By: Preston Goulson
Washington v, Cal Poly-SLO
Cal Poly-SLO has been a model of consistent inconsistency this tournament. Their defensive pressure has kept them in games and gave them plenty of opportunities against Stanford and Massachusetts. SLOCORE lost a heartbreaker against Stanford after dropping the pull with the scores tied, and they gave Zoodisc quite the scare late in that matchup. The opening stages of their game with Washington looked to follow that script, as Cal Poly applied a huge amount of defensive pressure on the Sundodgers, repeatedly generating turnovers and repeatedly giving the disc back on execution errors. Although Washington took half at 8-6, they never really shut the door on SLOCORE. The fourth quarter of the game saw that door blown wide open. With Washington sitting pretty at 14-11, SLOCORE summoned some sort of ancient power that steadied their offensive hand, rattling off four breaks in a row to take the win 16-14. With a win over already-eliminated Colorado State, Cal Poly can seal progression to the bracket; on the flip side, Washington now must win against Stanford to have a chance of moving on.
Massachusetts v. Stanford
This game more or less went to script, with Zoodisc looking calm and assured on offense and chipping in with breaks on the defensive side. Although he didn’t necessarily light up the scoresheet, Patrick Barron had a strong game, consistently getting himself in the right spots for Massachusetts.
Auburn v. Oregon State
Auburn jumped out in front of Oregon State early and never really looked back; their zone defense was more than content to let Oregon State possess the disc in their own half of the field, especially with both teams culpable of overthrows in this flag-fluttering breeze. In the end, the Aetos handlers were too much, and they cruised to a victory.
Minnesota v. Wisconsin
The early bird gets the worm, and the early arrivers got an excellent game of ultimate to start their day. After looking flawless for the entirety of Saturday, Minnesota and Wisconsin came together in a terrific matchup that could be a preamble to the championship match itself. The high-pressure Hodag defense jumped on Minnesota early and often, and even though Gray Duck was able to hold, it was clear that this would be no walk in the park. Wisconsin took control of the game with two breaks heading into half, changing the dialogue within the Minnesota huddle. Even after the half, Wisconsin was still holding fast; so compact was their red-zone defense that Minnesota were forced to swing the disc laterally for minutes on end just to get through for a hold. But the champions, with their backs against the wall, began to ratchet up the defensive pressure. They broke, and on the next point caused Wisconsin to turn the disc in the end zone four times. That break was followed by two more, and all of a sudden Minnesota was winning 13-11. Soft cap came on, the teams traded holds, and Minnesota let out an almighty roar of ecstasy as they saw off the most significant challenge to their title defense yet. Wisconsin will be furious at letting this one slip through their fingers, but they have an immediate opportunity to get back on the horse against Oregon in the next round.
British Columbia v. Virginia Tech
From top to bottom of the division, comebacks have been en vogue today. Virginia Tech took half at 8-5 and was in complete control, with Joe Freund dunking all over British Columbia defenders. But UBC showed off their big-game experience, putting the first-time Nationals attendees to the sword with an almighty comeback in the second half, running out as 15-12 winners.
Michigan v. Connecticut
The second half of this game was as spellbinding as the first half was unremarkable. Michigan showed off the same swagger that saw them cruise through their conference and region, running out to a comfortable 10-6 lead. But then, true to their team name, Connecticut began to grind. MagnUM started turning, and UConn began to convert. And convert. And convert. In the blink of an eye, the game was tied at 12, and the soft cap was on. As if suddenly awakened, Michigan’s D line found their fire, forcing a turnover and moving the disc down to the goal line on the trap corner, only to commit the most boneheaded of turnovers on a no-spin push pass. The only appropriate punishment for that act of tomfoolery is to immediately concede a hold on a full-field huck, so Grind prepared to pull on double-game point. The teams traded nondescript turnovers, and then MagnUM captain Noah Backer decided that enough was enough, roasting his man deep and receiving a backhand huck for the win. Closer than they needed it to be, but a win’s a win.
