2023 Club Championships: shame. Period. (Mixed Final Recap)

Fort Collins shame. take home their first title with a dominant defensive effort

Fort Collins shame. celebrate after winning the mixed division of 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.

SAN DIEGO – Leading wire to wire and never letting their energy slip, Fort Collins shame. put on a defensive clinic in a 15-8 victory over Ann Arbor Hybrid to win the tournament final.

With only one loss on the season, shame. entered the game as heavy favorites, but Hybrid looked more composed and efficient in their run to the final than they had all season and were prepared to mount a serious challenge.

shame. took the wind out of Hybrid’s sails early. Their offense looked crisp; on the first point, Matty Russell got open in insolation and lifted a perfectly weighted flick for Jade McLaughlin. “I’ve been saying all year that Matty Russell is the best player in the mixed division,” shame.’s Owen Westbrook said. “I was wrong–it’s Henry Ing–but Matty Russell is really good too.” For the first three quarters of the game, the shame. offense didn’t take more than a handful of throws to find the end zone.

Hybrid’s defense stifled opponents all season – Nathan Champoux, Sara Nitz, Adam Stautberg, and Riley Kuznicki will all be in contention for player awards on the defensive side of the ball. But against shame. on Sunday, Hybrid could not generate the kind of pressure that had them forcing turnovers at will earlier in the tournament. “It starts with [shame.’s] athleticism,” Stautberg said after the game. “They were cutting hard and clearing space. They made us have to respect the deep ball a lot and once our defense has to respect the deep ball, they were swinging the field really well and punishing us that way. Their offense can beat you multiple ways, and it’s tough to guard all of those.”

While their offense held down the fort, shame. truly made their mark on defense. They put a buffer on Hybrid’s downfield cutters, denying them any easy deep looks while squeezing the underneath space with force middle marks against Hybrid’s vertical stack offense. Hybrid still tried to score with their tried-and-true deep game, but their timing was off against such high-pressure defense. “They were really prepared for our long game,” Hybrid’s Kat McGuire said after the game. “They were ready for us on offense, and they forced us to work through our under space in a new way that maybe needs some more refining.”

“We were really just trying to stop the flow of the offense,” Westbrook said. “If it gets swung to one side of the field, force it back to the other side. Don’t let them get continues off of that and don’t let them string together passes; make them keep resetting it. Make them really work to advance it upfield.”

Mark Whitton and Theo Shapinsky combined for seven turnovers, putting their hucks too far or too wide of their target on multiple occasions. On Hybrid’s first offensive point, Whitton launched a high huck to James Hill, a play that’s probably worked over a dozen times this weekend. This time, Nick Snuszka got to the spot first and blocked it, and it seemed like that one play deterred Hybrid from throwing another huck more than seven feet in the air. With low, linedrive long balls, Hybrid had to hit their spots perfectly. Against this hungry shame. defense, that was too much to ask.

“We struggled more with our deep ball,” McGuire said. “We did manage to touch the disc a fair amount in that under space, but our shot decision-making was a bit more questionable.” Hybrid kept throwing the disc away and shame.’s counterattack was nearly flawless. Ryan Pesch, Marilyn Reich, Kasey Anderson, and Melissa Merrick each had standout moments as shame. built a 6-1 lead. They entered the halftime break up 8-3.

Against BFG in Saturday’s semifinal, shame. also carried an 8-3 lead at halftime. BFG were able to chip away at that lead and ultimately came back to tie the game. On Sunday morning, shame. would not let history repeat itself.

Rattling off two more breaks before Hybrid could get on the board again, shame. built an unassailable 10-3 lead. With their play on the field and their energy on the sideline, shame. were outclassing Hybrid, who were already in a somber mood. “We’re definitely keeping hype on the sidelines,” shame.’s Aubree Dietrich said. “Reminders from Sandy Brown, a huge sideline presence, Joe Smash [Anderson] is a huge sideline presence. Just reminders to keep on our feet, cheering our teammates on no matter what’s happening.” Brown was prowling the sideline shouting “we’re down by three,” a tactic he used last year to implore his teammates to keep their foot on the proverbial gas while winning a championship in the men’s division with Denver Johnny Bravo.

The score reached 13-6 before shame.’s offense turned the disc over. Adam Stautberg recorded that block, but it was too little too late. Dalton Smith’s scoober to score the break will make for a nice highlight, and the crowd got to chant, “it’s break time for Hybrid” one last time before the season ended, but the one break Hybrid scored was not going to be enough to overcome the lead shame. set up.

“We proved in the past that we can crumble with the best of them, so we thought we’d try something else this time,” Westbrook said. There were a few nervy moments, but just as he did time and time again this season, Westbrook was the answer to all of shame.’s questions.

With the end of the game nearing, Westbrook went full takeover mode to secure the win. “I was getting pretty tired,” Westbrook said, “so I figured it was better to end the game there, because I didn’t know if I could keep running for any more points.” He burst upline, secured the catch while getting pushed over, stood up, and immediately fired a laser flick huck fading to the break side right into the waiting arms of Thomas Brewster for the game-winning goal.

The title caps off a stellar season for shame. They lost just a single game all season and managed to keep winning despite the pressure that comes with sustained success. “There was definitely a lot of pressure coming in as the one seed,” Dietrich said. “I’m so proud of us that we stood up to the challenge.”

shame. have been building to this moment for years. Since their founding in 2015, the team steadily improved and slowly began to take their game more seriously. “In 2015 we were a bunch of big, [silly] athletes,” Dietrich said. “When things started not going well on day two or day three of the tournament, when you’re getting tired and things are just not going your way, then you kind of get down, you mentally get down a little bit. But, after so many years of being like, ‘we need to adjust how we’re playing and bring that mental game in,’ we’ve matured a lot after eight years.”

Before the season, the team decided to be more explicit with their goals and the effort it would take to accomplish them. That effort paid off in a well-deserved title. “It was nice for everybody to get on the same page for the first time this year and decide that we wanted it and see what happens then,” Westbrook said. “When we all pulled in the same direction, it was nice to see what happened.” Westbrook made a speech to the team at their first tournament centered around the freeing concept of not being afraid to fail. In the past, players would subconsciously make light of their effort, providing a built in excuse should they fall short of their goals. That kind of effort simply would not be acceptable to shame. this season. By accepting the possibility of failure, shame. set themselves up for success.

Any story about shame.’s success would be incomplete without a mention of another significant change they made before the season: they brought on a coach. Marvin Vuong helped the team refine their strategies, spoke in most huddles, and took a bit of responsibility off the team captains so they could focus on their play. “Marvin just did a great job keeping things cool and telling us what we needed to do when we needed to do it,” Westbrook said. “It takes so much pressure off of the players and the captains to not have to thing about that stuff and have somebody saying all of the right things for us. Marvin was huge for us.”

Though they finished with silver medals instead of gold, Hybrid can fly back to Michigan proud of their season. They reached the second national final in program history and looked the part of a complete, well-rounded team along the way. Gone are the days when Hybrid would rely on one or two athletes to make all of their highlight plays. This team has built itself from the ground up and invested in the local community to continue to develop the program.

“Shoutout to some of the people who have been in the community for a really long time,” Stautberg said. “Working with the college teams, working with the youth scene, trying to get everyone involved. It’s really a lot of their efforts that put this team together in the first place, and it’s been really awesome to see the love that all the community around Michigan has. Supporting us, helping us out. It’s gonna be great to go back and spread that knowledge, spread that love throughout the community.”

  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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