National Championships 2022: Mixed Pool Play Recap

Catch up on the action from Day One of Nationals in the mixed division, where it's growing ever more clear that anything can happen.

Love Tractor's James Cantwell scores just past a bidding Polar Bears defender. Polar Bears narrowly held off Love Tractor in a 13-12 win. Photo: Rodney Chen - Ultiphotos.com
Love Tractor’s James Cantwell scores just past a bidding Polar Bears defender. Polar Bears narrowly held off Love Tractor in a 13-12 win. Photo: Rodney Chen – Ultiphotos.com

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2022 Club National Championships 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.

We’ve rounded up coverage of each mixed division pool from our Day One live blog. Stay tuned into ultiworld.com/live for updates from prequarters and quarters, as well as streaming links for all live games!

Pool A

Nationals Newbies, Dirty Bird, Upset Top Seed 15-12

It’s only the first game in Pool A and we already have major upset on our hands! In a hard-fought game, no.12 seed Atlanta Dirty Bird upset no.1 seed Drag’n Thrust. The first point of the game started with a break from the top dogs, but after a few uncharacteristic drops from Drag’n, Dirty Bird quickly pulled ahead, earning two consecutive breaks. Despite the pressurized defense from our usual Drag’n suspects, Caleb Denecour and Jane Koch, they failed on several red zone chances and Dirty Bird kept their holds going. Their female-matching players were sure to get blocks near the Drag’n end zone. From then on, Dirty Bird made very few mistakes, with their offense run by Matt Smith and Austin Taylor. In the end, Dirty Bird just played their own game, allowing them to be successful.

“I think the attitude the whole game was just to have fun the entire time, so that’s pretty much what the team is trying to do: have fun, and it felt like it was fun the entire time,” said Taylor Mutch.

Having fun has been the whole Dirty Bird mantra this season and in their first year as an established team, a win against their first national opponent, much less the overall no.1, is certainly going to be one to remember.

As to their success, Caroline Taylor states that it comes from staying loose.

“All season is saying, we want to have fun and we’re going to rely on the experience and talent that we’ve got. And so we don’t have set plays, we don’t have set strategies,” she said. “It’s hey, let’s work with each other and communicate well and the more we do that and have fun, we’re just going to keep doing well. Fun and no strategy.”

Top Seeds Fend Off More Upsets in Round 2

The wind played a major factor in performances. After a turn-heavy game due to the wind, Drag’n Thrust started looking more like themselves and won over Boston Slow, 13-9.

XIST meanwhile put Dirty Bird back in their place. Emily Barrett did well in the deep space and continued to make the catches when things mattered. Atlanta played close in the early part of the game, staying even to 4-4, but their offense could not get enough rhythm. After a close first half, XIST pulled away and got the 15-9 win.

Final Round

The last round of play for Pool A was a doozy. These games separated who would win and lose the pool. Boston Slow looked good, but made so many drops. To be fair, Dirty Bird did the same. The game was not the cleanest, but there wasn’t enough defensive pressure from either to force turns. Dirty Bird came out on top 13-11, taking second in the pool.

Drag’n Thrust and Xist both fought hard, but Drag’n continued the trend of errors and could not clean up their mistakes. Daniel Thorton and Genny De Jesus were clutch for the New York team and came down with several Ds and scores. Xist and Drag’n traded breaks but it just wasn’t enough from the top seed. Xist won 14-11.

“When you’re the first seed, teams want to beat you and these teams proved that they wanted to beat us and they did do that,” said Drag’n captain Danielle Byers when reflecting on the day. “I think we just didn’t come out with the same energy we had hoped to.”

Pool B

Space Force Opens with 14-6 BFG, Polar Bears Tops Love Tractor 13-12

With another round in the mixed division comes another bottom of pool seed to top of pool seed upset. Huntsville Space Force won against BFG. Space Force threw out a junk-looking zone on BFG and despite their better efforts and their patience, they committed several turns on throws taken by the wind. Space Force on the other hand threw up some lofty passes that were caught simply due to the height of their team. They were always able to hold, only allowing BFG to get one break against them. With a final score of 14-6, Space Force pulled out the win.

On the other side of the B bracket, San Francisco Polar Bears took the win against Denver Love Tractor. In a close game that contained four breaks right away and then only one Polar Bears break in the second half, the game was brought to double game point. Polar Bears came out on top. Piers McNauughton was at the top of his game, Henry Konker had an excellent game, raking in the stats.

Seattle BFG 15 – 14 San Francisco Polar Bears

The game started out slow, exchanging holds. Cheryl Hsu completely ran the field as a center handler for BFG. These were not all clean holds, though. There were numerous points that included red zone chances from both teams, yet each overshot their players on multiple occasions. BFG maintained a lead and scored several breaks to take the game to half, but Polar Bears came back and got breaks of their own. Every time BFG would go up multiple breaks, PBR would find a way to get it back; the team from California really was hungry for the win.

