National Championships 2023: If You Didn’t Love The Chaos of Day One… (Mixed Division)

…then you don’t deserve five of the top six teams playing on the same side of Friday’s bracket

Boston Sprocket’s Clara Stewart laces an inside flick under the outstretched leg of a DC Rally mark. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 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.

If you were around twitter dot com in the great year of our lord two thousand and eighteen, you are probably familiar with the “If you don’t love me at my worst, you don’t deserve my best” meme. If you haven’t seen these, click here for an example. With an up-and-down day in the mixed division, each team in the bracket has had plenty of opportunity to showcase the worst and best of their play. We’ll go team by team, because even if you don’t like a click-baity title, you still deserve our insight and analysis.

If you don’t love Hybrid’s lack of a plan B…

Ann Arbor Hybrid came in with a good game plan given their skillset and earned two wins in the toughest pool in the division. Their one loss came against Mixtape early in the day when Hybrid had trouble adjusting to the different defensive looks that Mixtape were able to put on the field. The loss didn’t end up affecting Hybrid’s final placement as they won the pool through a tiebreaker, but it could turn into a blueprint for a bracket upset down the road.

…You don’t deserve Hybrid’s smart shot-making

No team stretched the field today as successfully as Hybrid. Mark Whitton, Theo Shapinsky, and Kat McGuire traded hucks to one another on the O-line, and Nathan Champoux took every opportunity he could to find Sarah Nitz and James Hill in the deep space. This wasn’t a punt and play D kind of strategy at all. Hybrid were able to keep possession and move the disc to advantageous spots on the field to launch their shots. Flat marks and a bit of a breeze did little to slow down the Hybrid deep game. “At a certain point, you just gotta let people go hoop,” captain Mark Whitton said. If they keep this up, Hybrid will be a tough out.

If you don’t love Mixtape’s Stamina Level…

Seattle Mixtape rolled into the last round of pool play with an undefeated record and two incredibly solid wins. They then lost to AMP by three goals in a game that dropped them from the top spot in their pool into the prequarter round. In the last round of the day, Mixtape didn’t display the kind of grit and push we’ve seen from them in past seasons. It wasn’t that they weren’t amped for a rivalry game against their longtime foe, but they seemed to have less left in the tank than in previous years. With a tough bracket slate ahead of them, this flaw isn’t fatal, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

…You don’t deserve Mixtape’s counterattack offense

Turnovers are only as good as the break chances a team can convert. Mixtape can make the case for fielding the division’s best D-line offense with Sadie Jezierski, Marc Muñoz, and Bert Cherry as rock solid handlers behind the disc and Khalif El-Salaam, Cori Bigham, and Jack Brown chasing down hucks for quick scores. Brown had maybe the best catch of the day to put away Hybrid in round one: a chest-high, trailing-edge layout grab.

If you don’t love AMP’s deep defense…

Philadelphia AMP got unlucky today by only losing one game and still falling to third place in their pool on a tiebreaker. Their one misstep? Allowing Hybrid to take flight in the deep space despite the slight wind deterring many teams’ long ball approach. Hybrid were relatively unchallenged as they stretched the field and pulled away with the pool’s decisive upset victory.

…You don’t deserve AMP’s defensive intensity.

AMP nearly made Pool C even more messy; they were down 8-5 at half against NOISE in the first round of pool play. But after halftime, the team turned up its intensity as Natalie Bova and Delrico Johnson each earned clutch blocks. AMP have such a deep roster that they can continually put out fresh legs on defense, and they truly make opponents work for every cut they get.

If you don’t love shame.’s slow starts…

Against both ‘Shine and Rally, Fort Collins  shame. started with a small deficit. It wasn’t anything close to an implosion. We’re talking about a one to two goal margin. For example, Rally took half on shame. 8-6. For the top seed, it was somewhat concerning that they weren’t stomping teams that simply could not match up to them talent-wise.

…You don’t deserve shame.’s second half runs.

However, in both of those games, shame. sparkled in the second half. With 15-8 and 15-9 wins, shame. showed that their defense can be ruthlessly efficient with the disc. Putting up consistent five throw (or fewer) break conversions is no simple task, but Helen Eifert, Aubree Dietrich, Spencer Tibbs, and Kasey Anderson were able to pull it off and make it look easy.

If you don’t love Sprocket’s occasional penchant for poor decision making…

Sometimes when you combine a lot of young, talented players together, they try to just let their friends do cool things. While Boston Sprocket’s baseline offense is a nice, steady flow (see below), they do occasionally fall into the trap of seeing Liv Player or Ryan Flamberg go deep and just putting it up. It’s great to trust your teammates to make plays, but it’s better to notice the wind and help defenders too, and at Sprocket’s worst moments on Thursday, they didn’t do that.

…You don’t deserve Sprocket’s quick-strike, flowing offense.

At their best moments, though, Sprocket’s disc movement was among the best in the division. When the Sprocket offense is looking like it’s designed, the disc pings around the field and nobody holds on to it for longer than a few seconds. The “shark line” including Tannor Johnson-Go, Clara Stewart, Montana Roberts, and Rocco Essex-Linehan are especially strong playing this style. When they get into their flow, it is incredibly tough to slow them down.

