Northwest Challenge 2024: Tournament Recap (Men’s Div.)

Oregon redeemed their two biggest losses of the year, playing their best ultimate en route to wins over Colorado and Cal Poly and ending the latter's undefeated season

Oregon’s Aaron Kaplan gives the disc some love. Photo: Rodney Chen –

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.

In this year’s unusually stacked men’s division edition of Northwest Challenge1, top 10 upsets on the back of brilliant offensive showings defined the weekend. As in the past, the regionally stacked field brought with it plenty of late-season bid drama, as Southwest representatives fought to pluck a second bid from the three-bid Northwest. And, much like in the women’s tournament, an undefeated season found its end.

Ego Get Their Ducks in a Row

After laying eggs against #2 Cal Poly SLO SLOCORE and #6 Colorado Mamabird at Santa Barbara Invite and Presidents’ Day Invite respectively, #10 Oregon Ego came to Seattle with a chip on their shoulder and a chance at revenge. It’s rare a team gets a chance to redeem their two biggest losses of the year in a single bracket run, but that was the opportunity Ego were presented with when they found themselves in semifinals against Mamabird, with SLOCORE playing #9 Carleton CUT on the adjacent field.

Ego flinched first, ceding a break on the game’s first point, but from that point forward their offense was all but flawless. Mica Glass, Adam McNichols, and sophomore Aaron Kaplan were clicking at a level we haven’t seen from this team all season. Save for a shortfield miscommunication that gave Mamabird a break to get on serve at half, the O-line looked like Ego teams of old, playing at breakneck speed with long, fast unders hitting continuation hucks for quick-strike holds.

On the defensive side, Ego were able to create opportunities for themselves. That’s a great start for any D-line. Most critical to their success, however, was the decision by their coaching staff to cross the trio of Glass, Kaplan, and rookie Raekwon Adkins over on a number of defensive points. In addition to a deep throwing bag and offensive quickness, Kaplan was a huge block generator for them. Once in possession of the disc, the Glass-Kaplan combo was ruthlessly efficient, with the Mamabird O-line struggling to get any of their turnovers back with those two on the field.

On the Mamabird side, it was evident the O-line had gone relatively untested for the weekend. Coming off of a plodding, noticeably less intense 15-13 win against the CalZone, the pressure of Ego’s matchup defense did enough to create a number of simple execution errors: from drops to simple throwing miscues to ill-advised hucks, the Colorado offense looked out of rhythm for much of the game.

The final such error came on game point when, trailing 14-13, Tobias Brooks wound up for an endzone-to-endzone backhand huck. Though the throw wasn’t bad, it didn’t account for the fact that Nanda Min-Fink and Dexter Leucke had cut deep simultaneously, dragging with them a pair of Oregon’s best deep defenders in Ke’ali McCarter and Beckett Sessums. The throw hung long enough that the four came together under the throw. Min-Fink got a hand on the disc, but the pressure was enough that he couldn’t make the catch. Having once again crossed Glass, Kaplan, and Adkins over for defensive duties, Oregon marched the disc 70 yards, emphatically reversing the result of this matchup in San Diego a month ago.

In the final there was a visible energy difference from the first pull. The Ego O-line had a swagger to them that had not been there in the crossover matchup the day before, while the entire SLO team seemed a bit out of sorts, as they’d played a no-stakes semifinal2 to 11 against Carleton CUT, then waited almost an hour for the final. The aforementioned quartet of Glass, Kaplan, McNichols, and Adkins remained excellent, and McCarter and Adam Wulkan were clicking for the D-line, generating multiple blocks and showing their polish on the turn.

To get this win without standout defender Ben Horrisberger is even more impressive, and speaks to the team wide buy-in to bringing intensity on defense and that classic Ego confidence to offense. The one sticking point going forward will be the heavy reliance we saw on crossovers from O to D to generate breaks against top opponents. In the deeper Nationals field, limiting close games and the need for late breaks in pool play will be critical to preserving legs for a deep run. Likewise, they’ll need to show this level of offensive execution more consistently at Nationals to give themselves a chance in the bracket, but the completeness of Ego’s weekend points to a towering ceiling and the potential to exceed last season’s quarterfinals exit.

Good, Not Great: SLO, Mamabird, CUT

  1. The women’s division is always stacked. 

  2. Carleton booked early flights and would be unable to play in the final regardless of the outcome, giving SLO a path to the final no matter what 

Northwest Challenge 2024: Tournament Recap (Men’s Div.) is only available to Ultiworld Subscribers

Subscribe to Ultiworld

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!

  1. Emmet Holton
    Emmet Holton

    Emmet grew up playing ultimate in the Bay Area and played 5 years on Cal Poly SLOCORE from 2019 to 2023. He currently lives in Berkeley, CA and works as an architectural designer in San Francisco.

TAGGED: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


TEAMS: , , , , ,

More from Ultiworld
Comments on "Northwest Challenge 2024: Tournament Recap (Men’s Div.)"

Find us on Twitter

Recent Comments

Find us on Facebook

Subscriber Exclusives

  • Deep Look LIVE: WFDF President Robert “Nob” Rauch, College Confregionals
    podcast with bonus segment
  • Inside the Circle LIVE: Jonesboro Open Rapid Reax
    Subscriber podcast
  • The Line: The Seven Deepest Teams in College Ultimate
    Subscriber article
  • Out the Back: College Regionals Draft
    Subscriber podcast