BFG’s female-matching cutters really helped carry the team. Their upline cuts were nearly unstoppable. Alexa Kirkland, Leah Bar-On Simmons, and Kaitlynne Roling all played major roles in the BFG offense that in the end led them to victory. Of course, PBR had some standouts as well, such as Mac Taylor, Robert Yeagle, Margo Donahue, and Carolyn Drewry, but in the end their efforts fell just short of BFG’s.

“We knew this game would come down to limiting them and they have some good receivers, Piers [MacNaughton] and [Margot Stert], and so it was like, we know what they want to do, but can we stop it?” said BFG captain Reid Koss. “So we really lean into, ‘hey we trust that we can win our matchup’ and we did it just enough.”

Big Picture

The second round for Pool B went as predicted. BFG won on good, but not great, margins against Love Tractor. Cheryl Hsu really popped off during that game, adding to her stats for the weekend. Space Force got up on relatively early lead over Polar Bears. Captain Lauren Bryant led the team on and off field, making impressive grabs and stellar reads. However, Space Force maybe felt a bit too comfortable with the growing lead and started making mistakes. Polar Bears were able to capitalize and get several clean breaks, winning with a final score of 15-10.

In the last round of pool play, Pool B’s results surprisingly went to seed. If they hadn’t, it would have changed everything. Love Tractor beat Space Force, guaranteeing no teams in the pool have won nor lost all of their games. San Francisco Polar Bears put up a fight against no.2 seed BFG, taking them to universe.

So here’s why this is all important. If Love Tractor had won with a larger margin against Space Force and if Polar Bears had won that universe point, BFG would have been knocked out of the bracket and contention to win the championship. But, by winning this game, BFG won their pool and a bye to the quarterfinals tomorrow.

Pool C

A Round of Upsets

Round one in Pool C was a spicy affair as both games were incredibly close and ended with the lower seeded teams winning. Fort Collins shame. mounted a late comeback to beat Philadelphia AMP on stream.

In the other Pool C matchup, Vancouver young guns Red Flag bested Durham Toro on universe point. The final score was in typical flashy fashion as Gagan Chatha seared a bladey flick to the break side for Peter Yu to collect, but in reality their win came down to the marked improvement they made on the fundamental side of the game and their ability to retain the disc and get the little things right.

Speaking after the game Coach Alex Lam said, “They gave us a tight clean game and we also played a really clean game overall and honestly we’re here just to prove we can run with the top teams. We love to take our shots and we trust our games to throw them and to come down with them, so we always have an element of big shots but the real hammer lesson for us at Worlds was can you also play clean decent O and I think that’s what we’ve proved in this first game.”

Philadelphia AMP 13 – 9 Vancouver Red Flag

AMP and Red Flag locked horns in a match up that brought new meaning to word “momentum.” Following their upset loss to shame. this morning, Philadelphia knew they needed to respond. An early lead disintegrated before the East Coast monsters took back over and ran out 13-11.

“We just came out with better energy than we did in our first game against shame.,” explained AMP captain Calvin Trisolini. “We really respect these opponents. And we know that they’re going to punch back if we go up early. So we wanted to put the gas on from the very beginning of the game. And we’re here to play for ourselves. So that’s what we did.”

Boy did they, storming off to a 7-1 lead. AMP looked every ounce the title challengers.

“We really struggled in connecting in our first half,” admitted Red Flag coach Alex Lam. “I think it was a bit windier at the beginning of the game, and [it] got us a little flustered. I mean, I think we have the ability to play in that way. But it mentally flustered us a little bit. So they went on a pretty hard run.”

Red Flag responded with a late half surge to make the game a more respectable 8-4 score when the teams went for a water break.

Coming out in the second half, the Vancouverites built on their more recent defensive performances and started to claw their way back into the game.

“It was kind of a natural half,” Lam continued. “So at half, we just said, ‘You know what, it’s a fresh game. They’ve already lost a game. So every point we score matters, right?’ And we really just came out with that attitude, we got nothing to lose, let’s just play hard D if turns come then we can flow from there, kind of do a mental reset.”

Hard D was exactly what they brought: incredible pressure from all seven players forced a series of mistakes from AMP which the Canadians capitalized on with their characteristic blades and hucks.

“They’re a good team,” said Trisolini. “They’re very good in the air, they’re very good downfield, and their defense put a lot of pressure on us and forced some errors. So I was impressed by their play, and a little bit disappointed by the execution.”

