Club Championships 2021: Day One Recap Roundup (Mixed)

shame. sinks, NOISE rises, and a pool comes down to a tricky point differential.

Madison NOISE in pool play against Fort Collins shame. at the 2021 Club Championships. Photo: Kevin Leclaire -- UltiPhotos.com
Madison NOISE in pool play against Fort Collins shame. at the 2021 Club Championships. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s 2021 coverage of the club mixed postseason is presented by Universe Point cleats; all opinions are those of the author(s). Check out Universe Point if you are looking for a comfortable, ultimate-specific cleat with a patented stud pattern that can give you an edge every time you’re on the field.

A year with no pre-Series rankings, limited connectivity between regions, and short seasons for many teams led up to an opening day of Nationals where few knew just what to predict. We’re fairly sure almost no one would have predicted all of how Thursday played out, though, with early major upsets in all three divisions and more than one top eight seed eliminated before bracket play.

We’ve rounded up coverage of each pool and other notes from the day from our live blog. Watch ultiworld.com/live today for updates from our reporters on prequarters and quarters play, as well as streaming links for all live games!


Pool A

Overall Results

  1. Madison NOISE (12), 3-0
  2. Boston Slow (8), 2-1
  3. Fort Collins shame. (1), 1-2
  4. Boise Lochsa (13), 0-3

Round One: Madison NOISE 15 – 13 Fort Collins shame.

In a classic mixed division shakeup, no.12 seed Madison NOISE upset top overall seed Fort Collins shame. shame. looked like they would cruise early on: Nick Snuszka caught a few trust throw jump balls, Sarah Pesch was finding unique angles of attack with her dynamic arrays of left-handed throws, and Crystal Davis was a menace on defense, making the resets a challenge for NOISE. Davis’s block in the reset space and the subsequent shame. end zone set gave the top seed a comfortable 12-8 lead.

From there, though, NOISE went to work. Dylan DeClerck and Jimmy Sykora began playing nearly every D point, locked down on the top men-matching deep threats, and shame.’s offense struggled to find the easy flow it had in the first half. DeClerck sparked the NOISE comeback with a massive layout block on an Owen Westbrook upline cut. Madison went on a 4-0 run to tie the game at 12. After a shame. hold, the Madison D line kept up its energy and alertness. Clea Poklemba was a force in the second half. She threw the assist to gain the 13-12 lead and snuffed the block on the last two points before Rami Paust hit Ness Cannaday on both NOISE’s 14th and 15th goals.

Round Three: Boston Slow 15 – 12 Fort Collins shame.

No overall first seed in recent memory has fallen to the third seed in their pool. In a funky, COVID-affected year where seeding was more challenging than usual and teams haven’t been able to practice as much as usual, this is the moment for history to be made. Boston Slow hit the ground running, beating shame. at their own game by emphasizing the deep ball and moving the disc quickly. Slow jumped out to a 4-0 lead before shame. was forced to take a time out. While Boston was clicking, shame. was dropping easy in-cuts and forcing throws up the trap sideline rather than trying to work the disc to the middle or upwind sideline.

shame. did start to pull back and brought the score within one at 4-5, but Slow recaptured its form and executed set plays well to take half 8-5. The shame. defense tightened up in the second half, poaching where helpful and earning blocks on floaty mistake throws. The favorite from Fort Collins tied the game at eight before each teams offense settled in to a pattern of holds. Ryan Turner reeled in a few massive hucks for the Slow offense as the shame. defense wasn’t able to force turnovers in the deep space like usual. As the game got tight, shame. just had a few more miscues than Slow. A dropped swing here, a tipped throw there, and suddenly Slow had strung together a few breaks.

When they needed a hold to close out the game, Slow played its crispest offensive point of the game. Peter Prial got open under as the isolation cutter and immediately launched a backhand to the break side. Caitlin Fitzgerald ran down the easy goal and Slow is on to prequarters with momentum while shame. will need to spend the night figuring out how to fix its mistakes.


