Georgia Jojah's depth and playmaking ability land them a tournament victory
February 7, 2024 by Edward Stephens in Recap with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2024 college 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.
Tampa – How ‘bout them frisbee Dawgs? #3 Georgia Jojah demolished #6 Brown Brownian Motion 15-10 in the Florida Warm Up final to win the first major East Coast event of the 2024 season. It was not a unique result for Jojah on the weekend by any stretch: they’d just come off of an impressive 12-9 semifinal over #4 Massachusetts Zoodisc, and they smashed #11 Texas TUFF to the tune of 15-9 by finishing with an 8-0 run in their Saturday night quarterfinal. Fifth-year duo Adam Miller and Aidan Downey were outstanding throughout the tournament, but they hardly did all the talking for a deep, rambunctious Georgia side.
“We always knew we had that dog in us, and I think this weekend we really let it show,” said Miller. “We got a lot of production out of a lot of players. We have a lot of talent across the board, top to bottom.”
Brown had been on something of a tear themselves heading into the game. Though they’d fallen on universe point to a sharp #5 Carleton CUT side, the rest of their pool play matches were comfortable victories. In the bracket, they showed they were capable of digging deep within themselves to close out tight games in a dramatic nailbiter of a universe point against regional rivals #20 Northeastern Huskies, as well as in a body-blows-style battle in semis, where they dipped, juked, hesi-stepped, planted, and cleared 60 yards against the determined #8 Minnesota Grey Duck defense for a trudging, game-winning universe point hold.
The B-Mo offense starts with Jacques Nissen, who had a fantastic tournament to pick up right where he left off from last year’s Player of the Year runner-up effort. Nissen’s throwing toolkit, from stand still or out of motion, is without a doubt the division’s best. Between the timing, the shape, the power, and the boldness, he will almost always find a way to get Brown to the end zone. He tallied 11 assists against Minnesota in the semis, and immediately assisted on B-Mo’s first five goals in the final. On their sixth, he scored the goal.
But those six goals were all Brown would muster in the first half, falling behind two breaks. As well as Nissen played, he was far from perfect. Brown are happy to take the handful of misses that come with so many hits – call it the cost of doing business. Unfortunately for them, Jojah were more than happy to take them, too. In a somewhat upwind-downwind game, staving off double-break chances was crucial. Once Georgia notched an upwinder, Nissen’s attempt to sneak a low backhand through three Georgia zone defenders was too ambitious by half. That turnover essentially giftwrapped the downwind break.
“We definitely had miscues early,” admitted Brown’s Elliott Rosenberg.
Not that Jojah needed the gift. Outside of a baffling collapse on Saturday morning that saw a 10-7 lead against Carleton turn into an 11-10 pool play loss, Georgia showed the strength, poise, and commitment you expect to see from a team with true championship potential. And in a tournament largely defined by highlight reel plays, they were probably the highlight-iest team of them all.
The clear leaders of their fireworks spectacular are 5th-years Miller and Downey. The pair played nearly every point of the gritty semifinal win over UMass, frequently taking over Jojah’s play on the offensive and defensive ends. Both Downey and Miller have full-field throws from both sides, overflowing craft and cheek in small-ball play, defensive intelligence, and the ability to bring down impossible-looking catches with stunning regularity.
Don’t let the lights from those twin suns blind you to the rest of their glittering starscape. Jack Stephenson, Cole Chanler, Jake Powell, Jack Krugler, Cole Krucke, Scotty Whitley, Zach Brennan, and, before he was injured on Saturday, Kofi Reeves-Miller, made plays to add to Jojah’s growing sizzle reel. Powell, driving Jojah’s offense when Downey and Miller don’t cross over from the D-line, and Krugler in particular seem to have found a new gear.
“Georgia’s a great playmaking team,” said Rosenberg. “They’ve always been a pressure point for us because they do make big plays. We noticed they did a lot of shots down the same third or the same half of the field. So, all weekend we’ve been working on how we can get our guys over in positions to help.”
As the second half wore on, it became clear Georgia was going to keep making plays. Twice, layout blocks from Whitley against the B-Mo weave set up Georgia scores. Three times Jojah turned tricky throws into telegenic wow moments: these were courtesy of Downey (twice) and Krugler.