Koji Suzuki was incredible in Red Flag’s comeback and it was his huck to the always dangerous Mika Kurahashi – who took a moment to collect herself on the end zone line before hitting Justin Podnar with a delicate leading pass – that tied the game at nines.

The next point was a scramble, both teams employing poaches to great effect, measuring their gambles just long enough to disrupt offensive flow without giving up a big gain to their opponents. A furious back and forth of possession that felt like it would decide the match, in the end it did.

“Those are our favorite points, said Trisolini. “Those dirty points, those rat dog points are what we’re here to play for. We don’t want to win pretty we want to win ugly. So if we win those points, we feel really good.”

Red Flag came oh so close to taking their first lead, with Gagan Chatha and Edward Guo running the offense, but came unglued right on the end zone line. AMP marched down the pitch leading to Jordan Rhyne putting a leading pass on a platter for AMP captain Sumi Onoe to chase down. They followed it up with the first break in almost an hour courtesy of Lindsey McKenna.

“Lindsay McKenna is one of the most talented players in the division,” confirmed Trisolini. “She can pretty much do it all. And she was injured last year at Nationals, which was really hard for her and really hard for our team. And I’m just so proud of the way she bounced back and loved playing with her.”

AMP would trade out the last two points and take the win. Following the loss, Lam was far from dejected, reflecting on what the second half performance by his team meant ahead of their matchup against the undefeated Fort Collins shame.

“We came into this tournament being bottom seed, and we knew that all the teams we are going to play were going to be good. So we’re just gonna go into it with the same attitude that we did in that second half and we’re just gonna really try to take it to them.”

Final Round

Math is a dangerous thing, and must be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately for the denizens of Pool C, three of the four teams have fallen victim to that most feared of middle school afflictions.

Philadelphia AMP were able to take care of business against Durham Toro. The athleticism of their receivers mixed with the potency of their ability to switch the focus of the field proved too much for the southerners as AMP ran out 14-9.

In the other pool game things were much closer. Red Flag looked to be getting stronger with each game and seemed destined to take the top spot in the pool until a late surge by shame. to close the gap to two points threw the final standings into disarray.

Early in the match Red Flag ramped up the defensive pressure and were able to connect on their deep looks, taking an early 6-4 lead.

“I think we are honestly the most athletic defensive line in the tournament,” said Red Flag Captain Zellema Mot. “We just grind out there on D and we just love that and I think eventually we will get the D. Every D point we’re gonna learn and adjust. We just learned every point and that’s why I’m so confident.”

One of these standout matchups was Collefas Mot on Sarah Pesch, a key player for shame., and it took every fiber of C. Mot’s considerable defensive presence to limit her effectiveness.

As the game wore on the turnovers started to creep in, though Red Flag continued to get the better of them. Big hucks from both sides defined the matchup as Samuel Creed and Gagan Chatha for Red Flag and Ethan Peck and David Wiseman for shame. looked for targets downfield.

“I think we’re intimidated by by Red Flags height and image coming in here,” confessed shame.’s official spokesman Ryan Morgan. “They were known as a team that likes to huck it, and I think that’s kind of shame.’s deal. So we kind of thought, well shoot, are we the team likes to huck it or are they a team likes to huck it? And it turns out Red Flag are the team that likes to huck it.”

As the game continued Red Flag would build a four point lead twice utilizing this approach, first at 12-8 and again at 14-10, due to some incredible blocks from Zellema Mot and Lauren Szeto-Fung.

At this point, with the top spot in the pool one point away for the Vancouverites, shame. stepped up the pressure.

“I think people will have forgotten that if we win that third game then there’s no prequarters tomorrow,” said Morgan. “Math came into play, and we thought, ‘well, shit, Let’s go for it.’”

So they went for it. shame., led by an insanely impressive layout from Helen Eifert and backed up with great plays from Aubree Dietrich, Sam Goldsteinn, and Spencer Tibbs, charged back into the matchup and brought it to 14-13.

But the comeback was not to be. The game ended when William Vu and Gagan Chatha both looked off deep shots until Neo Debroux took it on and sent one sailing to Ellen Au-Yeung for 15-13.

“I feel like the pressure did get to us,” admitted Mot. “We weren’t executing how we usually are on offense and yeah, it was a bit scary, but you know, I feel like we were able to execute and with all the injuries piling up it was like really hard to stay mentally focused.

I’m proud of the team that we were able to execute after all those ups and downs from that point, but yeah, it was it was scary.”

At this point confusion ran rampant across the field as three different teams all turned to an equally confused Irish man for the final verdict on the final standings of the pool.

After much discussion and debate it turned out that the results against Toro would define the standings, which meant shame. took the top spot, followed by AMP and Red Flag in third. This sets up some salsa verde matchups tomorrow!

