Club Championships 2021: Prequarter Recap Roundup (Men’s)

Action from the first round of the Nationals bracket.

Chicago Machine's Johnny Bansfield gets a layout point block on double game point in a prequarter against San Francisco Revolver at the 2021 Club Championships. Photo: William 'Brody' Brotman -- UltiPhotos.com
Chicago Machine’s Johnny Bansfield gets a layout point block on double game point in a prequarter against San Francisco Revolver at the 2021 Club Championships. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s 2021 coverage of the club men’s division is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

After the wild results on Day One of Nationals, Friday morning was set up with matchups between supposed title contenders as early as the first round of the bracket.

We’ve rounded up coverage of the prequarter round from our Day 2 live blog. Stay tuned into ultiworld.com/live for updates from the bracket, as well as streaming links for all live games!

Chicago Machine 15-14 San Francisco Revolver

Was the demise of #2 Chicago Machine reported prematurely? No.2 seed Machine rebounded from a dismal day one to beat #7 San Francisco Revolver in a thrilling universe point affair.

“Don’t let Machine win a game!,” was the cry from the Chicago sidelines as the game began, echoing the fear that must have been in the minds of their opponents if Machine rediscovered what made them great to this point in the season.

“We tried to simplify things today,” said Machine O-line handler Pawel Janas. “We were doing too much yesterday, so the focus just became ‘simplify.’ Hit open hands. Get our playmakers the ball.”

Machine’s D-line looked like they have recovered their form, breaking on the first chance of the game. Kevin Pettit-Scantling pressured Simon Higgins into a drop on the sideline and Johnny Bansfield motored the disc to the goal line before hitting Raymond Lu for the break to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. It was one of Bansfield’s two assists on the day, which undersells the impact he would have on the game.

Revolver struck right back, showing the quality and tenacity they displayed in their instant classic game against Ring of Fire on Thursday afternoon. After a clean hold, they broke back to get the game on serve. Jake Thorne blew up a Keegan North in-cut with a massive layout block, and his Cal Poly SLO teammate Caleb Merriam picked up the disc and dropped a picture-perfect flick blade over the defense for a goal.

This set the tempo for the game, one team earning a slim advantage and the other clawing them back. Machine’s initial 2-0 lead was the largest either team would have all game, as the scoreline remained within a single point the rest of the way.

Revolver took a 3-2 lead with another break on the following point, this time it was Michael Ing delivering the unguardable flick huck for a score. Ing was immense in his first Nationals for Revolver, throwing two assists for breaks and doing an excellent job limiting Joe White on the turn.

“Revolver all year is intense man pressure,” said Janas. “They aren’t going to junk it up, they aren’t going to clam, it’s hard pressure defense. You’ve got to throw gut shots, you’ve got to run through. They kept up that pressure throughout the whole game.”

San Francisco had a chance to extend their lead at 6-5 after a throwaway from Janas, but a costly drop from Byron Liu gave Machine the disc back and this time Janas hammered to Pat Shriwise in the back of the end zone for a hold that knotted the game at 6s. So slim were the margins of this game that even that moment in the middle of the first half felt like it could have shifted the outcome of the game.

Revolver managed to hold out into half, making it 8-7 on some nifty break-side movement by Dillon Whited and a blazing cut by Adam Rees. Machine would now need two breaks in the second half to retake a lead. They would get them right away.

Bansfield engineered a short-field turn on the first possession out of half, poaching out into the break lane. That lead to a quick goal and Nate Goff soon followed it up with bookends on the next point after stuffing Whited’s scoober attempt on the mark.

It was 9-8 and all of the momentum was going Chicago’s way, but Revolver refused to let the lead slip any further. San Francisco calmly worked their way through some tough dump defense and dialed up their best downfield combination — Higgins to Rees — for a hold that tied the game back up. Machine is famous for being able to string big runs of breaks together, but Revolver’s offense never let the game get away from them.

After the confident O-point, Revolver’s D took back the lead. Michael Ing put off Joe White from digging out a huck from Paul Arters, then threw another fading flick huck for the score. Revolver now led 10-9, but everyone at the fields knew there was still more to come from this game.

