By: Grant Lindsley
UNC v. Oregon
Oregon looked great for the first 65 yards. They received the pull and smoothly worked the disc down the open side, but then they struggled to swing the disc in the red zone, eventually turning over their first break-side pass – a late-stall, inside flick. UNC’s D-line offense efficiently marched the disc back down the field for an immediate break and gut punch to Oregon. Oregon, perhaps still recovering from their close two-point win over Brown in the quarterfinals, looked fatigued to begin the game. Indeed, Ego committed another turnover on the next point, a pressured inside break throw just like the first, but Ego’s Colton Clark jumped the lane to intercept a pass and save Ego from an early 2-0 deficit.
The Darkside offense showcased their discipline with beautiful spacing, their cutters avoiding picks by clearing wide, their resets streaming behind the disc if downfield looks weren’t immediately open, their patient give-and-go end-zone offense somewhat reminiscent of Oregon teams of yore. Cutter strength characterized Oregon’s own offense, with Adam Rees and Will Lohre shouldering much of the responsibility for downfield movement. Lohre made a diving save on an overthrown pass to keep Oregon within striking distance, down one break.
UNC’s Kai Marcus distributed a pinpoint flick huck across the field to a sprinting Liam Searles-Bohs, who broke his defender’s ankles on a sideline-under-cut-turned-deep-strike. On the next point, stellar Darkside defender Norman Archer ran through an Ego pass for a second break for UNC, now up 4-2. With an offense in rhythm and a defense on the grind, UNC Darkside appeared to be on their way to yet another dominant showing.
However, here would end the success of Kai Marcus’ accuracy. After an Ego hold, Marcus misfired a huck, which Ego converted to tie the game at 4s. Two more Marcus turnovers on the next two UNC offensive points gave Ego break opportunities. UNC maintained a one-point, one-break lead, 6-5, but for the first time in the tournament, their offense looked shaken.
In a showing of mascot solidarity, Minnesota Grey Duck stood in front of the sidelines flapping their arms in unison, chanting “Quack! Quack!” in favor of Oregon, whose official school mascot is the Ducks, and who suddenly held an unexpected momentum. Lohre unleashed a sharp flick huck over a leaping Nathan Kwon for Oregon’s quickest score yet. On the next point, Marcus’ troubles continued as he shanked a break throw too far behind a receiver. Ego’s Leandro Marx-Albuquerque toed the end-zone line to put the game back on serve. An Ego timeout to rest their players and hopefully ice UNC’s offense proved effective, as Colby Chuck found a D, which Ego converted, shocking UNC to storm into halftime with an 8-6 lead.
The question: should a coach sit a player who has been a staple all season but struggles in the most important game of the season, or should a coach stick with the lineup and trust/pray their player can regain their composure? Shortly after Marcus got foot-blocked (by standout Ego sophomore Duncan Fitzgerald) and contributed to a couple more UNC turnovers, the decision was easy: Marcus sat on the bench for the final points of the semifinal. The thermometer read 94 degrees, certainly hotter on the turf field, and with this being UNC’s second game in a row on the hot surface, perhaps the heat contributed to their uncharacteristic lack of poise. Matt Gouche-Hanas also struggled, dropping two passes en route to Ego’s dangerous 12-10 edge.
Meanwhile, Adam Rees and Will Lohre displayed their stamina, pumping Ego within breathing distance of a berth in the championship game. However, with the late strategic adjustments to their O line, UNC found the end zone to bring the game to 13-12, game to 14. Nathan Kwon soon capitalized on a floaty Ego throw to give UNC the disc, then the goal, and suddenly, their own chance to win. 13-13. Double-game point.
