Only two teams remain undefeated after Day One in mixed, though they didn't exactly tread the same path.
October 21, 2022 by Laura Osterlund and Lorcan Murray in Analysis, Recap with 0 comments
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Through Day One of Nationals, only two mixed teams retain a spotless record. Pool A and Pool D both ended definitively, with New York XIST and Seattle Mixtape the only undefeated teams left ahead of the bracket, despite neither team coming into the tournament as the top seed in their group.
New York Do Work
After tournament top seed Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust lost their opening game to Atlanta Dirty Bird in the day’s first surprise upset, it isn’t that shocking that New York XIST came out on top of their pool. But to do so without ever giving up more than 12 points to an opponent wasn’t exactly expected from a team that went winless and only once eclipsed the 12-goal mark themselves in San Diego last season. This year is different; this is a very good team and they proved that on Thursday.
On Day One, XIST did things that their competition simply did not: clean up after their mistakes. The games that they won today were messy to say the least. Their score reporter page records 39 turns on the day — an average of 13 a game. Maybe we can blame the wind, or perhaps the nerves of playing on a national stage, which New York has not done that much in their program history. Yet for all the opportunities they coughed up to opponents, they were only broken four times in pool play.
Each of their games followed a similar script: grab a couple breaks early by capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes and then find a way to hang onto the lead. In fact, XIST only trailed for a single point all day. It wasn’t as though they were producing blocks at a prodigious rate; their 19 recorded blocks places them in roughly the middle of the pack within the division after one day. But they were able to convert on enough unforced errors. While they never really looked to be dominating and they rarely strung together clean holds, they also never really gave opponents a sniff at a comeback. Both Boston Slow and Atlanta Dirty Bird found themselves down a few at halftime and couldn’t claw their way back, try as they might. Against pool top seed Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust, New York were simply more clinical in the red zone.
One reason for their success was big performances from a couple of their woman-matching players. Genny DeJesus lit up the field; she applied relentless pressure on defense and made grab after grab en route to leading the division with 11 goals on Thursday. Emily Barrett also put in a shift; her deep cuts could not be stopped, and she went full beast mode to join DeJesus amongst the division’s top 10 goal scorers through pool play. Ryan Drost pitched in with a team-high four blocks and Oliver Chartock did great work in the backfield to keep the offense chugging along. There is talent on this roster that looked plenty comfortable on this stage.
Secondly, XIST did their homework.
“We did a lot of prep work. We prepared for every team, every game, every situation,” said coach Isaiah Bryant. “Not only did we study up on it looking at film, but also took some of our habits and brought it into our practice to play against. So throughout the day, we looked into our notebook and was like X, Y, and Z, that’s what we need to do. When we implemented that, that’s what resulted in scores, that’s what resulted in breaks.”
“The unfortunate piece for us, being the number one seed,” said Drag’n Thrust captain Bryan Vohnoutka pre-tournament, “is that we probably have the most film available of our games as opposed to other teams, for better or worse.”
Playing in-region rivals Slow several times over the past couple summers meant there was plenty of familiarity there as well.
Advantages or no, XIST fought hard for their wins. When they were given chances, they made the most of them. While none of their Day One victories were achieved with the kind if ruthless efficiency they may need if they’re to continue their undefeated run into the weekend, no one can take those wins away from them. In the notoriously mercurial mixed division, XIST earned their undefeated day.
Mixtape Play the Hits
Few would dispute that the reigning world champions came into this tournament grossly underseeded at no.5. They were the top pick among fans and staff alike in Ultiworld’s various Nationals prognostication challenges. They experienced a few missteps during the earlier part of the season playing tournaments short-handed and dropping some games they likely wouldn’t have with a full roster, but since late July, they’ve gone from strength to strength, winning a WUCC and Regional title along their road to Nationals.
On Thursday in San Diego, they didn’t just go undefeated, they went nearly unchallenged. They finished with a point differential of +25, which is either a stunning indictment of the quality of their opposition, or a stark reminder of the potency they are capable of. They have the star power to match or even overwhelm the best in the division and the depth to carry them through any lulls where their top players aren’t firing on all cylinders. In a division defined by its flux, Seattle strikes a constant pose.
Where some teams have looked like they leaned too far into one aspect of their offense, or that they seemed vulnerable in certain conditions, Seattle have morphed to find the best form to beat their opponents. The one time they looked shook all day was against NOISE, when the Wisconsinites snapped off a three-point run to tie the game at 9-9. In response, Seattle, a team who have a well-established ability to gameplan for opponents, looked inwards.
“We just noticed the mistakes that we were making,” explained captain Jesse Bolton. “They weren’t really taking the disc away from us — we were causing ourselves to turn it over. So we call a timeout, reestablished, ‘it was 9-9. So hey, we’re back to 0-0. And we’re in a new 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 [right] way, and not everyone needing to do everything and be the hero. We got enough heroes on the team.”
Those heroes are well known, Kelly Johnson has looked at her quarterbacking best, Billy Katz continues to rumble through opponents, Bert Cherry and Jennifer Cogburn are terrifying to play against, Lexi Garrity is nearly uncatchable, Marc Anthony Munoz is an enduring problem for teams to solve, and Khalif, well he’s Khalif isn’t he?
After they refocused, what looked like a moment of weakness passed and Mixtape ran out to a 15-10 victory over NOISE, then carried the momentum into a last round demolition of Ann Arbor Hybrid to win the pool.
Nationals is a long four days, and tomorrow is promised to no one. Mixtape are not impervious to the challenges awaiting them, but with the combination of their intelligence, depth and relentless positivity™, one has to believe they are well equipped to face them.