September 30, 2022 by Graham Gerhart in Recap with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s 2022 coverage of the club 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.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Despite the overbearing heat and field restrictions, Southwest Regionals went off without a hitch, especially for the predicted favorites. Neither San Francisco nor SoCal Condors ever looked in trouble of losing their bids to Nationals, and the two teams neatly diced up the rest of the region before meeting in the final. Revolver won this bout 15-11 after taking a strong lead early, but the Condors efficiently picked apart Berkeley Zyzzyva soon after to book their ticket back to San Diego.
Revolver Gets Revenge on Rival Condors to Wrap Up the Region
As predicted by fans and critics alike, the two best teams in the region met in the final without much difficulty along the way. Revolver had an interesting start to their tournament where they let Tucson’s Sonoran Dogs stay within shooting distance in their first game of the weekend, but after they let themselves warm up, Revolver scored the final five points of the game to win 15-7. In semis, Revolver easily dispatched East Bay OAT 15-5, locking out any question of their fallibility. On the other side of the bracket, the closest games the Condors had faced to that point was a 15-7 win of their own against OC Crows in pool play, as Streetgang had elected to play open lines in semis after being broken twice early in the first half.
With both teams playing to their full potential, the matchup on Sunday really did appear to be on level ground. Both teams had played three games on Saturday, and with it being the first game of the day, neither side had any sort of fatigue heading in.
Despite the appearance of equal footing, Revolver quickly established themselves as the team holding the higher ground. The Condors were missing some critical handlers from their roster in Dom Leggio, Elliot Warner, and Tim Gilligan, which put a lot of pressure on the throwers that were at the tournament to play at their peak. Revolver took full advantage of this, often funneling the SoCal team to the low side as they got closer to the end zone, which did lead to a few bladey turns or rushed shots from the Condors in the first half. While resets did not look to be too much of a problem from either team, Revolver’s handler defenders did an excellent job stopping upline cuts, forcing the Condors into the backfield to get their resets off.
San Francisco clearly had done their homework, too, as they knew their matchups to a T. Where Marcel Osborne and KJ Koo had been able to drive a lot of downfield momentum in the regular season, they often were stifled on big yardage gains from under cuts. Nicholas Simonelli and Sam Cook had some standout moments, including an incredible layout grab from Cook that would make any highlight reel, but the momentum was clearly on Revolver’s side.
It helped that Revolver were able to get the disc to the break side with relative ease. While their defensive pressure was commendable, it was their offense after the turn that really set them up for success. The team had no qualms with patient lateral movement until something opened up, and it provided them with plenty of opportunities when Condor players were late to orbit or overcommitted on an assignment. Byron Liu, Nate Prior, and the rest of Revolver were happy to play keep away until something opened up in the end zone.
This plan wasn’t always successful, however. The Condors have a rising star in Lukas Ambrose, who made three amazing endzone blocks, including a layout for a pass that seemed well beyond his reach. He often took the tougher matchups downfield for SoCal, and was a bright spot in the game for them.
Even with individual heroics from the Condors, they found themselves down 8-5 at half, with Revolver fully in the driver’s seat. Out of half, both teams became very stingy with their turnovers, but the lead that Revolver had built was just too much padding for the Condors to get within shooting distance.
A lot of the success for Revolver in the second half can be whittled down to smart, heads-up play from their offensive unit. Kevin Tien has been a welcome addition to the team, and was a problem for the Condors all game, as was Adam Rees, but the MVP of the game, and the weekend as a whole, was Eli Kerns. The do-it-all handler for Revolver worked overtime to get open when the team needed him, and was often able to outplay his defender in isolation, giving Revolver an easy release valve where necessary. It wasn’t a perfect game from Revolver’s O-line, but Kerns’ play helped them inch closer to that ideal.
The game wrapped up at 15-11, but it had been in Revolver’s control far before that. There were a number of aggressive zones, junk defenses, and match-up defensive schemes that the Condors ran, but nothing unlocked Revolver’s offense to give the Condors a foothold. “They were the better team than us —today,” said Condors captain Sam Fontaine.
After losing their spot at the top of the region in 2021, Revolver is once again the toast of the Southwest, and will have a lot of momentum heading into Nationals.
Condors Stop Zyzzyva’s Simmering Cinderella Story in the Game to Go
After their loss to Revolver, the SoCal Condors went into the game-to-go with a point to prove. Despite the vultures circling around them, the Condors rose above the fray and easily swooped past Zyzzyva without much resistance.
The Berkeley team was riding a high coming off two straight wins on Sunday, having just beat San Diego Streetgang in the backdoor semis, but couldn’t maintain that energy against a fresher, more determined SoCal team that had better discipline on both offense and defense.
That wasn’t the case at the start of the game, though. Zyzzyva came out the gate with solid defense that led to two turns from the Condors on the very first point. Unfortunately, neither turn led to a break, as SoCal was just too careful on defense and Berkeley was a little too eager, allowing the Condors a hold despite the threat of an early break.
Zyzzyva wouldn’t get many chances after that. After a few holds, the cracks started to show on the fifth point of the game, as a rushed throw from Zyzzyva let the Condors defense, marshalled by Will Turner and Sam Fontaine, take control of the game. A few junk sets interspersed between solid handler defense kept Zyzzyva guessing all of the first half, and it didn’t take long before the Condors bullied their way to an 8-3 lead at half.
Credit where it’s due: Zyzzyva kept fighting. Gavin May, Matt Burke, and Patrick Xu were as unflappable as ever, but too often it was a single lapse in judgement that swung the course of a point in favor of the Condors. The defensive firepower of Jaron Omulolu, Drew Palmer, and Dexter Clyburn did not see the field enough thanks to the breaks landing in favor of the Condors, and even when they crossed over, tough offensive possessions left them gassed before they even had a chance to set their defense.
By the time the game ended, the Condors had proven their point with a 15-4 scoreline and a nationals berth in hand.
Best of the Rest
As noted before the tournament, the closest competition in Tucson was the battle for third place. Zyzzyva, OAT, Streetgang, and Phoenix Drought were all of very comparable skill levels, and there was no team that was a league above the rest. OAT made it to the semis with a win over Drought, but lost to Zyzzyva in backdoor quarters, who had lost to Streetgang in quarters. Streetgang, for their part, beat Drought in the backdoor quarters but then lost to Zyzzyva in the game-to-go-to-the-game-to-go, despite having beat them earlier in the tournament. The results between the teams were as muddy as they had been in the regular season, and it sets up plenty of friendly rivalries in the years to come.
While Zyzzyva proved themselves to be the third best team at the tournament this year, their game against Streetgang was no easy win. Berkeley had struggled to contain San Diego’s Thomas Konogeris in their previous meeting, and the handler core of Michael Tran, Jake Gutkowski, and Boris Li had navigated the Zyzzyva zone with ease. To make matters worse, the San Diegan squad had received a bye heading into Sunday, meaning they had played one game less than their NorCal opponents.
The deck might have been stacked against Zyzzyva, but they had a winning hand. Streetgang made too many mistakes on offense in the first half, and even the two-way play of Zachary Spidell couldn’t get them back into the game. Zyzzyva’s defensive line did their job to perfection in the first half, and even though Streetgang tried to stage a comeback, the calm offensive play from Ben Elliot, Michael Chen, and Matt Burke gave Berkeley their chance in the game-to-go.