US Open 2023: PoNY Express (Men’s Division Final Recap)

Defense Pushes New York to Victory

PoNY’s Cameron Wariner goes for the high five after scoring in the 2023 US Open final. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 club ultimate season 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.

Aurora, CO – It was almost foreordained that the US Open final would see the two preseason championship favorites, New York PoNY and Washington DC Truck Stop, in the final. The result once they met, though? That was anyone’s guess – and the unpredictable nature of it was confirmed by the tight, back-and-forth game. Truck Stop started the first half strong, capitalizing on PoNY being too loose on offense. But the New York defensive unit proved too formidable in the second half and led them to a 15-13 win.

Going into the final, Truck Stop had looked like the better team. They cruised through the competition through the first two days of the tournament, beating all of their opponents by at least four goals. Their offense looks even more potent than last year and their athletic and technical defense gave teams trouble all weekend. Though they also went undefeated through five games on Friday and Saturday, PoNY did not have the same degree of convincing wins on their path to the final. They were a bit shakier, as Sockeye took them to universe and Machine also played them tightly in two bouts.

Truck Stop came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Their offense was crisp and handled the pressure of the New York defense well. The defense was clicking, too: DC secured the first break of the game with a big sky from Alexandre Fall in the back of the endzone and they got another that was initiated by a Luke Rehfuss layout block on a flat side upline. DC was up 6-3 on New York and looked like they might cruise to a sixth solid win – that was when the PoNY D-line started to cause problems for the high-powered Truck Stop offense.

Truck Stop’s Alexandre Fall roofs PoNY’s Chris Kocher for a score in the 2023 US Open final. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

In the 2022 national semifinal, Truck’s handler engine exposed a PoNY weakness. Especially when Grant got hurt, PoNY’s matchups for the Truck handler corps were dire. Without the personnel to stop their handler flow, PoNY had a hard time applying pressure which ended up being one of the reasons they lost that game. This year is a completely different story as PoNY’s handler matchups are vastly improved. Now they have Cameron Wariner, who can play Jonny Malks well enough in the handler set and limit what he contributes as a cutter. They also have Jack Williams, who fits perfectly into the New York defensive scheme built around physical matchup defense and switchy sets. Said PoNY Coach Cody Mills, “Jack Williams claims to have never played D-line before, but you’d never know it from how well he played against some huge matchups in the bracket.” PoNY would rattle off two breaks of their own and get the game back on serve going into halftime.

PoNY and Truck Stop would fight over the lead in the second half, but just as at the tail end of the first half, the New York defense proved to be too overwhelming for DC. Asked why the defensive unit is so strong, Mills remarked, “Depth is big for us. We feel like we can apply real pressure 16 deep on defense, wear teams down, and have the legs to finish games hard. Player buy-in to strategy and feedback also helps us to get good data on our game plans and adjust as needed.” The defense gave PoNY the advantage late, and the offense locked in the win with a Ryan Osgar cross-field flick to Sam Little for 15-13. (Osgar and Little, along with Chris Kocher and Ben Jagt, were outstanding in the final, with only one turn among them.)

Even in the loss, Truck Stop are clearly a credible threat to PoNY’s title aspirations this year. Christian Boxley is building a real argument for best player in the division, Tyler Monroe is the same red zone machine he has been for several seasons, Malks has shown a superb ability to play downfield as well as he does in the backfield, and both Andrew Roy and Jacques Nissen have improved on last year’s high handling standards. A bit more composure from their offense and they win that game. Of course, that is easier said than done going against PoNY where everyone on their starting D-line is a certified stopper.

An area of emphasis for Truck Stop will be working on their defense after a turnover. Their offense got roasted by the much more athletic PoNY D-line which converted breaks at a high clip. The suped-up PoNY Defense may require Truck Stop to ponder strategies they can run to stifle the NY counterattack. It may also force them to reconsider which personnel to play that won’t get exposed on defense in crunch time. Whatever adjustments they make, Truck Stop will be more prepared next go around and their young stars will be more comfortable knowing they can hang with this stacked PoNY Roster.

This result is a bit #scaryhours for the division because it could be argued PoNY did not play to their ceiling in the final. Sure the defense was strong, but their offensive consistency was lacking. In a game where PoNY is playing at their best, it’s unclear whether there’s a team in the world that can check them. However, if they rely on their D-line to get five to six breaks every game, it’s possible this roster falls to a team that can perform more consistently come Nationals.

  1. Jake Thorne
    Jake Thorne

    Jake Thorne is a staff writer for Ultiworld with a focus on the college division. He is a graduate of Cal Poly SLO, where he played for four years. He now lives and works full-time in sales for a fintech company in San Francisco.

TAGGED: , , ,

EVENTS:

TEAMS: ,

More from Ultiworld
Comments on "US Open 2023: PoNY Express (Men’s Division Final Recap)"

Find us on Twitter

Recent Comments

Find us on Facebook

Subscriber Exclusives

  • Commonwealth Cup 2024: Centering Pass Day One (Women’s Div.)
    Subscriber article
  • Easterns Qualifier 2024: Centering Pass Day One (Men’s Div.)
    Subscriber article
  • James Madison vs. Connecticut (Women’s Pool Play)
    Video for standard subscribers
  • Temple vs. SUNY Binghamton (Men’s Pool Play)
    Video for standard subscribers