Pool D

Ann Arbor Hybrid 15 – 12 Madison NOISE

Ann Arbor Hybrid went up against Madison NOISE in an opening matchup that proves the gods, or at very least the tournament seed committee, have a sense of humor. Ironically, after a season jokingly impersonating the Michiganders, it seems like Hybrid were the ones who were inside NOISE’s heads. Some great heads-up play and smart poach blocks, along with having the slight edge in depth and the ability to get the fundamentals right, helped Hybrid beat the Wisconsonite’s 15-12.

The first half was an understandable mishmash of big plays and execution errors; both teams had a smattering of under- and over-throws leading to some early exchanges littered with mistakes and a handful of truly breathtaking plays. Hybrid locked in on NOISE’s structure early, reading the mixture of 2-5 and side stack structures to earn several poach blocks. Nathan Champoux, Sara Nitz, and Theo Shapinsky all made great defensive plays for their team. Nico Ranabhat and Laura Farolfi were among the NOISEmakers who struck back at Hybrid with crafty poach blocks of their own, while Dylan DeClerck made some incredibly athletic plays. Hybrid always looked slightly more in control of the match-up and took half 8-6.

The second half was a lot more settled, as both teams found their groove and little in the elements seemed set to disturb both sides’ commitment to fundamental structure. NOISE would briefly try a zone but Tracey Lo, Raymond Lu, and Mark Whitton (but mainly Tracey Lo) got them to put it away pretty quickly. In fact, those three along with Katrina McGuire had fantastic second halves, marshalling the Hybrid offense and making sure NOISE wouldn’t be able to make a late game run. At half Hybrid captain Dan Donovan broke down the hard open-side coverage NOISE were running and challenged his team to go for more breaks to the flick side. Despite Tyler Williams’ assertion that “You don’t want to go in at half in the lead because that means you’re a first half team and no one wants that,” NOISE were never able to close the gap and Hybrid capitalized.

Meanwhile, Mixtape handled their business against The Chad Larson Experience in understandable fashion.

Mixtape Closes Out NOISE 15-10

First, Seattle Mixtape showed they know how to carry a game all the way through against CLX. Then, they showed they know how to respond when a team fights back against them when going up against NOISE as they took over the second half of the second half and won 15-10.

With the wind making an appearance, both teams trotted out some zones to varying degrees of success. Each side has a litany of experienced handlers and Seattle did a great job of pulling apart NOISE’s zone with swings before attacking through the middle. As expected Kelly Johnson, Billy Katz, Lexi Garrity and Khalif El-Salaam were particular standouts. Quick shout out to Jack Kelly, who put in an early bid for catch of the tournament getting a huge layout grab from a Robyn Fennig huck to make it 6-4.

An early burst from Seattle got them the lead. Building on this with heaps of pressure in one-on-one matchups ensured Mixtape kept the Madison Mousetraps under pressure for the entire first half and it looked like they were in for a repeat of the morning matchup as they went down 8-5.

However, NOISE do not go quietly and they dug deep in the crucial third quarter. Some smart plays, big swings, and the ever-increasing number of incomplete hucks from Seattle drove their second half resurgence. Avery Johnson and Tyler Williams were great with disc in hand and Dylan DeClerck is basically guaranteed one highlight block a game. Tied at 9-9 Seattle called a timeout, recognizing they needed to stop over-extending themselves and get back to their system.

“We noticed that the mistakes we were making, they weren’t taking the disc away from us, we were causing ourselves to turnover,” said Mixtape captain Jesse Bolton. “We called the timeout to reestablish ourselves, ‘it’s 9-9 hey we’re back to 0-0’ game to three and it’s time to restart. Everyone take an extra second and do what you need to do for the team to get us the score, and not everyone needing to do everything and be the hero, we have enough heroes on our team.”

The timeout worked as Seattle came out in force and scored the next five points, putting the game away with some big blocks from Jen Cogburn and Frances Gellert and great patient offense featuring Marc Munoz, Kahyee Fong, and Khalif El-Salaam. The game ended a predictable 15-10, if it did take an unexpected road there.

This punch in the face will serve Seattle well as they head into the defining game of the day against top seeds in Pool D Hybrid, who took care of business against The Chad Larson Experience. Hybrid and Seattle have never met before, so while they have both prepared for the match-up it’s been an academic exercise so far. We’re looking forward to things getting physical.

  1. Lorcan Murray
    Lorcan Murray

    Lorcán Murray is an Ultiworld contributor and freelance journalist. He lives in Limerick, Ireland. He plays ultimate for PELT and with his mustache regularly. You can reach him by email: rev.lmurray@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RevLorcan.

  2. Laura Osterlund
    Laura Osterlund

    Laura Osterlund is a freelance journalist living in Minneapolis.

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