By: Louis Zatzman
After one day at the National Championships, the original pool leaders remain atop the men’s division. San Francisco Revolver, Seattle Sockeye and Ring of Fire all finished undefeated, while New York PoNY lost a game but still finished atop their pool. Regardless, there were some upsets. Madison Club was disappointing, while Denver Johnny Bravo was an elation. Let’s dive in.
(1) San Francisco Revolver (3-0)
(12) Minnesota Sub Zero (2-1)
(13) Michigan High Five (1-2)
(8) Madison Club (0-3)
After one day, Revolver is thus far unchallenged. However, they were motivated to dominate today; Revolver was never going to let an in-season loss to Sub Zero stand.
“We didn’t say it [out loud], but everyone wanted revenge,” said star cutter Antoine Davis.
Revolver’s offense was broken once and committed three turnovers, which seems like an incredible game for an offense; it isn’t. Revolver expects to improve throughout the rest of the tournament. For a first game, winning 15-11 was a solid base from which to start. From there, Revolver indeed did improve with each game, beating a strong High Five team 15-10 and a reeling Madison Club team 15-6.
Meanwhile, Madison Club had a first day to forget, opening with a loss to High Five 15-12. Madison committed oodles of unforced turnovers, no matter who was on the field. Drops, hucks throws out of bounds and miscommunications abounded. High Five played with boundless energy, and Joe White dominated.
“We went in with an open mind about making defensive adjustments, but zeroed in on certain guys, like Dave Wiseman, Kevin Brown and Peter Graffy, and that was all we did. They threw turns, and we were better at playing offense,” said White of High Five’s win.
White cut deep a variety of times from the handler position. Nobody on Madison recognized the switch, which was another sign of Madison’s poor play.
“I feel like we were prepared, but mentally, we weren’t prepared,” said Coach Tim DeByl.
Madison couldn’t bounce back, losing 15-10 to Sub Zero and then again to Revolver. Madison began strong against San Francisco, but they quickly fell apart. Players were throwing around heavy terms like “requiring self-assessment” in reference to their play.
The game to determine second place in the pool was a barn-burner, with High Five leading Sub Zero for much of the game. Sub eventually pulled away late behind their strong handler play.
(2) Seattle Sockeye (3-0)
(7) Boston DiG (2-1)
(11) Austin Doublewide (1-2)
(14) Pittsburgh Temper (0-3)
The fish are back. Their first game was against a difficult Austin Doublewide, and Seattle’s emotional intensity – bordering on lunacy at times, with a player crawling like a dog during a particularly effusive huddle – drove Seattle to a comfortable 14-11 victory.
It seemed at first like everything was going to fall apart when Doublewide’s Josh Zorodowski opened with a footblock on Seattle’s first throw. Doublewide was kind enough to drop an easy disc in the end zone, and Trent Dillon scored the first point with a monster layout to put Sockeye on the board.
Though the game was sloppy, bright spots allowed Seattle to gain advantages. Most vividly, John Randolph scored a Callahan with an electric dive to interrupt a swing pass. Seattle cleaned up as the day went on, beating Temper 15-11 as Matt Rehder fought incredible battles guarding Tyler DeGirolamo.
In the deciding game for the pool, Seattle’s offense was nearly perfect against Boston. After some early choppiness, Seattle scored an early break, which seemed for some time like it might be the difference. Both offenses settled into grooves, and defense was practically non-existent. Hucks were frequent and unchallenged. However, a few points after half, Sockeye turned on the jets. They won with a convincing 15-11 score line, again.
Sockeye is hot, but a team with their emotional energy can easily fly too close to the sun. We saw that last year, but an official 3-0 finish on their first day put 2017 firmly in the rearview mirror.
DiG also started with a pair of victories over Pittsburgh Temper, 15-10, and Austin Doublewide, 15-13. Both games followed a similar script that saw Boston playing sloppily in the beginning of the game but eventually tightening up to allow their talent to shine through.
Against Pittsburgh, Tannor Johnson only barely completed a few throws in the first half, and they weren’t turnovers because of the athletic abilities of his cutters.
“Ahhh, I don’t know about [them] bailing [me] out so much,” said Johnson sheepishly, in reference to his throws being somewhat sloppy. “The first goal needed to be a layout that I may or may not have thrown.”
Boston only stayed in the Pittsburgh game early because of their athleticism, but improved decision making in the second half allowed them to pull ahead comfortably. It took longer for the same to happen against Austin, but the game did eventually bend to Boston’s will.
Austin was the recipient of several fluky plays against Boston. Multiple times, bidding Boston defenders would tip the disc, but Doublewide cutters still managed to wrangle the grab. Jay Froude dominated in the first half, allowing Austin to take half 8-7.
Boston took the lead 10-9 and didn’t look back. Their decision making again improved dramatically, but it also helped that Ben Sadok started to find Tannor Johnson deep. Boston couldn’t improve for a third game in a row, falling apart late against Seattle.
To determine the third and fourth seeds in the pool, Austin beat Pittsburgh 15-12. It was a relief of a victory for Doublewide, who played both of their first games close to start, before losing in the end.