Colorado v. UNC
After their upset defeat to Auburn yesterday, Colorado had a point to prove against top-seeded North Carolina. Were it not for some silly giveaways, Mamabird could have really put Darkside to the sword early; as it happened, they had to content themselves with a first-point break and no more. The highlight of the game was a point midway through the first half, when Nathan Kwon and Mark Rauls traded massive layouts, Kwon hunting for a huge block and Rauls nearly able to bring down an off-target flick in the end zone. Colorado’s earlier profligacy came back to bite them, with Kwon instrumental in Darkside hauling in a pair of breaks to close out the half. The second frame was balanced on a knife’s edge, as Colorado broke to tie the game at 9, and then at 11. Nolan Archer redeemed himself for getting broken by catching a layout goal to give UNC the 12-11 lead, with the game to 13. On the ensuing Colorado offensive point, North Carolina generated multiple blocks in Colorado’s end zone, only to immediately give the disc back each time, culminating in a Mamabird hold and double-game point. Darkside received and worked the disc down the field, but turned it in the end zone, giving Colorado the offensive impetus. Mamabird graciously accepted the invitation and marched down the field, flipping an around backhand into the end zone for a huge win. Pool C is officially up for grabs.
Pittsburgh v. UNC-Wilmington
The Seamen were definitively on the attack from the off, getting horizontal early and often against Pittsburgh. En Sabah Nur, used to being the ones calling the defensive shots, seemed shell shocked, and soon conceded the first break at 5-4. Wilmington continued exerting pressure and took half 8-5. Matt Ellis had himself some game, contributing four assists, the crown jewel of which was a 30-yard peach of an invert flick huck, one that traveled all the way from the trap side to the breakside, to maintain the Seamen lead. Wilmington took firm control of Pool B with this statement victory.
Carleton College CUT v. Oregon State
Carleton rolled comfortably against an Oregon State team that had just exhausted themselves against Auburn. The CUT offense rarely had to get out of first gear, with the defense providing them a stable platform for the victory.
Virginia Tech v. Oregon
Oregon’s aggressive defense immediately made life difficult for Virginia Tech, as Ego racked up a handful of breaks right off the bat, spurred forth by some huge layout blocks. As the game wore on and Oregon continued to work the disc unperturbed, Burn threw their desperation card, a cup that would hopefully slow down the athletic Ego offense. It generated a few opportunities, but Tech was not able to maintain any semblance of possession and failed to mount a comeback.
Stanford v. Washington
Winner takes all! I guess that’s a little misleading; the winner of this game punches their ticket to the pre-quarterfinals. And it’s only that cut and dried if anything other than Washington winning by exactly two points happens. Barring that situation, we won’t have to invoke bylaws to determine tiebreakers. Both teams came out gunning; Stanford grabbed an early lead that they rolled with up to halftime. After a long, drawn-out opening hold, Washington made the second half theirs, breaking a poleaxed Stanford five times in a row. Their zone defense was key to the turnaround, and Bloodthirsty took way too long to figure out how to deal with it. Fans were treated to a grandstand finale, as Stanford put together a furious comeback, breaking to get the deficit to that magic number (two). Alas, rulebook pedants weren’t able to realize their dreams, as Washington punched in a backhand huck, winning by three points and putting Stanford on the brink.
Oregon v. Wisconsin
If you take nothing else away from this game, drink in the beautiful “world’s greatest” (look it up) converted by Wisconsin, when Ross Barker lassoed the disc around his head as he was flying out of bounds, floating it nicely into the path of a wide open Erik Jorgenson. Just the way they drew it up. Perhaps not part of the Hodag masterplan was giving up a pair of breaks and allowing Oregon to tie the game at 10. As the game chugged along toward cap, the teams traded points until Wisconsin was able to punch in a break to win the game 16-14. The result is slightly academic, as both teams will play in the pre-quarterfinal round, but they can also both take some strengths and weaknesses away from the game.
Connecticut v. Texas A&M
The two winless teams in Pool B met up and played out an entertaining game. Texas A&M did a much better job keeping possession this time around, especially on deep shots, against Connecticut. Connor Ughetta and Casey Aldridge dropped some nice dimes for Dozen, helping them run out 14-11 winners.
Massachusetts v. Colorado State / Minnesota v. British Columbia
Both of the number one seeds in action during the 12:30 p.m. round had secured the top spot in their respective pools, so both Massachusetts and Minnesota were afforded the opportunity to get their top players a few more hours of deserved rest. While British Columbia put Gray Duck to the sword and rolled together a nice 15-9 win, Colorado State was unable to get any sort of momentum going against UMass, and slumped to their third defeat of the tournament.