If you don’t love Rally’s lack of a true takeover player…

With a steady build up over the last five seasons, Washington DC Rally represent a great story that hard work, buy-in, and a supportive community go a long way in athletic success. Rally are a solid team that maximizes their potential by doing all of the intangible things well. Their sidelines are fun and energetic, they genuinely support one another, and they know where they fit in the ultimate world. Without a true star player (the kind who will contend for an All-Club team or end of year award), their ceiling will always be limited no matter how high their floor rises.

…You don’t deserve Rally’s collective buy-in and will to win.

That being said, their floor right now is the bracket at Nationals and that’s pretty darn good. Rally do all of the little things right, play a solid brand of ultimate that prioritizes doing the best thing for the team and helping each other find success. For a team made of mostly first time Nationals participants, that’s an incredible feat and gives Rally a great base to build around as they look to solidify themselves as a perennial Nationals team.

If you don’t love Drag’n Thrust’s messy offense and poor decision making…

Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust are a top tier team. There’s a reason why they won Pro Champs. However, their offense and decision-making today were far from perfect. A majority of the turns they got today were not generated by their opponent’s defense. Whether it was throwing discs into the pitch or overshooting their players, they did it all. No team can play a perfectly clean game in the mixed division, but it’s a little late in the season to not be thinking smart, and Drag’n are too good of a team for that.

…You don’t deserve Drag’n Thrust’s (deserved) trust in their overly athletic plays and large catch ratio.

One thing is for certain, Drag’n Thrust can ball. Any other team’s 50/50 throws are actually 85/15 when you have Caleb Denecour, Jane Koch, Dylan DeClerck, and Bryan Vohnoutka on the receiving end. It’s true that many teams pride themselves in athletic playing1 but time and time again, Drag’n Thrust prove that they are them.

If you don’t love BFG’s penchant for playing hot and cold……

The score lines speak for themselves. Seattle BFG played close with the teams they faced today. It was miscue after miscue – they had a hard time of hitting their targets at points. BFG have a habit of being in their heads. At moments, their defense did not work and they got frustrated instead of amped for action.

…You don’t deserve BFG’s ability to out-match their opponents

Let’s get something straight. BFG have depth and they have legs. All of their opponents, especially those with less experience at club Nationals, had a hard time keeping up with their offense. When they were on their game, they played clean and unfazed by any defense against them. Despite playing close with most of their opponents (at least for the first half of the game), teams could not come close to their level of play and speed of play for a full contest.

If you don’t love Slow’s lack of speed…

Although they made big plays on the field, Boston Slow played teams that were all more athletic than them. Their players generally could not beat their defenders deep. The times where deep shots were put up, generally the Slow players could match the speed of their opponents but could not surpass that. They did not see success with their blocks and deep looks from out-running, rather they had the better reads a majority of the time.

…You don’t deserve Slow’s ability to clean up after mistakes

Not many expected Slow to come out in their first game of the morning and beat the top seed in their pool. It never comes as a surprise if teams take a while to wake up at the start of the morning, but Slow was ready to go. They made the most of their break chances and valued the disc. They cleaned up after BFG’s mistakes, helping them win the game. Despite not being the most athletic team, they have the know-how to win games. They know how and when to make the big plays past defenders, even if they did not have the steps. As a team that has made 18 straight Nationals appearances, they have the experience behind their backs.

If you don’t love XIST’s lack of defensive pressure…

On offense, New York XIST had a practically perfect day. However, they allowed their opponents the opportunity to do the same. Most of the turns from the teams they played against were due to unforced errors and drops. Sure, they made many blocks and had several standout players but the mistakes of the other teams were not their doing. If XIST did more to generate turns, they could have had an even more impressive performance. Instead, they allowed free clean holds.

…You don’t deserve XIST’s fast paced systematic offense

After a season of not playing complete tournaments, XIST finally found their groove. The team that showed up in San Diego was a completely different one that has been at every other tournament this season. They played clean and with intensity. They played like they wanted to be there. More than that, they ran some systematic offense that allowed them to move so fast that their opponents’ defense could not keep with with their pacing. Whether from attacking the disc or quick cuts after the reset, keeping things moving.

  1. every team in Pool B cited that as their strength going into this weekend 

National Championships 2023: If You Didn’t Love The Chaos of Day One… (Mixed Division) is only available to Ultiworld Subscribers

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  1. Laura Osterlund
    Laura Osterlund

    Laura picked up a disc her senior year of high school and hasn't put it down since. She played on the mixed/open team at Bethel University where she graduated with a journalism degree. Based out of the Twin Cities, MN, you can find her engaging in all levels of Ultimate: working with Minnesota Strike, playing mixed club, and grinding at local ultimate and goalty leagues. Her ultimate accomplishment - besides helping start a women's league (coming spring 2024) - is winning Z league with Big Blue.

  2. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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