New York PoNY (2-1)
Washington, D.C Truck Stop (2-1)
Denver Johnny Bravo (2-1)
Portland Rhino Slam! (0-3)
Pool C ended up being the pool of parity, with three teams finishing 2-1. Any of the three could make noise later in the tournament. Truck Stop opened the day with a solid 15-12 victory over Johnny Bravo, but it required peak performance from D.C. to top the young legs of Denver. The game eliminated any concerns that Bravo would be unable to compete with such high-caliber teams after a dreary finish to the season. Truck Stop’s D line was just too sharp, finishing a perfect five for five on break chances.
Denver proved to be the biggest surprise of the opening day. After their loss to D.C., Bravo topped PoNY 14-12 by controlling the pace of the game.
“On offense, we focused on moving the disc quickly and never really giving defenders the chance to set up on us and get comfortable,” said handler Matty Jackson. He went on to praise the defense’s ability to execute team principles without any weak links. Specifically, they played flat marks against New York’s throwers until the half-field mark, where they switched to hard marks.
Another advantage for Denver proved to be the ability of Jackson, Josh Crane and Owen Westbrook to easily break the marks of New York. New York did not look good in their first two games.
“These kinds of games are always good for a team that has never won a championship, but wants to win a championship,” said Beau Kittredge of his team’s early struggles.
After losing to Denver, New York flexed against D.C., putting their opponents away early. With the game tied at 2-2, New York held after a Ben Jagt first-throw huck to Chris Kocher. New York proceeded to reel off three consecutive breaks, as D.C. threw hucks out the back of the end zone and turfed easy swing throws. PoNY won the game 15-9.
Despite finishing at the bottom of the pool, Portland was no slouch. PoNY had some trouble against the speedy Portland Rhino Slam!, requiring a late push to pull ahead for a 13-11 win. Raphy Hayes played incredibly, using his quickness to give Portland advantages whenever he was on the field.
“There’s that thing called nerves,” said Beau Kittredge, speaking of his younger teammates after their first-game win over Portland. “They don’t know if they actually have what it takes.”
Portland, however, lost handily to Truck Stop, 15-10, and Johnny Bravo, 14-13.
(4) Raleigh Ring of Fire (3-0)
(9) Chicago Machine (2-1)
(5) Vancouver Furious George (1-2)
(16) Atlanta Chain Lightning (0-3)
Despite sweeping their pool, Raleigh finished with just a shocking +4 point differential. Though they are slightly concerned that they couldn’t blow out any teams, the takeaway has to be that Raleigh delivers in the clutch.
“As a team, one thing we focus on is staying up all the time,” Jonathan Nethercutt said, explaining how the team doesn’t allow emotion in one game to affect its performance in the next. “The goal is, obviously, you have a bunch of highs. If you have a drop, try to find your balance again. On a universe-point game, we have one minute of celebrating, the hype train, and then it’s like, ok, cool. That one’s over. Time to refocus.”
The close games did make for some exciting ultimate. The game of the day was undoubtedly the early game between Ring of Fire and Machine. Ring of Fire struck first with an opening-point break, as Kurt Gibson couldn’t haul in a blade, and Mischa Freystaetter skied for the goal on the other end.
Despite smoother offenses from both sides, Jonathan Nethercutt’s hammers over the top opened up the field. He threw a hammer to break Chicago’s zone to take the lead 4-2, but Chicago responded with a full-field huck from Gibson to AJ Nelson. The teams traded back and forth, as Travis Carpenter, especially, kept Chicago within striking distance.
With the score tied at 11 apiece, Ring of Fire threw a turnover, offering momentum and the disc to Chicago. Jack Williams came up huge on a layout D; it would be a theme towards the end of the game. Though Chicago took the lead at 14-13, giving themselves multiple chances at a winner, Williams would not allow it.
Williams climbed the ladder to sky two Chicago defenders to tie the game at 14, and Raleigh coach Mike DeNardis threw oft-used offensive stars Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, Nethercutt and Williams on the defense. Williams responded with a poach D, interrupting a throw down the sideline from Gibson to Pawel Janas. Only moments later, Williams received the disc in power position and threw a monster flick huck to Jacob Fairfax to close the door 15-14.
Ring followed their emotional victory with a too-close-for-comfort win over Atlanta in the second round. In their final game against Vancouver – the last to finish in the men’s division – Raleigh again required a double-game-point goal to win, making the final score 13-12. Raleigh used a whole different stable of heroes against Furious.
Down 10-11 and on defense, Jacob Fairfax made up 20 steps with the disc in the air before bidding at shoulder-height to record the block. Tied at 11-11, Mischa Freystaetter blocked a huck that had multiple Vancouver cutters underneath. Henry Fisher caught the game-winning point.
Vancouver was able to overcome a sharp Chain Lightning 14-12 behind a strong game from Andre Gailits. Atlanta played lots of zone defense, which forced a ton of throws from Vancouver, but was unable to actually force turnovers. Both offenses were smooth, but Vancouver converted on the few break chances they gained in order to win.
Machine handily beat Furious George 15-11 and then Chain Lightning 15-7 to happily finish second in the pool as the ninth seed.