By: Preston Goulson
After a tremendous Sunday of ultimate, with excellent quarterfinal games, comebacks and both semifinals decided on double-game point, the final had a lot to live up to. North Carolina-Wilmington got us started with a pretty routine hold on the first point, and the defensive pressure on Carleton’s first offensive point was purely Seamen ultimate. CUT couldn’t seem to hold onto the disc, but Wilmington wasn’t able to make them pay; finally, a huck went up to Henry Fisher, and Carleton sent out their defense.
The needle began to swing when the team from Northfield, Minn., punched in an upwind break after blocking a disc thrown toward Seamen freshman Matt Ellis. On the ensuing possession, Ellis dropped a straightforward catch, and Carleton broke again through Eric Taylor. Wilmington was swaying, and only the steady hands of Jack Williams prevented them from conceding for the fourth time in a row.
Carleton held, and as UNC-W was seeking their own hold, Matt Ellis pulled up lame. The star freshman had to be helped off the field, and later would be seen standing on the sidelines under the support of crutches. To make matters worse, after catching the up-line goal to cut the Carleton lead to 4-3, Jack Williams limped off the field to take his first rest of the game. It shouldn’t be that surprising that Williams needed a rest after seven consecutive points of high-intensity ultimate, but the severity of his limp was cause for concern.
With their star getting some treatment on the sideline, Wilmington needed to dig deep for defensive pressure. The Seamen were able to force a turnover, and after a nice dump-swing sequence, Rick Hennighausen uncorked a pinpoint backhand bomb to Kyle Warfel for the break.
Red-zone turnovers are a really good way for a team to lose momentum, and North Carolina-Wilmington provided a case study of that with the scoreboard reading 6-5. The Seamen faffed about on their goal line while trying to convert a break and eventually gave the disc away. Carleton immediately cashed in with a huck from Joe White to Eric Taylor.
The early stages of the second half were unremarkable for everything except the limited play of UNC-Wilmington’s star. Jack Williams had injured his hamstring in the first half, and would only be playing defensive points in the second half. His absence was not initially noticed on the offensive line, nor was it telling on the defensive line, as CUT and the Seamen traded holds for the first few points of the half. In fact, Carleton only turned the disc once in the first five points of the second half. But this was a tenuous situation for Wilmington. They were not quite as secure with the disc as their opponents, and CUT were finally able to make it tell, White assisting Sol Yanuck for the break.
It was a body blow to Wilmington, and the shock was evident on the faces of players like Rick Hennighausen, who dropped the disc on a comfortable catch attempt the very next point. He appeared dumbfounded, even as Joe White streaked past him into the end zone. Yanuck returned the favor from the previous point and rolled a forehand into the freshman’s hands in the end zone. 13-8, Carleton in control.
Wilmington needed to get going, and fast. They only had two points left to save their season, but they also had priors in this field (see: semifinal v. North Carolina). So like they have all weekend long, they broke glass in case of emergency and turned to their superhero.
Adrenaline is one heck of a drug, and Jack Williams was running on a pretty high-octane version of it. The man with one leg ran down a fading forehand huck and caught it over two defenders in the back of the end zone for a crucial Wilmington break. However, it was clear that he and his teammates were getting tired. CUT held, and on their championship point, Joe White was about as open as it gets, as exhausted Seamen defenders failed to communicate switches with each other. An excellent mark prevented the thrower from connecting with the now-household name, but it was merely forestalling the inevitable. Henry Fisher jetted deep past Williams, and a perfect delivery floated down into his grateful hands, seemingly taking eons. For the first time since 2011, Carleton College CUT are the kings of college ultimate. Thanks to every team that played this weekend for treating us to a wonderful tournament, and congratulations to CUT. See y’all next year!