High School National Invite 2024: Day One Recap (Boys Division)

Who survived the competition and the wind?

South Eugene vs. LASA in boys division play at the 2024 High School National Invite. Photo: Matthew Brooks – UltiPhotos.com

Rockford, IL. — Rockford, this year’s home of the 2024 High School National Invite, has given players and spectators alike an experience that they will never forget. The wind seemed to be coming from everywhere. In a way the wind was kind of like Tom Brady’s football career: it just didn’t know how to quit and kept coming back for more. The weather sure did make for an interesting and exciting day of ultimate though. Let’s take a look at the top, the middle, and the bottom of the field in the Boys Division at HSNI 2024.

Champions in the Making

In most cases, when a wind like today’s is present at a tournament, it becomes the great equalizer. It levels the playing field and makes everyone have to work, fight, and dig for every inch of the field they take. And for many teams the wind did just that. However, for those teams at the top of their pools, the wind was nothing more than a minor inconvenience on their way to victory. The teams that had the best performance in this wind were undoubtedly Green Canyon, Eastside Prep, and South Eugene, all teams that won their respective pools.

The Eastside Prep (WA) Eagles’ success was largely thanks to the throwing prowess of handlers like Axel Olson and Filip Icev. Both players decided to beat the wind with their intelligence rather than let it stunt them. They opted for more sturdy backhands instead of flicks when possible. They got low, stepped out, and drove every throw through their target to ensure that it found its mark. The choice to focus on those key fundamentals is what allowed them to capture break after break against their opponents. If the Eagles can keep their composure then it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them playing under the lights tomorrow evening.

Green Canyon (UT) has a dawg on their roster, and his name is Nathan De Morgan. Throughout the entirety of the day, De Morgan was the driving force for the Green Canyon D-line on a turn. His understanding of what throws work in downwind and upwind scenarios allowed him to reach into a bag of tricks that many other throwers just did not have access to. The same can be said of Akira Koenigsberg of South Eugene (OR). He was one of the few players able to connect on a multitude of deep looks today. In their emphatic win against Jordan, he found teammates CJ Kaperick and Rowley Swinehart streaking deep and was not afraid to put it to them several times.

Edina (MN) is the team to be afraid of tomorrow. They tore through the competition all day long with their suffocating zone that stopped offenses dead in their tracks. In every game they hopped on the break train early and rode it all the way into a cushy spot in the quarterfinals. They even took half on Jackson-Reed 8-1 in their showcase game. Jackson-Reed was able to give them a better game after half, but boy-oh-boy does Edina look like one of the teams to beat going into the final day.

There are a few other teams that, although did not win their pool, still fit into this potential champions category. Based on their play today it would not be incredibly surprising if Jackson-Reed, Nathan Hale, or Jordan go on a run in the bracket tomorrow. Each team has enough star power and depth to challenge the pool winners and punch their ticket to the semis. All-Star performances will need to be had by key players like Marcus Lee for Jackson-Reed, Cedar Hines for Nathan Hale, and Will Basden for Jordan. We will just have to see if those players can rally their troops and have themselves a day.

Never Tell Me the Odds!

The teams in this category did not win their pools but they did make it to prequarters and they all showed glimpses of what they can look like at their best in ideal, less windy conditions.

For Lexington (MA), their best came in the form of the Manchala brothers, Vivek and Arnov. The elder brother, Vivek, was a commanding cutter down field, barreling through the cutting lanes and hollering his younger brother’s name to let him know he was open. Arnov, the freshman, was more than happy to oblige and connect with his brother on numerous big unders and well placed around throws. If the Manchala brothers can rely on their chemistry and trust each other, then Lexington just might surprise us tomorrow.

Thomas Shope and his St. Louis Park (MN) squad certainly showed today that they can play with the best of them. The U20 national teamer, along with teammates Parker Knudson and Andrew Steinberg, shined in their wins against Pennsbury and Lincoln, but fell pretty short against Green Canyon. For Lincoln (WA), their best game was against Green Canyon, the pool C winners. Lincoln was able to push Green Canyon to the bring forcing a double game point scenario, showing they have the talent and can get hot when it matters. They will need to draw on that throughout tomorrow if they want to make it out of pre quarters and into the afternoon.

West Jessamine (KY) and Wissahickon (PA) both went 1-2 on the day. They both made prequarters due to having a slightly better point differential than bottom seed Berkeley at the end of the day. Hopefully they will be able to put their past behind them and focus on the bracket tomorrow. The regular season showed us that these teams have what it takes to win games when it matters most. If they can rely on their leaders like Eliott Hawkins and Sam Grossberg, respectively, then maybe tomorrow will be their day instead of someone else’s.

Fond Farewells

Unfortunately, not every team can make the bracket, somebody has got to go home early. This year it’s Pennsbury, LASA, Berkeley, and last year’s HSNI champion, Lone Peak. While these teams did not perform to a level high enough to make the bracket they each shined bright at some point today and showed that they deserve to be here.

For LASA (TX), it was in their first game of the day against South Eugene. LASA came out strong and had a big lead against South Eugene early in the game. LASA forced their opponents to give them everything they had if they wanted to mount a comeback. South Eugene was eventually able to do it but they would be lying if they didn’t think LASA had them dead to rights at one point or another.

Pennsbury (PN) admittedly did not have a great day. Their best result came against St. Louis Park when they lost to them 15-9. Although Pennsbury did not win any games, they still kept their spirits high and were able to enjoy the moment and that they had the opportunity to play at such a prestigious tournament. Hopefully they can continue to have fun tomorrow in a few consolation games.

In my opinion, no team made their opponents work harder to beat them than Lone Peak (UT) did. In all of their games they went blow for blow until it would eventually get away from them in the end. They played with a grit and determination evident of a team that has won this tournament before. Stepping away from their results, if you saw Lone Peak play today then you may have noticed that every player had the number 1 stitched onto their jerseys. This is in honor of Lone Peak all-star Braeden Bybee, who was unable to travel to HSNI due to a recent cancer diagnosis. It was a wholesome sight to see and to Braeden: we are all rooting for you, focus on getting healthy and we will see you back on the ultimate field where you belong real soon!

Berkeley (CA) played with an infectious energy all day and it was something to behold. After every break they would erupt with a joyous cacophony that echoed all around the complex. I even witnessed them convince Eastside Prep to join in on a Rockettes-style kick line with them during a timeout. Berkeley just seems like a team that its players love to play for and that is something that is awesome to see even here at such a high level tournament.

  1. Matt Fazzalaro
    Matt Fazzalaro

    Matt began playing ultimate in 2017 at Lambert High school in Forsyth County, Georgia. In his college career he played one year with the Samford Dogma and three years with the Georgia Jojah. Matt cites the Athens, GA ultimate community as the best he has ever experienced and also fell in love with goalty there. Matt now lives, works, and plays ultimate in Atlanta, GA.

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