National Championships 2023: Hybrid Plug In, Offense Leads the Charge to Semifinal (Mixed Quarterfinal Recap)

Hybrid outlasts Slow in a double game point showdown

Ann Arbor Hybrid’s Theo Shapinsky skies Madison NOISE at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

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.

Ann Arbor Hybrid outlasted Boston Slow 15-14 in a showcase of crisp offense despite the windy conditions. With few turnovers but plenty of highlights, both teams played their hearts out and would have deserved to advance. After a game that truly could have gone either way, Hybrid lives to play another day.

With a steady crosswind gusting, both offenses buckled down, pushing through tough situations and only giving up one break apiece in the first half. Hybrid struck first taking advantage of Ryan Turner’s overthrow. Nathan Champoux released a long trust throw into the wind that floated high enough that Cian Johnson could settle under it and out-position Ryan Cardinal to high point the disc. Hybrid only led 2-1, but the impact of that early upwind break was immense as Hybrid had trouble taking the disc away from a stingy Slow offense the rest of the first half.

Each defense loaded up, trying out different zones and forces, but the next eleven points were upwind holds. Hybrid was undaunted by the wind, ripping hucks to tall receivers like James Hill and Mark Whitton. Kat McGuire, who has made a name for herself as a dominant cutter showed off confident throws working through zone looks as part of the backfield and launching a perfect huck to Hill midway through the first half.

Slow generally took a more patient approach, using a combination of excellent spacing and timing to open up easy looks. Amber Sinicrope put on a wind throwing clinic, finishing the game with five assists and no turnovers, while acting as the offensive safety valve for a Slow team whose offense came alive at just the right time.

“There’s a lot of trust within the team,” Slow coach Court Verhaalen said. “And there’s a lot of trust within each player, and so the energy is always there to support something that is going to happen.” In short, the Slow offense was able to do much of what it wanted to, no matter what the vaunted Hybrid defense tried.

With the game tied 7-7, Slow stacked their D-line to break for half and bring the game back on serve. Olivia Hampton blocked a floaty throw to the high side of the field and the Slow counterattack was clinical in getting the disc quickly to the red zone. Sinicrope lunged around her mark to open a window for a low release backhand break to Sarah Jueng and Slow took momentum into the break.

Hybrid had success in the first half with set play hucks to isolated receivers. Slow crossed over Ben Field liberally in the second half to deter those looks as a help defender. He got a block early in the second half that set up another Slow break, with Sinicrope marching the counterattack downfield before leading Zach Wolfe into the end zone for a 10-8 lead. That two goal margin would be the largest of the game for either team.

Needing a spark, Hybrid took a note from Slow’s playbook to earn a break of their own and retake the lead. First they managed a clean hold against a Slow zone look. Theo Shapinsky looked the part of a premier center handler as he weaved between defenders and dauntlessly put throws to spaces only his cutters could find them. Shapinsky also found space to get free downfield, finishing with four goals and two assists. He was both an offensive catalyst for Hybrid while also functioning as a release valve. “I don’t know anyone else who can be always moving and yet always in position,” Champoux said. “He’s just always moving, but he’s always still not clogging. He’s very impressive.”

Then, Hybrid let Champoux play centerfield like Slow had done with Field a few points before. He intercepted a high-stall pass and quickly hucked the disc into the wind to set up a short field pass from Tracey Lo to Adam Stautberg. Hybrid led 11-10 and looked to be back in the driver’s seat. Through long points and one-throw holds, Hybrid held firm in their self belief.

Slow found their backs against the wall down 14-12, but fought back to force double game point. A nervy O-point required Hannah Henkin catching a tipped pass on her own reset throw and then bending an outside-in flick to Elana Schwam for one of her three goals on the day. On the next point, Jon Cox left his mark to poach block what would have been the game winning score. Like they had time and time again, Slow marched the disc yard by yard upwind and scored to set up a winner-take-all point.

“There have been moments where we didn’t have the same belief,” Slow coach Marshall Goff said. “If something went wrong, we might hang our hands. And the work we did this year helped build us into a team that never…we’re never gonna get down. We’re just gonna keep pushing through that.”

Hybrid crossed over Champoux and his favorite target Sarah Nitz for the last point of the game. They worked the disc upfield against a hungry Slow defense. About ten yards outside the end zone, Champoux spotted Shapinsky bursting upline. He put a touch flick out to space, but it caught a gust of wind and floated over Shapinsky and his defender.

All game, Slow was the team catching second chance goals. Erin Rea and Schwam each caught goals that had been out of reach of their intended targets earlier in the game. “Slow easily stomped us on the second chances,” Whitton said. “So we, you know, we were getting to the first pile, but they wanted it that much more. So you know, props to them for that.”

This time, Hybrid came away with the overthrown disc as Whitton settled under Champoux’s throw to catch the game winning score. “He’s wide open,” Champoux said. “And then it just went straight over. But it’s okay. I knew even if we turned it our defense would have won.”

Hybrid advance to play New York XIST in Saturday morning’s semifinal. Since their opening loss to Seattle Mixtape in pool play, Hybrid is undefeated with a +10 score differential. They are also the last team standing from the “Pool of Death” after Mixtape lost to Red Flag in prequarters and AMP fell to shame. in the quarterfinal round. XIST is similarly successful, sitting with an unblemished record without giving up more than 12 goals in any game, making their showdown must-see TV.

Slow will continue their season in the Pro Flight play-in brackets. Though they won’t have a chance to win a title this season, there is plenty that the team gained to carry into next season.  “There’s a huge set of wins for the season,” Goff said. “And we learn a lot from winning in a tight game. You’ll learn a lot from that. So you learn a lot from your moments playing with each other. And so I don’t know what those lessons all are yet, but I know that there’s a lot in there for us to look at and for the team to take away.”

  1. 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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