D-I College Championships 2024: Day One Centering Pass (Men’s Div.)

After two rounds of pool play and three lightning delays, 16 teams made their opening statements.

Jose Dasilva leaps for the Michigan block against Vermont at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

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VERONA, WI – Two rounds of play were interrupted by lightning delays, and ultimately completed, as the D-I College Championships got underway amidst heavy rain and scattered thunderstorms. Despite rounds starting half an hour earlier than originally planned, the first round was cut short at the tail end of games. The second round started shortly after, but play was halted twice more as storms continued to roll in. Games were all completed around 7:00 PM CT, just before yet another set of clouds dropped rain all over the field site. USA Ultimate and the local organizing committee updated Saturday’s schedule so that pool play can be completed by the end of the day. The weather is expected to be clear all day on Saturday.

Michigan Upsets Vermont

The only men’s division upset of the day took place in the back corner of the complex as Michigan MagnUM pulled away late to beat #12 Vermont Chill.

Each team scored an early break and the game remained on serve until late in the first half when Chase Drinkwater read the Michigan front-of-stack set play and stepped in front of the breakside throw for a short-field block. True Hanson and Forrest Williams took several throws to work around the Michigan poachy end zone set, but converted the break to give Vermont an 6-4 lead.

Despite playing with the lead, Vermont was sloppy. Without Declan Kervick as the connective glue in the midfield (Kervick played a bit at the start of the first half, but left the field with an injury), Vermont struggled to connect handlers to cutters. Overthrown hucks or discs thrown into help defense doomed the Chill offense. CJ Kiepert, Parker Lin-Butler, Zack Watson-Stevens, and Ben Payson all had standout moments as O-line players on defense helping to get the disc back. Kiepert and Casey Thornton were effective red zone quarterbacks, but getting there often required a huck turnover and good defense. Vermont led 8-6 at halftime.

Michigan’s offense looked very comfortable hitting in-cuts and using their legs to create separation from downfield defenders. The quick-ball movement between Theo Shapinsky and Aaron Bartlett gave their handler defenders fits. James Baker Jr. stepped up and delivered a number of well-thrown touchy away shots. Michigan’s consistency stood out compared to Vermont’s atypical sloppiness and MagnUM clawed back to tie the game at 12 when the lightning delay stopped play.

Once the game resumed, Michigan gave themselves some breathing room with a confident hold and a quick break. Shapinsky, Bartlett, and Baker Jr. were fresh from the break and able to play both ways. The game really broke open when Payson dropped a layout would-be score as he hit the ground. Bartlett’s huck to Jack Schmader set up an endzone set for the key late game break. One more hold apiece and Michigan walked away with their first meaningful win at Nationals since 2021. “Every practice we start with a game to three. So right when the rain delay happened our coach Michael Dagher-Margosian posted in our Slack, ‘game to 3,’ and it just locked everyone in.”

UNC Takes Down Brown

In the most anticipated matchup of Pool Play, #3 UNC Darkside pulled away from #7 Brown Brownian Motion 15-11. With the constant threat of weather delays impacting the game, both teams continued to play their star players since they knew the game could be stopped and declared final at any moment. Rutledge Smith, Ben Dameron, Dylan Hawkins, Matt McKnight, and Kevin Pignone played both ways for UNC while Jacques Nissen, Leo Gordon, Cal Nightingale, and Elliot Rosenberg were the names frequently called for Brown.

UNC had the first break chance of the game when Dameron read an away shot and sealed out his mark to snag the block. Rosenberg got the disc right back a moment later, sneaking around the back of a centering pass before flipping the assist to Luca Duclos-Orsello. Brown survived their first nervy moment of the game, and led 4-3 when the game entered its first lightning delay.

Upon resumption, Brown scored the game’s first break. With defenders pressuring all of Darkside’s resets, Dameron pulled out of his cut too soon…right as Pignone threw it to him. Dameron and Hawkins made a good effort to try and secure the disc, but the throw hit the turf and handed BMo a golden break chance just outside their attacking end zone. Nissen found Rosenberg streaking to the front cone for a 5-3 lead.

Darkside answered back a few points later. Nissen let a backhand drift too far for an open Duclos-Orsello, and Darkside punched in a one throw break. McKnight ripped a backhand huck perfectly weighted into the wind and Grayson Trowbridge ran it down with a punctuating layout to tie the game at six apiece. From there, each team held to leave Brown with an 8-7 lead.

UNC tied the game at eight before another lightning delay took the teams off the field. Once they took the field for a third time, Darkside turned on another gear. McKnight punished a just-so-slightly-behind throw from Gordon to Nightingale. The UNC handler then unloaded a huck to Andrew Li to give Darkside their first lead of the game at 9-8. Then the mistakes started piling up. Brown’s offense requires a level of precision so tight that even the slightest mistake hurts. Gordon left an inside flick stay in the air just long and wide enough that Eli Fried was able to step in front of Nissen for a block. Then, Jack McCleary read Nissen’s blade for a block. Then Hawthorne Hamm stepped in front of an in-cut. UNC punched in all three breaks to build a 13-9 lead and ran the momentum out for a 15-11 win. After a tight first half, Darkside played with a level of edge and swagger that took the wind out of Brown’s sails by the end of the game.

Quick Hits

  • Teams with championship aspirations easily handled lower seeded foes. #1 Georgia Jojah beat #18 WashU 15-8, #6 Cal Poly SLO SLOCORE beat #17 Penn State Spank 15-9, and #2 Pittsburgh beat #14 California 15-6.
  • #9 Minnesota Grey Duck took down #24 Ottawa 15-9. Callahan finalist Paul Krenik scored two goals and four assists for Minnesota.
  • #5 Oregon Ego beat #16 NC State Alpha 15-10. Julian Saunt, Ben Horrisberger, and Keali McCarter each had standout moments on defense. Mica Glass is leading the division with seven assists.
  • #15 Texas TUFF beat #11 Alabama-Huntsville 15-10. John Clyde scored three goals to go with a matching three assists.
  • #4 UMass ZooDisc, #8 Colorado Mamabird, #10 Carleton CUT, and #13 Oregon State Beavers were the four unlucky teams whose games were totally wiped out by rain today. They’ll be asked to play four games tomorrow.

 

  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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