Oregon fans feared the worst, a late-game collapse, and their first long under pass floated over the head of Adam Rees. Lohre saw it from his position in the back of the stack and saved the falling disc, but a few passes later, he couldn’t reel in a low and wide up-line reset pass. UNC disc. After a UNC timeout, a stoppage on a pick call, and multiple passes in close quarters outside the Oregon end zone, UNC’s Callahan finalist, Nathan Kwon, found a hole in the D to catch the winning goal. UNC survived the heat, Oregon and themselves, winning 14-13 and securing a spot in Monday’s championship game.
Carleton College v. Pittsburgh
Carleton and Pitt have an acrimonious history over the past decade. Carleton eliminated Pitt from the College Championships three straight years from ’08-’10 before Pitt turned the tables and held the edge, winning a pair of championships in ’12 and ’13 on the way. In their pre-game huddles beneath the setting sun in Milwaukee, Pitt somberly stood shoulder to shoulder while CUT took turns dancing in the middle of their circle.
The first point went to a deep-streaking Michael Ing of Pitt, who played both O and D for En Sabah Nur throughout. CUT’s Dillon Lanier responded with a looping mid-range flick to even the score at 1s. After a few turns on the next point, including a heads-up D on an under by CUT senior Sol Yanuck, Ethan Bloodworth found the end zone for CUT’s first break. Lanier’s flick proved lethal all game as he also hit freshman star Harry Wolff Landau and sophomore Stan Birdsong for early CUT goals. Both teams hucked often, and Pitt’s Kyle Hartley sprinted off for a deep goal after a CUT turn to bring the score back on serve.
Some of the many hucks from both sides were either ill-advised or mis-executed. CUT’s Henry Fisher couldn’t connect with Birdsong, and Wolff Landau floated one over the head of Lanier. Pitt capitalized with a pair of huck goals to Michael Ing to put Pitt up 7-5. CUT tried to counter Pitt’s deep flow with a zone, and it paid off with Luke “Nando” Webb making a fantastic layout block on an under pass. But Joe White turfed a break-side scoober on CUT’s chance at a break, and Pitt’s Jonah Wisch completed a deep shot to end the point, shooting a lefty backhand into the end zone to take Pitt to an 8-6 halftime lead.
Over-hucking is often a sign of nerves, but CUT had the skill to complete many of them as Wolff Landau opened the second half with a rocket of a backhand to Lanier to bring the score within one. Pitt, too, had the athletes and energy to complete many of their hucks, and Pitt’s 6’5” Noah Robinson, in particular, took the second half by storm. Despite the consistently superb blade pulls of CUT’s Eric Taylor to put Pitt’s offense in disadvantageous spots, Pitt handlers found power positions often and hit Robinson for a couple ESPN Top10-play nominee skies for goals. After Pitt’s Tranquillo poached the lane on a pass to CUT’s Lanier to get his second block, Pitt’s Dan Goldstein scuttled into the end zone for a critical Pitt break, extending their lead to 11-8.
CUT took a timeout to rest and reset. In Pitt’s huddle, En Sabah Nur could be overheard performing a call and response of various grunts and growls.
Despite the breather, CUT could not regain their composure. An uncharacteristic drop from Henry Fisher led to another deep huck for a break from Pitt to give them their largest lead of the game. After CUT’s Yanuck found White on the break side for a goal, the boys from Northfield, Minn., tried another zone to test Pitt’s patience. But Pitt lobbed a few hammers over the top of the zone to maintain their cushion, 13-9.
The hucks continued: Alex Olsen hit Lanier deep, but Pitt answered with another huck goal to Noah Robsinon, who looked unguardable in the second half.
CUT’s Olsen connected with Yanuck for a necessary offensive hold, and Yanuck attempted one of his signature celebrations, cartwheeling at the brick mark in hopes of inspiring a CUT comeback.
Game point Pitt. A high, blading flick huck fell into the hands of, you guessed it, Noah Robinson in the end zone, sealing Pitt’s upset over top-seeded Carleton. Pitt hucked to height all game, playing to their strengths to earn the right to play in tomorrow’s championship game against UNC. It should be a good one: Pitt is the only team in the entire college division to have beaten UNC this season.