech, the Southeast had a nightmarish weekend. The only four teams to go winless in match play were all Southeast teams (Auburn, Florida State, Central Florida, and South Florida). LSU’s only match play win came against Florida State. Florida did go 3-3 in match play and didn’t get blown out in any of their losses, but none of their wins would be categorized as impressive either. The Southeast has long been one of the most competitive regions in the country, even when there’s only one bid to Nationals. But this year it looks like it might be a pretty easy path for the top two Georgia schools to the final.
- What to make of UT Dallas’ weekend? They went 5-4, with most of their wins coming against the lowly Southeast, and their 10-7 win over Georgia Tech feels more likely a perplexing result for both teams than an indicator of the teams’ status in relation to each other. A 13-12 loss to Cincinnati, in particular, makes that Georgia Tech win feel a little flukey. Victor Mao was genuinely impressive, but the team was one dimensional on offense, and when team’s took away that first option, they fell apart. There’s still some talent there that could give teams in the South Central problems, but they don’t seem to have taken a step up from what they were a season ago, despite having many of the same key players.
- Cornell may have gone 2-7, but A) two wins for a Metro East team is actually more than generally expected and B) got some small semblance of revenge on Michigan after getting bageled by them last season, pushing Magnum to double game point and driving down Michigan’s final post tournament ranking as a result. Being bad enough to hurt teams by just playing close with them – essentially exposing them to the virus that is you – isn’t massive praise, but appreciating the little victories is important in the Metro East.
- Joe White (Carleton)
- Taylor Barton (BYU)
- Cole Jurek (Minnesota)
- Tannor Johnson (UMass)
- Eli Weaver (Michigan)
- Matthew Armour (Texas)
- Jordan Kerr (BYU)
The team addressed their play against Brown in a tweet, as well, stating “We had two other very sloppy, high contact, and dangerous bids in the second half. We apologize to @BMoUltimate for this game—it was well below our standard of safe play.” ↩