By: Kevin McCormick
It was another beautiful day in San Diego on day two of the 2018 National Championships, with another set of exciting games in the mixed division. While three of the four pre-quarter games went as expected and were not close, the fourth provided as much drama as possible. Two of the four quarterfinals saw dominant performances from championship contenders while the other two went down to the wire. At the day’s end, four of the top six seeds remain in championship contention.
BFG (4) went up 6-0 against No Touching! (12) and never looked back, as Tommy Li anchored a defensive unit that was simply unstoppable. While No Touching! was able to keep pace in the second half, the hole they dug for themselves was too deep to escape. BFG won 15-8 in the end.
Mischief (10) also started hot against shame. (7), riding plays from Jenny Wang and Gina Schumacher to take half 8-2. Their defensive strategy of taking away shame.’s deep game and making them work for short yards was effective, earning several short-field turnovers for easy breaks. Despite a few second-half breaks for shame., Mischief put this one away 15-8.
Mixtape (3) and the Polar Bears (11) went toe to toe for the entire first half, with the Polar Bears striking first as they held and then broke to take a 2-0 lead. They gave up that break quickly but held pace with Mixtape through the half, when Abbie Abramovich caught a huck to give Mixtape an 8-7 lead. The second half was a different story, though, as Mixtape’s star players took matters into their own hands. After a few holds out of half, Mixtape finished on a 5-0 run to win 15-9.
The final pre-quarter between AMP (1) and Slow White (9) is the fourth time the two teams have played each other in Nationals bracket play in the last six years, and this game did not disappoint. Slow White drew first blood, opening the game with a break and another soon after to go up 3-1. The teams traded holds for the rest of the half, which put AMP down 6-8 and needing three second-half breaks to regain the lead. They wasted no time at all as they earned all three breaks immediately out of half to reclaim the lead at 9-8. There were very few turnover-free points in the second half, as both teams squandered break opportunities, but holds from both teams brought the score to 12-12 when the cap went on, game to 14. AMP held to bring them to game point, and an errant throw gave them an opportunity to break for the win. Tommy Ferguson made a season-saving layout block in the end zone to regain possession for Slow, and they worked it 70 yards to force double-game point. A red-zone drop gave Slow an opportunity to win, but a huck sailed just too far. The play of the game came when Sean Mott tracked down a huck trailing out of bounds and managed to toe the sideline as he caught it, and then immediately found Bobby Roos for the game winner, 14-13 AMP.
Snake Country (5) opened their game against Mischief (10) with an early break to take a 4-2 lead, led by solid play from Peter Prial and Lexi Zalk. Mischief answered back with three breaks of their own to take a 6-4 lead, with Han Chen both catching and throwing hucks for goals. They carried the lead to an 8-6 halftime advantage. That advantage proved to be short-lived, as Snake Country, throwing a zone for the first time all game, broke out of half, and then, after a Mischief hold, rattled off eight straight points to win the game 15-9. Lexi Zalk was the MVP for Snake Country, making plays on both sides of the disc throughout the game.
In a quarterfinal between former champions, Mixtape (3) found themselves in an early hole against Blackbird (8), as Blackbird broke twice early to take a 3-0 lead. Mixtape answered right back to tie the game at 3-3, and broke soon after to take a 6-5 lead. Both teams were playing their signature defensive styles, with Blackbird throwing smart poaches to disrupt the Mixtape flow and Mixtape using their athleticism to win individual matchups. Mac Taylor went full-extension layout to earn a break for the lead at 7-6, but Mixtape again broke to take half 8-7. The teams traded holds until a turfed swing gave Blackbird a short field and a break to tie the game at 10-10. Two more holds and the cap went on, 11-11 game to 13. Mark Burton put a huck on a dime for Khalif El-salaam for an easy hold, and a reset miscue from Blackbird set up El-salaam to throw the game winner, 13-11 Mixtape.
AMP (1) and Drag’n Thrust (2), the tournament’s top two seeds, were forced to duke it out in the quarterfinals after AMP’s pool play loss to Blackbird on Thursday. That loss, and AMP’s near loss to Slow White in pre-quarters, left fans wondering if they could turn things around to upend the three-time champs. Those concerns were quickly put to rest, as AMP jumped out to an 8-2 lead. A combination of lane poaching and flat marks left Drag’n flustered on offense, and AMP’s offense could do little wrong on the other side of the disc. Drag’n worked out some of their kinks during halftime, as they managed to trade holds to 12-6. But AMP did not want to keep the door open any longer than they needed to, earning two late breaks before closing out the game 15-7.
The last quarterfinal pitted the 2018 World Champion, BFG (4), against a team whose players boast a handful of world titles with the U.S. National Team, Space Heater (6). BFG wasted no time in making their presence known as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Space Heater gradually answered back, largely due to clutch plays from Alan Kolick and Kyle Khalifa, to take a 6-5 lead. The teams traded to half, and Space Heater broke soon after to establish a 10-7 lead. Lindsay Simon-Fox and Sandy Jorgensen provided one of the most exciting matchups of the game, going step for step on several deep cuts. Mario O’Brien and Alissa Soo helped earn a break for BFG, and after a Space Heater hold, the cap went on at 11-9, game to 13. BFG held and then called timeout with a chance to break to tie, but an immediate turnover allowed Space Heater to hold, 12-10. Adam Simon hit Lindsay Simon-Fox for a one-pass hold, and an incredible poach block from Andrea Coleman set up a BFG break to force double-game point. After working the disc around, Pat Shriwise skied a pile of players on a high-stall huck for the hold and win, 13-12 Space Heater.
Pro Flight Bracket
In the two fifth-place bracket games, Drag’n Thrust defeated Mischief 15-12, and Blackbird handed BFG another double-game point loss, 14-13. Blackbird and Drag’n thus qualify for the 2019 Pro Flight.
In one of the seventh-place brackets, Toro avenged their pool play loss to No Touching! 15-10, while shame. easily handled Cocktails 15-9. shame. then staved off Toro 13-12 to stay alive for Pro Flight qualification. They will play Mischief Saturday at 1 p.m. EST.
In the other seventh-place bracket, XIST and Jughandle bounced back from winless Thursdays to upset Slow White and the Polar Bears, respectively, both by a score of 14-12. XIST got the better of Jughandle, 14-12, and will play BFG for Pro Flight qualification at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday.
On to Semifinals
Snake Country (5) will play Mixtape (3) at 1 p.m. EST, to be streamed on USA Ultimate’s Facebook page. AMP (1) and Space Heater (6) will face off in a rematch of the Mid-Atlantic regional final, at 2:45 p.m. EST on ESPN3.