Pool B

Overall Results

  1. Seattle BFG (2), 3-0
  2. Denver Love Tractor (14), 2-1
  3. Arizona Lawless (7), 1-2
  4. Nashville ‘Shine (11), 0-3

Round One: Denver Love Tractor 14 – Arizona Lawless 12; Seattle BFG 15 – Nashville ‘Shine 7

The wind picked up this round, folks, and it definitely showed! These two games were two different worlds, both geographically in they were on fields at opposite sides of the tournament, and competitively.

Denver Love Tractor came out swinging against familiar opponent Arizona Lawless, marking a strong start to what looks like a comeback story for the Denver squad. Love Tractor started on a big run 4-1. Their meticulously scouted defensive strategy helped clamp down on Lawless’s deep game, which also seemed to mess with their mental game. On a critical point in the first half, Lawless almost brought it to 4-3 with a blade to the endzone but a pick call sent the disc back and Arizona turned it shortly after. Dori Franklin scored to convert yet another break for Love Tractor 5-3. Denver ran away with the rest of the half 8-3.

Although Lawless wasn’t able to fully comeback, this streaky new team relished the challenge of a steep uphill battle in the second half. Intense defensive pressure and some big scores and layouts by some of their stars (including Kody Lippincott) brought Lawless within striking distance of tying things up at 11-9. Tensions were running a bit high on both teams approaching soft cap, with contentious foul calls and long, grinding points. There was a flash of a last-minute comeback from Lawless, but Love Tractor showed discipline and mental fortitude to hold strong against hungry Lawless defenders and punch in the game 14-12 with a score by Roehm.

On the other side of the tournament, BFG and ‘Shine played an upwind-downwind game. Despite strong grit and energy from Nashville, BFG remained strong and clinched a decisive win even though the wind shook both teams’ offensive consistency. 15-7 was a wider margin than I was expecting, but the difference in team experience on the Nationals stage, plus execution in the wind, made the matchup a BFG blowout.

Round Two: Seattle BFG 13 – Denver Love Tractor 8

You may be wondering why I picked this game to highlight given the margin — but the ending score doesn’t even begin to describe this rollercoaster of a game! Denver Love Tractor started off hot on the heels of a big win over Arizona Lawless, pulling ahead early. Denver pulled through in tightly-contested points to dominate the first half… or so it could’ve happened in a parallel universe. Denver was ready to take half receiving at 7-4, but BFG broke to put a definitive end to their momentum. BFG won ALL of the points of the half from then on. At 7-7, a big heads-up block by Alissa Soo followed by a massive huck secured the half for Seattle at 8-7.

The first point of half felt never- ending, as both teams battled for the half’s momentum. With turns on both sides caused both by blocks and the jitters of being in a pivotal moment, BFG scored with a sliding catch by AnnaMaria Pape and lock in a firm hold on the half’s momentum. Even though Seattle would go on to score all but one of the remaining points of the game, Denver put on strong defensive pressure but was unable to convert the opportunities they got. BFG’s women-matching players, including Kaitlynne “Bunz” Roling, Leah Bar-On Simmons, and other standouts, won this game for them. Seattle heads to their Lawless matchup with strong momentum and Love Tractor will face against ‘Shine, who just had a tough universe point loss to Lawless.

Round Four: Denver Love Tractor 13 – Nashville ‘Shine 12

The Denver-Nashville matchup had a different tenor than expected…at least for Love Tractor. Rather than the expected game to advance, ‘Shine was fighting not to go 0-3 and take their shot at advancing through head-to-heads and point differential. Love Tractor was fighting to defy expectations and clinch the two seed.

It was a tough mental uphill battle for Nashville after a universe point loss to Lawless in the last round, but they displayed strong fortitude even though the momentum seemed stacked against them from the beginning. The teams started off tightly matched but Denver started to pull ahead when they made a key adjustment to take away the unders of ‘Shine’s women-matching players.

‘Shine did not go quietly, though, bringing the game to universe. Even though they kept things tight and rallied in game 3, ‘Shine lost another universe point and is out on Day 1. Lawless likely sighed with relief and Love Tractor clinched a spot in bracket play.