Michigan v. UNC-Wilmington / Pittsburgh v. Texas A&M
With MagnUM and Pittsburgh both guaranteed progression to the bracket, yet unlikely to move on as winners of the pool, both teams opted to run out deeper squads than normal, resting their studs for the pre-quarterfinals matchups later in the afternoon. UNC-W could win the pool with a victory, so they made short work of this callow MagnUM team, while Pittsburgh slalomed past a spent Texas A&M. On to the bracket, then.
Colorado v. Carleton College
In a do-or-die game for two blue-chip programs, Colorado came out flat, and Carleton came out champing at the bit. This was a cagey game until the end of the first half. In what would become a game-long theme, Mamabird began turning the disc with dunderheaded throwaways, and Carleton broke three times in a row to take half. The second half was an exciting affair for neutrals, with plenty of huge hucks and monster skies and layouts, but for the purist (or Colorado fan), it was a grating affair, as Mamabird was unable to convert any chances they were given. Carleton ended the game on an 11-2 run, consigning Colorado to fickle tiebreakers. As Auburn holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, they move on to the pre-quarterfinals as the third seed from the pool, and Colorado’s dream comes to an end.
Auburn v. North Carolina
On half point for Darkside, Auburn flipped several of their studs from offense to defense, and it paid off. They scored two breaks on North Carolina and had plenty of opportunities to score a third break that would tie the game. After that slight blip, it was business as usual for Darkside, showcasing their arsenal of deep throws and making things look way too easy. North Carolina moves directly into the bracket as winners of Pool C, and Auburn goes to the pre-quarterfinals thanks to their prior victory against Colorado.
Colorado State v. Cal Poly-SLO
With a win here, Cal Poly could continue their team-wide maturation and move through to the pre-quarterfinals. For most of the game, they were stymied by a Colorado State team that has yet to show their true merit at Nationals. But after SLOCORE broke at 10-8, it was all downhill for Hibida. As Cal Poly players began to grow in stature and confidence, Colorado State was visibly tiring, playing exhausted defense and stolid offense. The gap continued to widen as SLOCORE saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and there was much rejoicing as the number 17 seed sealed their spot in the last 12 standing.
Carleton College v. Michigan
For a long time, this game was tense. The teams traded holds until Jake Moyer opened things up for Michigan with an impressive, if unorthodox, clap-catch layout on a nice huck to register the game’s first break. In the points immediately before and after that break, MagnUM had been generating turnovers, but wasn’t able to convert. And then Joe White happened. Michigan’s O-line began to rock, a combination of injuries and defensive pressure from Carleton making life difficult for the Great Lake regional champions. Over the course of four points, Joe White (a freshman, ladies and gentleman) tallied two blocks, two goals and two assists. Not a bad 10 minutes of work. From there, CUT’s position was unassailable. Michigan pulled one break back, but Carleton gave them little else to work with. After an unfortunate dropped pull, CUT scored through Joe White (who else) to move on to the quarterfinals.
Washington v. Oregon
The showcase game of this round was a regional rivalry redux. Washington topped Oregon on double-game point in the Northwest regional final a few weeks ago, ending a long losing streak to the team from down south. The theme of this game? Big throws. Surprise, right? The star of the show was, once again, Khalif El-salaam. His layout goal on an overenthusiastic fade flick was impressive, but one of the throws of the day was a 60-yard bomb that hit his receiver in stride at the back corner of the end zone for a break. Adam Rees was as good as he’s been all weekend long, showing off that speed and bounciness we’ve all come to know and love, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. Washington beats Oregon for the second time in a month, and perhaps starts a win streak of their own.
Auburn v. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh rediscovered the mojo they left on field three earlier this morning (when they got popped in the mouth by UNC-Wilmington), rolling through an Auburn team that was just a little bit gassed. Aetos was only able to break an assured En Sabah Nur once; there just wasn’t enough in the tank for a comeback.
Wisconsin v. Caly Poly-SLO
Wisconsin professed their intent early on, breaking four times in the first few frames of the contest. Cal Poly pulled back a couple breaks as the game dragged on, but never really looked like troubling a clinical Hodag team. One for the sentimental folks: with the clock winding down, SLOCORE ran out a senior line. And, of course, the old dudes gave it one last hurrah and scored a goal on a goofy flick, which is about as fun a sendoff as this writer can think of.