By: Preston Goulson
Pool A didn’t contain too many surprises, as both Bryant and Davidson cruised against Portland and St. John’s, respectively. A sting in the tail beckoned when Portland started to make a push with their backs against the wall, but they ultimately fell well short against a technically superior Bryant team.
Franciscan tackled their first-round matchup with Wheaton with aplomb, showing off their incredibly consistent fundamentals in a relatively straightforward matchup. One of the games of the first round was on the other side of the pool, as North Carolina-Asheville upset Colorado College on double-game point. Both teams took a little while to get going, with the first few points being relatively cagey affairs until Asheville started to get on a roll and ended up taking half 8-5. But ultimate is a game of runs, and Wasabi clawed back to tie the game at 10 heading into hard cap. Asheville received on double-game point and marched the disc all the way down the field before turning it in the end zone. Colorado College couldn’t capitalize, giving Asheville another chance that they did not squander.
John Brown came out of the gates firing against Richmond, pushing one of the tournament favorites to the max. The Spidermonkeys might thank them as the tournament goes on, as it brought out the best in a very good team, forcing them to grind out a few breaks at the end in order to take the game. On the other side of the pool, an Amherst team that is very depleted due to graduation conflicts simply ran out of gas against Army. After trading the opening few points, Army’s superior numbers and athleticism told the tale, as they rattled off seven consecutive points to take firm control of the game.
Air Force also comes into this tournament shorthanded, with their juniors unable to attend due to the Air Force Academy’s annual Ring Dance, where Second Class Cadets receive their class rings. Alabama-Huntsville took immediate advantage, continuing their hot end-of-season form and handing Afterburn a first-round loss. Occidental tried to make things interesting at the end of a tense matchup with Dartmouth, but Pain Train was ultimately able see off the California challengers.
Games went pretty according to script in Pool A. Bryant didn’t have too much trouble dealing with St. John’s; however, for the second time today, their opponent was able to make a push toward the end of the game. Bryant was able to quash it, but let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend.
Franciscan took care of business once again, moving the disc safely, securely and successfully against the UNC-Asheville defense. Wheaton and Colorado College put on a good show, matching each other evenly throughout the first half. The second half saw Wheaton’s throws beginning to take over, with a few deep shots paving the way for Mastodon to get the breaks required to end Colorado College’s championship challenge.
Once again, Richmond’s opponents (Army, this time) pushed them out of their comfort zone, and once again, the favored team was able to dig deep and pull away as the second half wore on. Sam Gillespie sealed Richmond’s progress into the quarterfinals as pool winners when he lofted a pretty fade to a streaking receiver for the game-winning goal. In an attempt to salvage some of their energy stores, Amherst switched to zone defense at the beginning of their matchup with John Brown. Ironfist was simply too much for the depleted team, turning on the gas right before half and not really looking back.
Dartmouth played out one of the scrappier affairs of this tournament thus far in their victory over Alabama-Huntsville, pulling away late after trading points for much of the game. Simultaneously, Air Force put themselves in a sticky situation with their second-round win over Occidental. But by only beating the 16th overall seed 11-10 on double-game point, the prospect of a complicated tiebreaker situation after the final round of pool play was living large. The reigning national semifinalists now needed to beat Dartmouth handily in order to ensure their place in the championship bracket. The interest of rulebook and chaos enthusiasts was piqued.
Davidson was clearly champing at the bit for their matchup against the overall one seed, shooting out of the gates to a 5-1 lead over Bryant. The Davidson man defense enacted a lot of pressure, and then the switch to zone encouraged a jumpy Craze team to possess the disc. After causing turnovers, Davidson ran their offense through their handlers, with downfield looks coming from cutters running vertically in and receiving inside-out throws on the break side of the field. Davidson has well and truly announced their presence. St. John’s showed how much they enjoy the deep shot in their game against Portland. Charlie Schuweiler, in particular, had an excellent game, contributing several assists on deep shots.
The highlighted matchup of the round saw Wheaton and UNC-Asheville duking it out for the pool’s final spot in the championship bracket. After Wheaton jumped out to an early lead, Asheville clawed their way back into the game. The final two points of the game were wince-inducing; Asheville tied things up at 12 just as hard cap went on after Mastodon was stalled out on the first throw. Eager to one-up their opponents’ oafishness, Asheville left the center handler unmarked after the pull, giving him plenty of time to uncork a bomb to an open cutter in the red zone, who then threw a forehand around assist for the double-game-point winner.
Already assured of progression to the quarterfinals as the winner of Pool C and hurting after two hard-fought games, Richmond indulged in some much-needed rest against already-eliminated Amherst. John Brown took care of business against a spirited Army side that couldn’t quite bridge the gap with their opponents. Ironfist won 11-6, and as the second seed in the pool, will move on to the quarterfinals for the first time in team history.
Remember that tiebreaker scenario we were talking about after round two? Here we go. Air Force topped Dartmouth 14-11, while Alabama-Huntsville put Occidental to the sword 15-9. With Air Force, Dartmouth and Huntsville all holding complementary 1-1 records against each other, point differential became the telling tiebreaker. Differentials of +6 and +2 were enough to see Huntsville and Dartmouth into the quarterfinals, while Nationals comes to an agonizing end for Air Force and their +1 differential.
Two of the quarterfinal matchups were fairly straightforward affairs. Davidson dealt comfortably with Wheaton, flaunting the well-tuned handler movement and inside throws that they had been showing off all afternoon. Richmond took a little bit of a breather in the previous round and accordingly benefited from the rest, making short work of Dartmouth.
Alabama-Huntsville and John Brown traded holds and breaks early on in the game, with every point being very heavily contested. The downwind hucks from both teams were nigh unstoppable for most of the first half, until Huntsville was able to convert on a couple breaks to take half. Ironfist gamely tried to fight back into the game through Ethan Penner, Grant Bruner and Spencer Patterson, but they could never really crest the hill, falling short against Huntsville’s incredibly balanced attack.
Fans who stuck it out through the midday heat were rewarded with a tasty fixture to open the bracket. Since the number one overall seed, Bryant, dropped their final pool play game to Davidson, they were pitted against the two seed, Franciscan. The matchup went about as well as any neutral could have asked. Franciscan came out of the gates firing, scoring the first three points. Bryant countered by matching their well-drilled zone defense against the talented throwers of Franciscan. With only a slight wind oriented along the length of the field, it was an intriguing matchup, and it ultimately tilted the game. Franciscan began forcing throws over the zone without being able to reliably find the target, and Bryant began to convert on break opportunities, scoring seven points in a row to bring the game close to half. As the game wore on and both teams switched out of zone defense, fatigue clearly began to set in, with weary defenders allowing more and more space for deep throws. The teams traded points on long throws and strong catches until Bryant’s Jacob Garfinkel rolled a forehand fade into the end zone for the 12-10 win.