Pool C

Overall Results

  1. Seattle Mixtape (1), 3-0
  2. Space Heater (6), 2-1
  3. Boston Sprocket (10), 1-2
  4. San Francisco Polar Bears (15), 0-3

Round One: Washington D.C. Space Heater 15 – San Francisco Polar Bears 10

It was clear from the sideline that both of these teams came to San Diego ready to bring it. Polar Bears and Space Heater started the game trading clean holds, with unshakeable offensive flow on both squads despite significant defensive pressure. D.C. broke first with bookends by AJ Merriman to bring them to 3-2.

Consistent execution and whole-team excellence — rather than big, exciting plays — defined the first half, and really the whole of the game. Polar Bear had an opportunity to tie things back up after a Space Heater misthrow but D.C. kept grinding to get the disc back and score on a sweeping huck and take half 8-6.

Space Heater pulled ahead with heads-up, helping defense that led them to a comfortable lead at 12-8 but Polar Bears never counted themselves out. Polar Bears worked up some exciting momentum to bring the game closer at 13-10 with a break scored by Malenfant. But Space Heater out-executed them to close out the game 15-10 with a big grab under pressure on the endzone line by Buch followed by a quick pass to teammate MacArthur. They ended the game with the cutest spirit circle — shoutout to PBR for their great plushy Polar Bear prizes!

Round One: Seattle Mixtape 15 – Boston Sprocket 10

This game bodes well for play this weekend for the winner and loser alike. Mixtape pulled ahead early and established their dominance, but had to be careful not to get too comfortable. Sprocket lived up to their streaky reputation and went on a few runs throughout the game, demonstrating their grit and talent.

Seattle began the game up 4-1, but Sprocket quickly showed the athleticism and mental fortitude of their roster to claw back to 4-3. With two physical and intense teams, there were quite a few spicy calls on both sides–but for the most part these fiery teams kept things friendly. The teams traded points and runs but Seattle ended the first half with a comfortable 8-4 lead.

Even though the score never got too close, Sprocket continued to make Mixtape work for it, extending the game well past the other in their pool. Seattle held firm in the end, breaking with a big D by Emily Smith-Wilson and a quick conversion. Manny Eckert scored the winning goal, clinching the game for Mixtape at 15-10.

Round Four: Boston Sprocket 13 – San Francisco Polar Bears 9

The pressure of the stakes of this game to advance was palpable from the get. Play started off tight but San Francisco seemed to have a slight advantage–their Nationals chops showed up in their steadfast play through tough points. Polar Bears pulled ahead early, getting a decisive lead with a score by Hanh-DuPont that brought the game to 6-4.

After trading points, San Francisco had an opportunity to break for half with a comfortable lead. Sprocket fought hard to stay in it and the nerves were evident on both sides, with a host of misthrows and good defensive plays alike. Sprocket held with a score by Rosenthal. San Francisco took half, but that marked the end of their dominance of the game’s momentum.

Sprocket came out with higher energy out of half to pull away in the second half. A huge bid by Hanson clinched their upswing in momentum, and Lexington stayed comfortably on top over the deflated San Francisco squad. Sprocket clinched the bracket play spot in their pool 13-9, while Polar Bears fell short despite a strong performance across the day.


Pool D

Overall Results

  1. Ann Arbor Hybrid (9), 2-1 [1-1,1|1-0,3]
  2. Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust (4), 2-1 [1-1,1|1-0,-3]
  3. Philadelphia AMP (5), 2-1 [1-1,-2]
  4. New York XIST (16), 0-3

Round Two: Philadelphia AMP 13 – 11 Ann Arbor Hybrid

AMP started the game with a break and never looked back, despite a great effort from Hybrid. Notably, a few key players were missing for each team. Lindsay McKenna pulled her hamstring in AMP’s first game, and James Highsmith hyperextended his knee in Hybrid’s. AMP’s Raha Mozaffari also did not suit up. Luckily for AMP, Nicky Spiva was playing. As the wind picked up, his throws were invaluable in escaping high pressure situations. His Hybrid counterpart, Connor Lukas also played a great game and had likely the throw of the day on a greatest thumber on the end zone line.

