D-I College Championships 2024: Torrential Rain Can’t Stop Brown’s Motion (Men’s Semifinal Recap)

Even as rained poured on the complex, the sure hands and throwing of Jacques Nissen and Leo Gordon powered Brown back to the national final

Brown’s Amrik Eadara celebrates in the semifinal of the 2024 College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

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Steady as bedrock, inevitable as time itself, #7 Brown Brownian Motion concluded a three-round Sunday gauntlet with a 15-12 semifinal takedown of #8 Colorado Mamabird. The victory ensured B-Mo’s return to the national final after a year away.

The game was played in a meteorological tantrum: curtain after curtain of driving rain soaked through jerseys and cleats and turned players’ hands into slip-and-slides for the disc in the first half. The same atmospheric current that finally pushed the rain away from the field complex brought a whipping crosswind that played havoc with the disc in the game’s later stages.

“The weather was… messed up,” said Colorado’s Tobias Brooks.

Brown started the game with the three-pointed attack that launched them ahead of Michigan MagnUM in the second half of their prequarterfinal and virtually the entirety of their nervy quarter upset of #1 Georgia Jojah. Why not? With a wet disc drastically increasing the turnover risk on hucks, the battle-tested theory that they could find a 100% pass somewhere in a 10-second stall, and the personnel – Jacques Nissen, Leo Gordon, Elliott Rosenberg, Cal Nightingale, Jason Tapper – to run it with their eyes closed, the tactical choice was clear. Mamabird are by nature more of a big-cut/reset/swing team. Both cleanly found the end zone on their opening points by sticking to the game plan.

The clean holds were never going to last, given the weather, and Colorado earned a couple of break chances on the third point. Zeke Thoreson and Calvin Stoughton, their most dangerous defenders, earned blocks as the disc rose on sudden gusts. The counterattacks were as fraught as the hold attempts, though, and Colorado couldn’t find the break.

Steady offense took root for several more points until the next break chance – this time, for Brown. It came courtesy of a Seth Wells huck that strayed wide right and couldn’t find and edge to drift back in bounds. Brown, it appeared, had picked the perfect moment to make a key personnel decision. They often cross over one or two of Nightingale, Rosenberg, Gordon, and Nissen to the D-line to quarterback the offense in the event of a turnover. With the exception of one Rosenberg point, they had not done so on any of their first four defensive points. On the fifth, they had Rosenberg, Nissen, and Gordon all on the line. A turfed backhand ended their first possession. But when a Colorado goal line miscommunication between Levi Tapper and Ryan Shigley gave them a second chance, it was golden. Gordon ate up most of the field with a high-difficulty deep forehand to Emmett Young, and Nissen finished the point with a zero-hesitation soft blade in the end zone. That kind of throw in that kind of weather would be unthinkable for virtually every other player at college Nationals. For Nissen, it’s run of the mill.

“I don’t know,” said Brooks about the task of trying to contain B-Mo’s twin suns. “Jacques and f***ing Leo are good. Their two-man game … we couldn’t really stop it.”

B-Mo were far from done piling on points in the first half. After a quick Colorado response – all-world rookie Tobias Brooks powered up a perfect backhand and let Nanda Min-Fink go up for a poster-quality sky – and a noticeable uptick in the strength of the crosswind, Brown took advantage of a dropped pass to give Nissen, Gordon, and Rosenberg another break chance. The possession was child’s play in their experienced hands. Rosenberg sent a silky six-yard backhand to the unguarded spot ahead of Nissen to complete the break, and B-Mo took half by a comfortable 8-6 margin.

A two-point margin had been more than enough for Brown throughout the season. They’d just finished making a two-point lead stand up in the second half of their quarterfinal against a top-flight set of Georgia defenders. Colorado took one of the breaks back after pinning Brown in the coffin corner with a pull. Even the steady-steering of the B-Mo handler core couldn’t find a way over the defense against the wind; Tucker Kalmus took advantage of the short field to hit Thoreson with a high release.

Mamabird would not get closer than the 9-8 deficit. As the half wore on, fatigue became a factor for many of the players they had relied on to get them to this point. Brooks, Wells, Shigley, Buchholz, and Aylen Learned all made the kinds of execution errors that, en masse at least, would have been unthinkable if they hadn’t been playing their seventh game across two days in some of the most punishing weather Nationals has ever seen.

“We couldn’t stretch the field like we normally do, with this weather,” said Brooks. “I had a couple horrible hucks. Our deep game was not the threat that it normally is.”

B-Mo, on the other hand, seemed immune to that attrition. If anything, they grew stronger. Nissen and Gordon combined for 13 assists and have made a compelling case – some would say ironclad, even – as the most skilled throwing duo in the division. Rosenberg was tremendous as the third musketeer, tossing in both of the remaining assists. Nightingale tacked on four goals to pad his tournament-leading total.1 Young’s handsy defensive play and steady post-turn offense proved that the suspensions Brown had to serve during pool play for incorrectly rostering him for the postseason were worth the price. Oscar Low as a tireless matchup defender, Adrian Lin as the ideal no-reset mark in Brown’s zone, Amrik Eadar as a space-clogging nuisance, Jason Tapper and Henry Egan and Luca Duclos-Orsello as athletic finishers: the entire cast played their roles to perfection.

The upshot was a lead that swelled back to 13-9, by which point the victory was almost assured. Colorado’s last gasp was a counter that featured their two brightest young stars. Brooks uncorked a 55-yard backhand with a subtle OI edge that allowed Thoreson to execute a textbook boxout and rise easily to meet the disc. The break brought Colorado to within two points. The pair of them headline the stupendous recruiting classes of 2023 and 2024 that will almost certainly bring their influence to bear on this tournament in seasons to come. This year’s run to semis could well end up being a springboard to the program’s next championship.

“I still think we’re the best team here, talent-wise,” said Brooks. “It’s a bummer, but we’ve got a young group of f***ing studs. We do. We lose some big fifth-years in the backfield, but we’re hungry. We’ll be back here. Guaranteed. Guaranteed. We’ll be back.”

For Brown, the time is now. A fourth championship could happen as soon as Memorial Day. Nissen punctuated a clean final march down the field with an absolutely undefendable OI high-release backhand to Rosenberg to ink Brown’s date with history.

They’ll take on #6 Cal Poly SLO SLOCORE in the final.

  1. Nightingale has 23 heading into the final, four more than the next closest player. 

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

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