D-I College Championships 2021: North Carolina Emphatically Avenge 2019 Final Loss (Men’s Semifinal Recap)

Darkside's defense, Alex Davis more than Brown can handle.

North Carolina's Andrew Li catches a goal for Darkside in the 2021 College Championships semifinal. Photo: Paul Rutherford -- UltiPhotos.com
North Carolina’s Andrew Li catches a goal for Darkside in the 2021 College Championships semifinal. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

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The rematch of the 2019 national championship featured plenty of highlight-reel plays as #1 North Caroline Darkside cruised to a 15-11 victory over #5 Brown Brownian Motion, avenging their 2019 loss and setting themselves up for a final date with Georgia Jojah.

The game started out rough for the defending champs, as Brown were broken on the first three points, with two unforced turns and one Rutledge Smith block for Darkside. After turning a deep shot on the fourth point, Brown was able to knock down a hammer and Jacques Nissen hit John Randolph for Brown’s first goal of the game, making the score 3-1.

The rest of the first half was all holds, but featured several exciting plays along the way. With the score at 4-2, Dylan Villeneuve blocked an Elijah Long huck and then sent a huck of his own to Azeez Adeyemi a few throws later. Alex Davis was able to win the position battle, going high for the block before smoking Adeyemi deep the other way for the bookends and hold.

Down at half 8-5 and pulling to start the second half, Brown needed four breaks in the second half to keep their repeat title hopes alive. Darkside began the second half in the same fashion that Brown started the game, with an unforced error leading to a break that closed the gap to two. It was as close as Brown would get.

North Carolina went back to their bread and butter, getting Alex Davis the disc for the hold — one of his game-leading five goals in the game — to make it 9-6. On defense, Darkside continued to apply pressure to Brown’s O-line, with Suraj Madiraju playing incredible defense on Nissen and limiting his offensive impact. Despite the pressure, Brown was able to rattle off several holds in a row as North Carolina’s O-line remained unchallenged.

Receiving up 10-8, Darkside’s Anders Juengst had a rare throwaway giving Brown a look at closing to within one, but B-Mo gave it back on an attempted sliding catch on a Randolph huck. Darkside would not afford a second chance, as they marched down the field and Matthew McKnight finessed a backhand to John McDonnell for the hold, giving Darkside an 11-8 lead.

Randolph turned another on a tight inside on the next point and Darkside immediately swung the disc as Elijah Long made an upline cut. After Long called a foul, there was a brief stoppage as both teams — and the observers — realized that Darkside had played the entire point with eight players on the field. Brown elected for a re-pull, and punched in an easy hold this time. After the game, Darkside coach J.D. Hastings said “For the record, I did not call Elijah on during that point; he did that himself.”

Both teams’ offenses continued to play clean, trading holds until the score reached 14-11 in favor of Darkside. With the game on the line, Brown turned a reset and Andrew Li rushed upline for the game-winning goal as his teammates embraced him.

With his five-goal performance, Alex Davis was outstanding in this semifinal — an intelligent cutter with game-breaking speed, Davis creates a matchup nightmare for every single defense he goes up against. After the game he was just as confused as us about how teams continue to play underneath him on defense. “I think they underestimate my speed,” he said. “They know I’m fast, but I don’t think they realize how fast I am until we are on the field. Eventually, Brown adjusted, but that created a lot of free unders that I was happy to take.” Davis attributed his success to his teammates also, mentioning that they defer downfield space to him because they know it will earn them free unders from their poaching defenders. After tearing his ACL during the shortened 2020 season, Alex Davis was elated to be back on the field, saying “I’m just thankful to be able to play with the same people again. They were really good in 2020, but I just remember wishing I could be out there with them. I don’t feel like I’m full speed yet even, I’m still recovering and still getting faster.”

Elijah Long also had a big game as his Darkside career winds down, posting six assists against the 2019 champs. When asked about getting the opportunity to play with Darkside one last season, Long said, “I’m really thankful we were able to play Colorado and Brown. Those were two really good teams and it’s awesome to play them both again before my college career ends,” adding, “It’s obviously nice to go to the finals in the last run.” Long took a backseat in this game for Darkside, which he was glad about; “I like to do a lot for the team, but I don’t have to do a lot on this team; it is awesome that the young guys can go out there and perform.”

Game-winning goal scorer Andrew Li wasn’t satisfied after the game, reminiscing that Darkside’s D-line did not do enough in the second half, wishing they had gotten more breaks after their initial run to open the game.

With nothing but dominant performances thus far, Darkside headed into the championship game as the undoubted favorite against an underdog Georgia Jojah.

  1. Eddie Scott
    Eddie Scott

    Eddie Scott began his career captaining Lower Merion High School and Philadelphia’s YCC team, Forge three times. He would later go on to captain UMass Zoodisc and play for Amherst Sprout. He was also a youth ultimate coordinator and camp counselor in both the Philadelphia and Amherst areas.

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