BYU and Massachusetts go undefeated against an elite crop, while Carleton look poised for a comeback and the New England region stutters in the early season
February 10, 2023 by Edward Stephens in Recap with 0 comments
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TAMPA, Fla. – With rankings points on the table for the first time in two seasons and a full slate of teams, the action at Florida Warm Up returned to its traditional high-octane form. The tournament ended with not one, but two undefeated teams. Read on to see how that pair compare with one another, notes on three competitive semifinalists, and more.
Here’s a profile for you. 8-0 record at Warm Up. Size. Speed. Tremendous throwing ability across the board. Offensive spacing you could hang in the Louvre. Minefield defense. You know exactly which team fits the description. Or do you? Because all of the above apply to both BYU CHI and Massachusetts Zoodisc, the two most impressive (and most eerily similar) teams at Warm Up.
In the bracket proper, Massachusetts dispatched a talented Minnesota Grey Duck side 15-13 to win the official Warm Up championship – a nice bookend to close the weekend, which also began with a two-point victory over Minnesota. The final was a good demonstration of all the qualities that made Zoodisc such a force throughout the tournament: aggressive challenges on defense, well-timed cutting that could end offensive possessions almost as soon as they start, and an army of brilliant throwers – none of whom seem to mind a mark very much.
“We do a lot of breakmark,” confirmed captain Luca Harwood.
All of it was on display in the first two points as Zoodisc took a one-break lead that they would not relinquish. The hold to open the game was quick and clean, with all seven O-liners getting at least one touch before Wyatt Kellman and Noel Sierra (two of their three most consistent offensive drivers, along with Caelan McSweeney) won a give-and-go race on the backhand side to score. The D-line was even more efficient on offense – they don’t waste any time and aren’t scared to huck. They turned a Minnesota miscue into a three-throw 60-yard score capped by a Tobias Paperno shot to Bryan Dole from midfield. That formula wasn’t always repeatable, as shown by a poor huck that spoiled Jonah Stang-Osborne’s excellent deep block on the very next point, but it was extremely effective. Three Grey Duck offensive points into the game, Massachusetts had generated three break opportunities and converted on two of them to open up a 4-1 lead.
The keys to Zoodisc’s defensive successes – which were many, particularly during their 15-4 quarterfinal win over an overmatched Georgia Tech and the sizzling second half run they went on to bury Carleton – were the collective level of fitness and commitment to gumming up the center portions of the field. The gumminess forced tighter throwing windows in the center of the field while remaining in baiting position for throws at the edges, whether near the sideline or attempts to work beyond the defense. Minnesota were able to beat it at times with quick changes of direction (Max Dehlin) and quick long throws (Ian McCosky), but by and large Massachusetts were able to absorb and contest most of the biggest threats.
You get the sense that Zoodisc would have liked to open up a bigger lead than the two point advantage with which they ended the game. At the end of the weekend, though, their precise throwing started to show some signs of fraying. That minor note aside, it was a brilliant debut and vaults Massachusetts to headliner status among the challengers to de-throne UNC at Nationals.
“We were trying to figure out what our team identity was heading into the season and had a bunch of meetings over winter training,” said captain Isaac Kaplan. “And it became apparent that our identity was dependent on us. No matter what it was, we were always going to be ourselves and it was going to be the same every game. I’m so proud of all these guys to do that [at Warm Up].”
A few individual shout-outs are in order. Stang-Osborne was tremendous for the D-line, especially the power he managed to generate on hucks even through a flat mark. Harwood’s big play mindset juiced a large number of possessions. Freshman Gavin Abrahamsson, who lowkey went off in the final, made a wonderful start to his college career.
As good as Zoodisc looked, you could argue that BYU CHI, despite closer margins of victory, came out of Warm Up looking even better. The crux of that hypothetical argument is that CHI were coming off of a tournament the previous weekend and played the most grueling schedule imaginable: eight straight rounds on Friday and Saturday and not a single bye to rest. The wins included a rousing universe point victory over Pittsburgh after a back-and-forth game, a demolition of a shorthanded Brown, riding three game-opening breaks to a victory over a rejuvenated Carleton, and hanging on at the end to outlast Vermont’s best effort.
