Presidents’ Day Invite 2022: Tournament Recap (Men’s)

Colorado and SLO capped off an intriguing tournament with a dramatic final.

Colorado went undefeated at PDI. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman — Ultiiphotos.com

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SAN DIEGO — Capping off an undefeated opening tournament, Colorado Mamabird took down Cal Poly SLO SLOCORE 11-10 after surviving a back-and-forth double game point in the final. The final game wrapped up an intense weekend of action that built slowly to the highly anticipated matchup between the two top ten squads.

Mamabird Outlasts SLO in Tight Final

SLO’s defensive pressure set the tone for the opening portion of the final. Jake Thorne earned a block on Colorado’s first possession, but the SLO D-line offense could not convert any of its first half chances. The game remained on serve for the first nine points before Colorado punched in a break. Garrett Bush dropped a simple in cut and Connor Tabor was able to find Walt Johnson to give Colorado a 6-4 lead. The Southwest team maintained their composure and managed to hold on their next point, but Mamabird struck again right before halftime. SLO worked the disc up the field against a swirling crosswind and stalled on their attacking endzone line when a swing flew quickly out of the reach of KJ Koo. Seth Wells picked up for the Colorado secondary defensive unit, which had grinded out a six possession point earlier in the half without punching in the goal. Wary of another marathon point, Wells launched a nearly full-field backhand huck that fell perfectly into the hands of Benjamin Harris to give Mamabird an 8-5 lead at the midpoint.

With short rounds — just seventy minutes until soft cap — SLO needed to turn up its intensity and pressure in the second half to get back in the game. Despite their best efforts, the first five points were all fairly simple holds to give Mamabird a 10-8 lead. With soft cap approaching, SLO started stacking its D-lines and scored their first break of the game after Thorne blocked an upline throw to Alex Atkins. Each team kept the same units out for the rest of the game: the standard Colorado O-line with Tabor crossing over from the defense, and the SLO O-line with Robinson and Thorne staying in for defense.

“We had just gotten broken a couple times,” Mamabird coach Bob Krier said. “I asked ‘Do we want to switch it up?’ and the team said ‘Hey, we made lines for a reason, let’s run with the O-line and not try to change things.’”

SLO broke again to tie the game at 10-10 when Calvin Stoughton, who had been Colorado’s most reliable player all tournament, dropped a disc on an under. Thorne once again collected the goal for the SLO break to set up a universe point. On Saturday, Colorado faced a similar situation against Cal and the O-line calmly worked up the field to score. SLO’s defense, though, was on a different level. Kyle Lew handblocked Atkins twice on the point, but SLO could not convert on offense. Given a third chance, Colorado was able to punch in the goal when Atkins escaped off the sideline with a high pressure centering pass to Danny Landesman, who found a poached Thomas Brewster in the end zone.

“I’m super proud of the team,” Krier said after the win. “We went deep into our lineup the whole weekend and played a bunch of rookies and watched them make plays.” Colorado did not take any rookies on their fall roster, so this was the first chance for many players to get game action with the A team. Keep an eye on Dexter Luecke in particular; Krier gave him a shout out after the game for his smooth integration into the offense.

For SLO, the universe point loss has to sting, but the opportunity to play high level out of region opponents was not lost on their players. “It’s why we play,” Miller said. “Just having games like these that are battles until the end…Games like these are how we get better. It’s not the outcome that we wanted, but its an outcome that will help us get better.”

Cal Close To Top Two, Oregon Not Far Behind

While Colorado had a relatively straightforward path to the final, it took a great effort by SLO to get there with a 12-10 win over #22 California in the semifinal round. As the wind and a light drizzle picked up, the game played out like a typical upwind-downwind affair with a first half featuring all holds. Koo’s ability to play small ball and find windows for over-the-top throws rendered the Cal zone ineffective. Likewise, Andrew Roy’s ability to maintain possession in the Cal backfield countered SLO’s intense person defense, which was the best of any team in the field.

“I think Evan [Magsig] and Andrew [Roy] are the best handler pair in the region,” Cal coach Dan Silverstein said after the game. “No offense to some of the other people…but this is my 13th year coaching college and this is the best pair I ever worked with. They’re really unstoppable…Our ability to win all these games and to play within one point with Colorado and two points with SLO is their ability to win every matchup.”

With the game tied at 7-7, SLO had a chance to break when Seamus Robinson’s tight mark forced Cal’s Max Williams to alter his route and a pass flew behind him. Always one to show up in clutch moments, Magsig laid out to block what looked to be a SLO score and called timeout to settle his offense. Out of the timeout, Magsig unloaded a perfectly weighted flick huck and Cal scored a crucial hold.

It wouldn’t be long before SLO got through Berkeley’s possession-based shield. After a hold out of half, CORE pinned Cal on their own goal line. Roy threw a swing pass that zipped passed his intended receiver in the wind, and Robinson ran in with heads up backside help defense for a SLO callahan and the first break of the game. Sensing the opportunity for a downwind break, SLO stacked its D-line and got a turnover when Williams couldn’t hang on to what looked like a sure catch between two defenders. Koo, crossing over from the offense, found Sander Fogarty for the two goal cushion that would remain for the rest of the game. Each team held out in the downwind end zone and SLO advanced to the final with a 12-10 win.

“We knew today was going to be tighter,” said SLO cutter Keaton Bates. “I feel like we rose to the occasion and didn’t give up when we were in close games.”

Cal goes home as the clear third best team at this tournament, and third in the standings after they won bronze medal game 12-8 over Oregon). In Sunday’s pool play action, they played to a universe point against Colorado in an instant classic that featured just a single break for each team.1

“One of the advantages we have is that I think we are a very intelligent team,” Roy said. “We’re willing to go deep into discussing strategy and spending the time watching film, understanding the nuances of something. So that helps a lot. Even our young players who don’t have a lot of ultimate experience can really internalize rules about how they can play spaces and what different priorities are so they can position based on that.”

In the other semifinal, #19 Oregon did its best to hang with Colorado, but missing two key offensive starters (Cylas Schooley injured his ankle on Saturday and Ke’ali McCarter did not play on Monday with a hamstring injury), Ego simply didn’t have the horsepower to compete with a Mamabird team firing on all cylinders.

David Barram and Gabe Nobis held down the Ego backfield, and Adam McNichols and Chander Boyd-Fliegel had shining moments as initiating cutters. Itay Chang did impressive work as the offensive anchor of the D-line, doing a lot to keep possession after a turn. For a team that did not play a competitive fall Series, Ego looked very impressive in their first major showing of 2022. With a few months to go until Regionals, they’ll be a team to look out for in the Northwest.

“One of the greatest parts about our team is that we really love each other,” said Ego cutter Daniel Ritthaler. “That was shown throughout the weekend. The guys that go down [with injuries], they stay engaged and literally coach the new guys that step in and that allows everyone to come forward and really succeed in their new role.”

Ego had a relentlessly positive sideline, playing in their signature basketball jerseys and bringing back a favorite college tradition: the break bucket. “Before we came down to San Diego we were a group of guys who played ultimate together,” Ritthaler said. “It really feels like we’re leaving as a team.”

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  1. 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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