Each team would break again on the way to universe point, with Joe White taking over on offense for Machine and Adam Rees providing the release valve for Revolver. White finished with a 4G, 2A stat line, while Rees put in five goals and only a single turn. Sadly for Revolver, that turnover would come on universe point.

With the score 14-14 next point wins, Revolver went out on offense, 70 yards away from the quarterfinals. After working the disc up to the brick mark, Adam Rees received the disc in good position. On the mark, Johnny Bansfield slid over to take away a force-side flick huck and Rees spied a big window to deliver a big backhand swing to a poached Dillon Whited. That window slammed shut when Bansfield laid out across Rees’s body for a spectacular diving handblock.

A few throws later it was over. Sam Kanner pushed the disc to the break side of the field and flipped an inside backhand to Joe White for the win, 15-14.

“We had some weird turnovers today, that lead to a few breaks,” said Janas. “But our D is our staple, and they got it back for us and got the job done today.”

“Sometimes we just needed a little magic,” said Revolver coach Cody Mills. “The problem is, they have magic too.”

As Machine left the field, they continued the cry of “Don’t let Machine win a game!” They’ve gotten one — we’ll see how far they go from here.

Rhino Top Killjoys in a Thriller

In a high-powered rematch from Northwest Regionals, #6 Portland Rhino Slam! had just enough of an edge to hold off a big and assertive #16 Utah Killjoys squad.

It was a highlight-reel kind of affair. For Killjoys, Kalten Toone, still in high school, skied everyone who came near him. Bryce Merrill uncorked a couple of spectacular backhands that took the Rhino defense out of the point. Jordan Kerr was the apotheosis of his smooth self, sliding into last-second cuts and generally looking unflappable as he carved up the field.

Portland matched them play for play. Raphy Hayes, as we’ve come to expect, made a few jaw-dropping throws and catches. Felix Moren got in on the action with some testy grabs in the end zone. Ted Sither proved he’s more than just a silky backhand by blasting into and up above the defense on a few cuts.

In the end, Rhino skewed a little closer to fundamental play, and that might have been the difference. Both offenses were stingy, but when Killjoys missed just one shot too many, Rhino managed to make a one-break lead stand up for a 14-12 final score.

Chain Outlast Lotus in Tight, Turn-Heavy Game

#13 Boulder Lotus came to Nationals ready to play, full-stop. #4 Atlanta Chain Lightning needed every ounce of talent and experience on the roster to push through long, chippy points, earn a late break, and hold on universe to advance to quarters.

The game looked like it was going to be all Chain Lightning, who shot out to a three-break lead early in the first half. Lotus’s Mathieu Agee, however, says he never lost hope. “I think we’ve always had that identity that no matter what the score is, we always have each other’s backs,” he said. In this case, it was defenders Saeed Semrin, Matt Bristol, and Alex Atkins who got the team back into the game with blocks and smart pressure until the O-line could work out the kinks.

Chain, meanwhile, played a streaky game. Their initial lead perhaps gave them a little too much confidence, and the offense started to play a little loose with the disc. “When we were playing well, we got comfortable super quickly and got overconfident. And that led us to make some throws that were probably not open,” said Atlanta’s Antoine Davis after the game.

By the second half, Chain had made enough mistakes that Boulder had taken a lead. With Conor Tabor throwing perfect passes for both Lotus lines, they definitely had a chance to make it stand up and pull off a major upset. It was also in the second half that the chirping and physical play began to pitch. “It was pretty gritty, a lot of foul calls. They were pretty physical. A lot of talking from both sides,” is how Davis describes it. “It was definitely getting a little chippy,” said Agee.

On universe, it was the two Florida transfers who took Chain to victory. Bobby Lee and Andrew Roney have the kind of chemistry in the backfield that, in such a pivotal moment, Lotus could not find a way to snuff out. The key throw was when Ley threw crossfield to a space he alone saw, initiating Karl Ekwurtzel’s cut. With the Lotus defense on their heels at that point, it became a matter of patience and vision. The Floridians had plenty of both to spare, and Roney found Ekwurtzel on an easy continue for the 13-12 win.

  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. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

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