Washington DC Truck Stop continued their title march by knocking off last season’s champions.
October 22, 2022 by Alex Rubin in Recap with 0 comments
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.
Continuing their season-long dominance of the division’s elite, Washington DC Truck Stop rode an early defensive run all the way to a quarterfinal victory, taking down defending champions Raleigh Ring of Fire 15-11. From the get-go, Truck Stop’s defense made Raleigh’s offense uncomfortable. Even when they were not getting blocks, Truck Stop was able to funnel Ring into uncomfortable positions and disadvantageous looks.
“Yeah, I mean, it feels great,” Truck Stop captain Tyler Monroe said. “This has been the team that has given us a lot of trouble in big games before. Like always this time of year, it seems like we come up against them. And I just think it’s a great game to finally be able to put our team together in the right way.”
Early in the game, Raleigh’s Anders Juengst dropped a high pass and Truck Stop went straight into fast-break mode. Frederick Farah made a tumbling catch to score the first break of the game that extended Truck’s lead to 3-1. Truck Stop went on to expand that margin to three after another drop from Juengst gave DC possession. The Truck Stop counterattack was ruthless with the disc, moving the disc at a quick pace and keeping Raleigh’s offense chasing.
“Well, first off our key to success is our D-line getting us a four- or five-break lead in the first half so we are not playing with any pressure,” Monroe said. “Let’s go out and play your own game, you know? Offensively, we can all play at the tempo and the spacing with the dribbling that we want to. That’s what makes us a great team; we can play at our tempo no matter who’s guarding us.”
Truck Stop broke to take half when Duncan Fitzgerald elevated to block a reset that floated into the wind. Truck Stop took a timeout and David Bloodgood managed to fight through heavy defensive pressure to secure a catch on the doorstep of the end zone; his short toss to Jasper Tom provided the short assist, and DC was up at halftime 8-4.
“Hats off to Truck for putting a lot of pressure on us,” Ring of Fire veteran Noah Saul said after the game. “We’re used to playing against that pressure, but today we just had a few mistakes — really, this weekend. Just a couple execution errors in every game. Every other game we’re able to kind of overcome with our D-line; Truck just didn’t want to give it back.”
One round earlier, Ring had overcome a similarly slow start to take down Pittsburgh Temper. In the second half of this game, Raleigh refined its gameplan and began to claw back. No longer content just forcing tight window throws and attempting to squeeze the Truck Stop handler set, Ring sat with a cushion under their marks and forced Truck Stop’s offense to look to the deep space.
“They’ve been hard to dispossess,” Saul said. “Our plan was to go a lot of flat marks and try and front them and make them beat us deep. Make them throw up long balls to our athletes and try and get blocks. When we did get breaks, that’s typically how they came.”
With the speedy Alex Davis waiting in the wings, Raleigh forced incomplete deep shots on consecutive possessions — including one Davis block — and converted the ensuing break opportunities to bring the game within two at 13-11.
“It was just a little uncharacteristic, where we took two away shots,” Truck mainstay Rowan McDonnell said. “We haven’t really been doing that too much but I think we saw it was getting towards the end and we wanted to finish it, but the message from the halftime was, hey, let’s go back to what makes us a great O-line and that’s taking the early shots keeping our tempo up there and just using our legs not our throws.”
Truck Stop called a timeout and resettled. David Cranston crossed over to the offense to add one more steadying force, and despite heavy pressure from a hungry Ring defense, Truck managed to hold. True to their strengths, Ethan Bloodworth, Seth Weaver, and Suraj Madiraju did what they could to slow down Truck Stop’s handler driven attack. Truck just had an answer for every challenge Ring presented. Tyler Monroe released a nifty high-release flick at a high stall to relieve the pressure on that crucial late-game hold.
“I think it’s kind of our chemistry,” McDonnell said, referring to Truck’s propensity to throw resets other teams wouldn’t even consider. “It is critical because we all know each other’s favorite throws, what we want to throw, and what window our teammates want to throw in. So it’s actually our cutters that set up these what would look like our creative throws, but it’s things we practice, we play, and we use all year.”
With just one more point needed to win the game, Truck Stop didn’t blink. Sol Yanuck’s inside flick came out a bit low and hit the turf. Moving quickly the other way, Jeremy Hess made a spinning catch to grab an away shot and only needed to float a simple backhand in front of Tom to seal the victory.
For Truck Stop, this win was further validation that this year is their year. With two wins already over Ring of Fire from Pro Champs, getting the win in the bracket at Nationals against a team that’s eliminated them so many times before (including back in the old Mid-Atlantic days) had to feel satisfying. While Truck Stop’s rise has felt inevitable all year, it’s one thing to be the no.1 seed on paper, and it’s another to perform like one when push comes to shove and the games actually matter.
Truck Stop is looking ahead to its semifinal matchup against New York PoNY. A rematch of the Pro Champs title game, Truck Stop will draw confidence from its previous win over New York and its stellar weekend to this point. At the one point they were really tested — weathering Ring’s late comeback attempt — all it took was a timeout and a quick refocus to right the ship.
“We’re really excited to go play another great team that has a lot of great playmakers,” Monroe said after the quarterfinal win. “They’re gonna challenge your offense and we love to be challenged. So we’re really, really excited to go out there and play our ball.”
On the other sideline, Ring of Fire already turned its sights to 2023. Though disappointed to have their season end a day or two early this year after their championship in 2021, Ring of Fire has so much still-developing talent that it’s hard to see them anywhere other than near the top of the division for the foreseeable future.
“I’m proud of our whole team,” Saul said after the game. “Proud of the young guys for stepping up, the way we fought in every game we played, and the comebacks we made, and the way we fought in that Truck game. We never stopped believing until the end — I thought we were gonna come back and win…I’m proud of the way we fought.”
With the bulk of their roster still emerging as high-level club players, Ring of Fire will have plenty of chances to get back to the heights of their stellar 2021 campaign. Now that the title glow has worn off, Ring will almost certainly get right back to work and build towards a rebound 2023 season.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Saul added. “We’re super young. Super proud of this team. It always hurts more when you’re a real contender playing for the ‘ship, and this one hurts, but most of our team will be back next year and we’ll be better and we’ll be coming for more.”