“We wanted this moment,” said Miller. “We lost to [Brown] in the final of CCC [in the fall]. This game was a little bit personal.”
And then, in a moment of pure poetic justice, Georgia tied a bow on the Warm Up championship. The final jenga block that brought on Jojah’s collapse on Saturday morning had been a callahan for Carleton – Stephenson, failing to read Daniel Chen’s bait look as he tried to center the disc off the pull, threw it right into the game-ender. It wasn’t his or the team’s finest moment, to say the least.
Leading 14-10 against Brown, though, Stephenson found redemption. A downwind huck out the back gave B-Mo the disc on their own goal line. Rookie Eli Chang – who, it must be noted, played exceptional ultimate this weekend and will be a major force for Brown moving forward – tried to hit a wide-angle under cut with a forehand. The wind slowed the throw just enough for Stephenson to jump the lane and, with an instinct bordering on the supernatural, reach out at the last second with his left hand to finish off the final with a callahan of his own.
Having won a game with a callahan before, I can tell you it is one of the greatest feelings you can experience on the field (but I did it in a conciliation game at a backwater tournament in rural Texas, not in a streamed ranked college finals lol) https://t.co/ZHm4zX9Oe2 pic.twitter.com/YNvhonGTIl
— the social club (@socialclubulti) February 5, 2024
The win is a clear statement of intent for a Jojah team who fell somewhat short of their ceiling the last two seasons after a meteoric run to the 2021 national final: they are putting themselves in the 2024 title conversation.
“I feel like we’ve been on the verge of so many great moments over the past years, but this year we’ve really been intentional about building those [chemistry] bonds. There’s a lot of trust on this team. That’s how we got to the final at 2021 Nationals. And I think that’s what you’re going to see for the rest of the season,” said Miller. “People trusting people to make big plays, to do the little things right. And that’s all it takes, putting a lot of moments together. Every single moment we choose, we’re going to win. We’re a dominant team, and we showed that this weekend.”
A Warm Up win doesn’t mean everything, of course. They will definitely want to keep it going next month at Smoky Mountain Invite, the tournament that has, somewhat famously, confounded them now for three years running. They haven’t had a crack at #1 North Carolina Darkside or #2 Cal Poly-SLO SLOCORE yet. And even the contenders they downed in the bracket at Warm Up will come back at fuller strength later in the year. The UMass offense will be more potent when Luca Harwood is healthy. Brown, meanwhile, can count on Leo Gordon – confining himself mostly to the backfield over the weekend on his way back from a leg injury last year – to change the tenor of their offense when he can cut at full speed again and Cam Curney to supercharge the defense.
All of which is to say: Jojah have their work cut out for them if they want to return to the division’s pinnacle. For the moment, though? Ain’t nothing finer in the land.
— Ultiworld Live (@Ultiworldlive) February 4, 2024
UMass, CUT, Minnesota
A few of the teams that didn’t end up in the final had strong weekends, as well – starting with 2023 national finalists UMass. Until stalling out in semis against Georgia, UMass steamrolled the competition the same way they mounted such an effective campaign a season ago: with pinpoint throwing, a sophisticated defensive game plan, and a legitimate commitment to playing through all of their depth. The pinpoint throwing largely fell on the shoulders of two players: Caelan McSweeney and Wyatt Kellman. McSweeney would typically spot shots to the mid-range, Kellman had license to throw whatever he wanted to a pair of very strong cutters in Noel Sierra and Gavin Abrahamsson, and Will Christian and Carter Hawkins operated more along the lines of key support for McSweeney and Kellman. It’s an effective setup that will become significantly more dynamic with Luca Harwood’s return from injury later this spring.
Florida Warm Up 2024: Mega Recap (Men’s Div.) is only available to Ultiworld Subscribers
Already have a subscription? Log in
Whether you visit Ultiworld for our reporting, our podcasts, or our video coverage, you can help us continue to provide high quality content with a subscription. By becoming a subscriber, not only do you receive benefits like exclusive articles and full article RSS feeds, you also help fund all of Ultiworld's coverage in general. We appreciate your support!