Who's up and who's down after Day One in San Diego?
October 22, 2021 by Alex Rubin and Isabel Cruz in Analysis, Coverage with 0 comments
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.
As the dust settles from Day One in San Diego and we have time to reflect, let’s take a look at the Nationals Stock Watch to see what takeaways there are from the first few games of Nationals, including what’s on the rise and what we’ve seen that’s trending downward.
In the Pool A preview, one unnamed Ultiworld reporter might have listed #19 Madison NOISE’s likely ceiling as a prequarter appearance. After an undefeated day, NOISE blasted through that ceiling and is on its way to a quarterfinal, with little sign of slowing down. In their opening upset of top seed Fort Collins shame. the defensive trio of Clea Poklemba, Jimmy Sykora, and Dylan DeClerck snuffed out their huck-happy opponents. Against #8 Boston Slow, Robyn Fennig showed off her skills in the deep space, especially reading hucks in the wind. Rami Paust is playing his best ultimate as the primary shot taker on the D-line, and Margaret Walker is as steadying a handler as you’ll see on offense. Through one day, NOISE simply isn’t making mistakes and came ready to play in big moments. With the way the seeding shook out, NOISE will have a winnable quarterfinal. Either way, they already proved they could take down top teams.
“We’re not just happy to be here,” Fennig said. “We had an additional five practices since Regionals. In a shortened season, we’ve made a lot of strides to click and are focusing on bringing that momentum up every game. I think we’ve got the right game plan and the right mental energy for our team.”
Denver Love Tractor
In the Pool B preview (and the Regionals preview), one unnamed Ultiworld reporter may have counted out #22 Denver Love Tractor as a contender to make Nationals in the first place, let alone take second place in their pool. Love Tractor is actually delivering on what most bottom-eight seeded teams hope to do: peak at the right time in the Series and on the Nationals stage.
Even though it’s been a while since Love Tractor has made it to the top stage, this team clearly displayed their seasoned competitive chops, with well-known players like Jesse Roehm and David Protter and more under-the-radar talent including Dori Franklin and Jenna Hunt alike making a difference today. Love Tractor did not just come expecting their roster to carry them, however; in order to secure wins over #10 Arizona Lawless and #11 Nashville ‘Shine, they used scouting reports and flexible strategies to both come in with a gameplan and respond to their opponents in real-time. With such a strong roster, Love Tractor’s mental fortitude has been their own worst enemy over the past few seasons, but it seems like the stars are starting to align.
“We did a great job of not getting down on each other — and it took a lot of practice to not get down on ourselves,” said David Protter following their universe point win over ‘Shine. “Feeling good about ourselves really helped our mental game tremendously and that’s always been the hardest thing for us.” If they keep their mental game as strong as their play, Denver Love Tractor has the potential to take on almost any team in San Diego.
Adam Grossberg (Philadelphia AMP)
An unheralded cutter entering Nationals who just turned eighteen, #4 Philadelphia AMP’s Adam Grossberg played one of the best days of ultimate across the mixed division. AMP drew up pull plays to get him the disc in the deep space and he was able to hold his own against some of the division’s top defenders. It is certainly not Philadelphia’s first go-around at Nationals, and onlookers would have been forgiven if they assumed Grossberg was a key piece to those title-winning squads rather than a rookie playing in the biggest tournament in his life. Because of the way the Pool D tiebreakers and point differential shook out, AMP fell to third in the pool and is on the hard side of the mixed championship bracket (all of the top five teams ended up there!). If they’re to make a repeat championship game experience, Grossberg will need to continue to play above expectations.
Nathan Champoux (Ann Arbor Hybrid)
As #7 Ann Arbor Hybrid worked its way through some tough games in the division’s closest pool, it was Champoux who came up with big play after big play to earn Hybrid a win over the pool’s top seed #6 Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust and during the exhilarating last round universe point victory over #20 New York XIST. Comfortable playing just about any position on the field, Champoux got key blocks, threw hucks through the wind, locked down top opponents, and motivated his teammates through an impressive and overachieving day.
Kaitlynne “Bunz” Roling (Seattle BFG)
#1 Seattle BFG had one of the biggest comeback stories of the day in the mixed division during their game against Love Tractor — and Kaitlynne “Bunz” Roling truly displayed her talent in generating turns and great throws to help her team clinch the win. Her athleticism and field sense shone brightly when she intercepted two of Denver’s deep looks before they got past half field with a heads-up block and then an intentional lane poach. She also ripped a sweeping backhand huck in the second-to-last point of the game for an assist to convert a hard-fought break point and bring the game to 12-8. Roling’s skills and positive energy are well-known to those who play with and against her, and her performance on Day One in San Diego shows that she is someone whose excellence we should all know about.
Teams Sponsored by White Claw
#3 Fort Collins shame.’s motto is WHAC: White Claw, Hucks, and Chaos. They brought all three, but the combination did not translate into wins as shame. hucked its way out of games and finished 1-2. Fort Collins’s performance was one of the biggest shocks of the day, with the team from Colorado falling from the top overall seed to finish third in their pool. Their strategy is well known and both NOISE and Boston Slow were able to take advantage of the huck-happy tendencies of shame.’s throwers to bait blocks. Without a clear Plan B, shame. wasn’t able to live up to its billing.
When asked what he’d change about his team’s play heading into the bracket, Joe ‘Smash’ Anderson said, “we’d score more goals.” Anderson didn’t seem too perturbed by shame.’s pool placement. “We don’t really care because we appreciate the chaos in mixed. We knew other people were going to lose so it didn’t matter where we were going to be as long as we made it to the bracket.”
Meanwhile, #17 Boise Lochsa has an actual White Claw sponsorship — logo on the jersey and all. However, two universe point losses and an ironic blowout loss to shame. later, Lochsa will be entering consolation play looking for a breakthrough win in their first-ever Nationals bow. There were a few individual bright spots for Lochsa: Jimmer Dahl and Daniel White impressed opponents with their solid play in the backfield. Cori Bigham was a matchup nightmare for opponents — all three teams in Pool A struggled to contain her in the downfield space. Jacob Miller emerged as a hybrid and was often called upon to take shots off of set plays. However, in moments when Boise needed a big play, nobody was able to step up and get the must-have block or break open a tight mark when it mattered. Two universe point losses will sting and Lochsa was probably hoping for more.
AMP(’s Point Total)
Entering their final pool play game against Drag’n Thrust, AMP was feeling pretty good about its day. It worked through a fairly straightforward and unspectacular game against XIST before dispatching Hybrid in a closely contested affair. Drag’n Thrust had dropped a game to Hybrid earlier, meaning AMP would take the pool with a win. Instead, Minneapolis rushed out to a 7-1 lead and held off an AMP comeback for a comfortable 12-8 win. This result left Hybrid, Drag’n Thrust, and AMP all tied at 2-1 and given their terrible first half against Drag’n, AMP had the worst point differential of the three and is now stuck in an undesirable prequarter slot. After looking like the most impressive team for the first nine hours of pool play, AMP’s now stuck on the harder side of the mixed bracket and is in serious jeopardy of an earlier-than-expected exit.
The Injury Bug
There were plenty of warnings before the season started that the atypical ramp-up and shortened schedule could lead to more soft tissue injuries. Nevertheless, it was disheartening to see key players like Hybrid’s James Highsmith and AMP’s Lindsay McKenna go down in game one. Each could be seen the rest of the day supporting their teams from the sideline rather than on the field. Highsmith hyperextended his knee and McKenna pulled her hamstring. Hopefully, these two get healed up soon, as both of their teams will be making bracket appearances and would benefit from their return.