Regardless of how you rate them against Massachusetts, though, everything is coming up roses for BYU in this season’s early going. Luke Yorgason leads an offense that is a far cry from their huck-and-hope 2022 mindset: this is a precision unit with schemes so well-timed you’d think they were designed in Switzerland. They build cutter-to-cutter sequences to lop off most of the field in just a handful of throws by using sweep and fill action. The sweeping cuts – either from the sideline in a split stack set or off of the front of the stack in vert – tend to move the defense to create a big gap for a fill cut. Jacob Miller and Jensen Wells have both the wheels and the throws to often alternate as the primary and secondary looks in these sequences. The upshot of hitting that secondary cut is usually a free throwing window for 1-2 counts, and *that* means that downfield receivers like Sean McDonald and Zach Burnside – speedy, bouncy first year players – can expect plenty of throws to come their way. It’s a formula with no expiration date. Barring a rash of drops like the one that nearly sunk them against Vermont, they will likely be able to sustain the momentum for clean holds throughout the spring.
If the O-line are the sunshine, defense is where CHI make hay. They have added more technique and system play to an already formidable physical presence. Don’t test them deep if you’re going for a decent completion rate, and don’t expect anything less than a contest on many of your unders and resets. Chad Yorgason and Porter Oyler still lead the unit, and they are the ones forcing a lot of the turns. But what’s really scary is that several of the players here – Fischer Dastrup, Simon Dastrup, and Evan Miller – are contributing at a high level while still clearly at the start of their development. The D-line have cleaned up their act after the turn since last season, favoring swing-heavy offense and a heavy helping of break-side throws to make the turnovers stick.
With weekends like they had, the only thing left wanting from the Massachusetts-BYU duumvirate is a game against each other to settle the question.
Minnesota lost to Massachusetts by narrow margins to open and close the weekend – no doubt they would have liked a first half do-over in at least one of those games and left Warm Up with a split. Other than that, though, there is not much to nitpick. A-grade Warm Up from a team who appear poised to push deep into Memorial Day weekend.
For starters, they more than pushed aside the big question hovering over the 2023 season: who will step up to replace Cole Jurek’s production? The somewhat surprising answer is, well, everyone. 2022 BPOTY runner-up Paul Krenik was already on our radar, of course. The U24 selection showed off a level of precision, athleticism, and technique as a receiver that very few – if any – players at Warm Up matched. For all the wrecking he did, though, including a memorable game on the livestream against Vermont, the most responsibility for the line’s success might well have been found elsewhere.
Grey Duck enjoyed three revelatory performances from a pair of 2022 roleplayers and a freshman: Anthony Jirele, Ian McCosky, and Max Dehlin. Of the three, Dehlin took the longest to get warmed up, as would be expected for someone suiting up for his first collegiate competition. But when he found his rhythm about halfway through a tricky quarterfinal against Wisconsin and (especially) in the final, he simply set the field ablaze dancing through the handler defense sets – and making a stunning layout grab at the back of the end zone. There’s a decent chance that the Grey Duck offense runs primarily through him as soon as later this spring.
That’s a potential future. For the present, Jirele and McCosky had the greatest impact. It cannot be overstated how completely they have taken on the mantle of punching in goals this season. McCosky mostly does it with his throws: smooth, left-handed, often edgy looks that knife through the defense. The sturdily built Jirele will flash a long throw every now and then, but he really shines as an end zone receiver. Whether in the red zone or in isolation on a deep cut, Jirele basically stayed open and came down with everything his teammates put up to him.
Outside of those brilliant offensive performances, Grey Duck’s greatest asset was their in-game tenacity. You could see it in the way Paul Liang, Levi Dohman, and Austin Gin, for example, kept finding ways to make plays on the disc on defense, or in Sebastian Brauer’s refusal to buckle under pressure in late game pressure situations against strong comeback efforts by Wisconsin and Georgia in the bracket.
