National Championships 2022: Mixed Prequarterfinals Recap

Catch up on all the prequarterfinal action from the mixed division

Red Flag’s Peter Yu scores just past a bidding Vincenzo Vitiello of Polar Bears. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – 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 from our Day 2 live blog. Stay tuned into ultiworld.com/live for updates, as well as streaming links for all live games!

San Francisco Polar Bears 15 – 10 Vancouver Red Flag

In the prequarter on field six this morning, San Francisco Polar Bears feasted on the red meat of Vancouver and sent their flag tumbling out of the Mixed division 15-10.

Versatility comes with experience, we learn how to adapt to our surroundings over time or be devoured by them. While Vancouver Red Flag are a young team, they have spent enough time in the upper echelons of ultimate by now that their reputation precedes them. Polar Bears recognized this and attacked the young Canadian outfit early, burning out to an early 5-1 lead courtesy of some big shots and controlled swings.

“We saw them connect deep a lot,” said Polar Bears Coach Daniel “Robot” Naruo. “And their deep shots were pretty spot on. Their people were cutting deep and either skying or just [catching] in stride and super fast. So we figured we wanted to contain that, force them under. We have a lot of people that can pressure on unders as well. So we figured we could either get some run through Ds or put enough pressure on their back that they’re thinking about us, which I think happened to a lot of cases where they either dropped it or just couldn’t get to it.”

This pressure was evident in the early exchanges as Red Flag fell behind, giving up the disc on seemingly open shots and mistimed cuts. Polar Bears set flattened marks and utilized sideline calls to recognize shooters on the disc. They also poached to the point of literal excess as the game wore on; Ryan Hoffman was a particular pest in this regard. The poaching did open up channels in the unders for Red Flag to exploit, but the Vancouverites struggled to take advantage of them.

“I feel like we knew what we had to do,” admitted Red Flag Coach Alex Lam. “But honestly, on offense, we just had a lot of execution errors. There were a couple of choices where we were trying to force those upfield when we could have just hit poachers or open players. But yeah, I think it just came down to execution on our end, for most of it.”

On the offensive side the Bears started the game with some brilliant set play hucks that would open up their opponent’s defensive focus for them to pull apart with flowing swings and breakside strike cuts for the rest of the match.

“At the beginning they got a couple hucks on us that really felt like we didn’t have our feet under us,” said Lam. “We typically pride ourselves in not letting teams huck on us, so it was a little bit of a rude awakening. We weren’t ready to defend those hucks. So it took us a while to get into working on that part of our game before we could even then focus again on the the side to side part of the field.”

“We will definitely try and get like a few play calls here and there,” confirmed Naruo. “But we know that when the play calls break down, we definitely have the smarts to kind of move it around without clogging or creating chaos. We run our system all through the year from the very beginning of the year, and really try and grind it into our offensive minds to really run that system. So that way, if something doesn’t work out or break down, we have something to rely on. And we’re not trying to think of what to do on the spot and it really showed with how easily we flowed and really kept the district low stall count.”

The flow was near undeniable, as Mac Taylor marshalled an offense that swung across the field and down alternating sidelines. Margot Stert, Nicholas Alexander, Carolyn Drewry and Robert Yeagle were essential parts of this cascade as it carved its way around and through the athletic Red Flag defense and took half 8-4.

On the defensive end a special shout out to Qingyun Lu who took on one of the hardest match-ups in the division in Mika Kurahashi, making her almost look like a standard player at times.

Red Flag made a brief resurgence at the start of second half, slowly becoming more settled against the San Franciscan poaching which was becoming gratuitous.

“It was really testing the waters, seeing how much they’re willing to grind it out and just small ball,” explained Naruo. “We had the point advantage. So we knew the more throws they had to get through to get to the end zone, the better it was for us. So we were trying to keep the points too long. And we felt like that’s what the poaching and sagging really helped accomplish for us.”

This theory worked for a while until Red Flag were able to clean up their structure.

“It really was just execution and decision,” said Lam. “That’s been the story of this tournament. We know what we can play at, and it’s just being consistent at playing there for the O-line anyways.”

By the time Red Flag had found their feet Polar Bears were already looking for the exit and the teams effectively traded out the second half to 15-10.

Red Flag exit title contention after a rollercoaster of a first full length season. A silver at WUCC and coming one point away from topping their pool at US Nationals gives them a lot of positives to focus on and a fair share of regrets to further shape their development.

Meanwhile Polar Bears have demonstrated an ability to set up big plays and the adaptability to switch into free flowing team cutting that is near impossible to shut down. Their only loss so far came to BFG on universe. They also had a close win over Love Tractor who ploughed through AMP in their prequarter, setting the Bears up with a tantalizing quarterfinal against an XIST side who have been to Nationals three1 times before.


  1. THREE 

  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.

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