Hybrid took an early 3-5 lead, but AMP came back to tie the game at five and kept rolling to build a 8-6 halftime lead (I’ll save you the math: that’s a 5-1 run). From there, Hybrid would inch back within one and AMP would extend their lead back to three, then Hybrid would come back. Just as Hybrid looked close enough to tie the game, they couldn’t land the finishing punch. Nathan Champoux and Justin Perticone made key defensive plays for Hybrid down the stretch, but at the end of the day, Spiva had throws that nobody else on the field could make.

Eighteen-year-old Adam Grossberg stood out as a key piece of the AMP O-line. The unheralded rookie looked calm under pressure and found himself open deep on plenty of occasions. For Hybrid, Bailey Besser was a strong initiator, and Anna McClurkan’s break throws powered the D-line offense.

Round Four: Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust 12 – 8 Philadelphia AMP

Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust came out on fire against Philadelphia AMP and weathered a comeback to clinch second place in the pool. Minneapolis broke on the first two points of the game, and after an AMP hold, went on a five point run to take a dominating 7-1 lead. AMP’s downfield movement was stagnant, and the Drag’n defense locked in on the handlers to force turnovers. AMP made a small run to bring the score to 7-4 before Drag’n Thrust took half. Paul Owens had a massive block on a huck to Sarah Meckstroth before catching the goal on a contested upline for that fourth goal.

In the second half, AMP brought tons of defensive pressure. Eric Nardelli was shutting down resets and Sumi Onoe was making life difficult downfield. Drag’n Thrust was able to find just enough space to string together their holds. The lefty combo of Kat Ritzmann, Caleb Denecour, and Travis Leighton opened up the break side. Michelle McGhee was a calming presence on offense, and Sarah Meckstroth was her usual dominant self downfield. AMP came as close as 10-8, but couldn’t put the finishing touch together to come back and tie the game.

This result combined with Ann Arbor Hybrid’s universe point victory over New York XIST left three teams tied for first place at 2-1 and XIST eliminated at 0-3. Going to the point differential, Hybrid took the top spot while Drag’n Thrust settled for second and AMP dropped all the way to third place.

Ann Arbor Hybrid 14 – 13 New York XIST

Ann Arbor Hybrid entered the final round of play with a wide variety of possible outcomes. A win combined with a Drag’n Thrust win by four or less would send them to top of the pool. A loss would eliminate them from the bracket. Hybrid went up 4-1 early as their deep shots were finding wide open receivers. XIST adjusted their strategy to force Hybrid to work the disc more in the under space and ended up taking half up 8-6.

Hybrid inched back, but XIST didn’t give up the lead until Nathan Champoux, who was a force all game, caught a huck to tie the game at 12. On the next point, an XIST error gave Hybrid the disc and Champoux found Adam Stautberg for the lead as the soft cap horn went off. Each team then held, though the universe point was testy. A contested end zone set forced Hybrid to take a time out. In isolation, Sara Nitz caught the pool winning goal. Had this single point gone the other way, Hybrid would have been finished on day one. Instead, they win the pool and a bye to quarters on Friday.

  1. Isabel Cruz
    Isabel Cruz

    Isabel "Fizzy" Cruz originally hails from Brooklyn, NY and now calls Denver home. She started playing ultimate on an open team in high school and really fell in love with the sport playing women's during her time at Yale University with Ramona Quimby from 2013-2017, where she captained her senior year. Fizzy has jumped at every chance she can get to build community around the world playing her favorite sport through leagues, fun tournaments, and competitive play at the club level in New York, Denver, and Argentina.

  2. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years, but now spends his time playing pickup and coaching de Toledo High School in Los Angeles. You can reach him through e-mail (rubin.alex14@gmail.com) or Twitter (@arubes14 or @dthsultimate).

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