“Wisco – they came back,” said Brauer. “They let us know that, ‘Hey, 8-4? Game’s not over.’ And I think we adopted that mentality [against Georgia]. You know, North Central dogs, and we came out and took care of business in the second half.” This is a team that can roll with a punch, a quality they will definitely need to lean on late in the season in what is shaping up to be a tough North Central region.
Georgia Jojah also put some nice wins on the board after a Friday loss to Carleton (which they would go on to avenge in the third-place game). Like a dysfunctional elevator, though, it isn’t quite clear how high they will climb.
“This weekend we showed glimpses of where we have an elite offense and an elite defense, but I feel like we never quite put it together,” said Adam Miller. “And that’s okay. This is the first tournament of the year and we’re just going to build from here.”
The ceiling is probably championship contention. They showed in a quarterfinal thriller against Pittsburgh that they have the top-end to hang with anyone. Aidan Downey was magnificent for them on the weekend, flashing some of the tournament’s most impressive throws and playing otherworldly defense. And much of the depth around him – Jack Krugler, Carter Rathur, and Miller on offense; Isaac Huntington, Cole Krucke, and Cole Chanler on defense, to name a handful – can shift to star level play. The horses are in the stable.
But you wonder whether Jojah perhaps give up too many possessions on ill-considered decisions and failing to execute systems on both offense and defense. The win against Pittsburgh was counterbalanced by a universe point semifinal loss to Minnesota that saw them squander two chances to break for the win, not to mention quickly giving up a first half lead. Solid results aside, a touch more discipline would do them a world of good.
According to Miller, they’re working on it. A bit of clean-up between now and Smoky Mountain Invite (which might also see the return from injury of a couple important pieces) could elevate them from squeaking by in quarters to pushing for a tournament victory.
And don’t look now, but Carleton CUT might be back – like, all the way back. It’s just one tournament, and we’ve been burned before, so there is reason for caution. Still, they look exceptionally solid. Like, maybe challenge for semis at Nationals solid. And they have a confidence about them that was not there a season ago.
What has (for now) turned the tide? A relatively normal school year relatively unencumbered by a public health crisis is a major difference.1 A year of development from some of last year’s underclassmen – sophomores Daniel Chen and Cullen Baker spring to mind immediately – is another.
If we’re being honest though, the biggest change and likely catalyst for this refreshed program is the addition of freshman phenom Declan Miller. In his first tournament he has already shown himself to be a powerful cutter, a powerful thrower, a dogged defender, and, usually, a free reset. He can already slot into any position on the field. His presence takes pressure off of Baker to have to carry every possession the whole way down the field, and it frees up Chen and Sam McCarty to go do what they do best: score goals.
According to the CUT captains, the most important thing Miller brings to the team is his hardworking attitude.
“The biggest thing has really been his mentality,” said Jace Dean. “He’s super-positive. He’s a great teammate. And he helps bring the energy up on the field and on the sideline.”
Leo Jordan agreed. “He’s on our O-line, but one of the things I appreciate with him is his effort on defense. He is one of the best handler defenders we have. He can just absolutely strap in on his guy – and when everyone else sees him doing that, people tend to follow,” he said.
Not to be outshined by Miller and the O-line, the CUT defense have sharpened their teeth since last season. Dean is a break-out defender, Leo Xiao and Jordan are impossible covers after turn, and Sawyer Blair can perhaps lay claim to the title of Warm Up’s best puller. The blue-bloods from Northfield are once again trending up.
“Six months of hard work kind of coming back. We’ve had a couple of tough run-ins with Covid. It felt amazing to be back here, and especially do pretty well at our first real tournament since last Regionals,” said Jordan.
CUT couldn’t attend Warm Up in 2022 due to concerns about the pandemic and, memorably, had to withdraw from Nationals in 2021 during the first round of play when there was an outbreak on the team. ↩
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