This recap and the 2012 College Tour are presented by Spin Ultimate
In a region with five bids, anything can happen. Though the weather played a bit of a factor on Saturday, we would expect nothing less of Northfield, Minnesota.
With Wisconsin winning Pool A, the only shock was the three-way tie for second between Minnesota-Duluth, Iowa State, and Wisconsin-Whitewater. Whitewater’s roster is much weaker than it has been in the past, but Sub Par was able to pull out a win over Iowa State in the first round of the tournament. This upset was key into the path for Duluth, as it set them up to get into the 5th place backdoor bracket much later on Sunday, playing fewer games and saving some legs.
Iowa took Pool B fairly easily, with IHUC’s closest game being with conference opponent Northern Iowa. With the wind having a presence in Pool Play, IHUC’s handling core, anchored by Jimmy Wiesbrock Geoff Irving, and Sergei McNulty, can challenge teams deep or work quickly through a zone, in even the toughest of conditions. UNI has improved drastically over the past few seasons, developing some quick transition offense and dominant receivers, like Ethan Levine, who has transformed into a go-to receiver for AmmUNItion.
Shocking everyone in Pool C, Luther topped host Carleton in an exciting game. The Johnson brother connection was key in Luther’s win over Carleton. CUT couldn’t shut down EJ, who simply took control over the game. Though CUT put together some breaks after being down 6-10, Luther made some adjustments and regained control to take the game 13-11.
In talking to Milwaukee before their pool play matchup with Minnesota, Blackcat played their game against Grey Duck strategically, going deep into their roster, and resting their top players a bit: either way, they were facing either Carleton or Luther in quarters, regardless of taking 1st or 2nd in the pool. Their game with Luther was pretty exciting, as the teams stayed close through half. Milwaukee played aggressively as the wind picked up a bit and picked up a few 50/50 grabs. Luther pulled away in the end, rattling off five straight points to win 15-10.
Since Minnesota rolled through their pool, the CUT loss in pool play created a re-match of the Northwoods D-1 Conference Championship. They traded to 4-3, until Carleton pulled off two breaks, maintaining a two point lead into half. Minnesota came out on fire after half, tying at tens. The next point, which turned into a marathon, brought the game to cap. CUT pulled off another break to top Grey Duck 12-10.
Both Wisconsin and Iowa rolled their quarters opponents winning by 7 over Northern Iowa and 13 over Minnesota-Duluth, respectively. The usual suspects landed in semi-finals, matching Wisconsin vs. Carleton and Luther vs. Iowa.
In the first semis game, the Hodags never really found their groove. CUT’s Sam Keller earned a first pass hand block to set CUT up for a break to start the off the game. The two teams continued to trade until 3-2, when Carleton ran way with the game, scoring every point in the second half to win 15-3. Despite having nice weather (sunny, slight cross wind, 50+ degree temperatures), it was shocking how many turns happened in this game. This was not the same collected offense we saw early in the season when they last squared off against CUT at Florida Warm-Up. Offensively, the Hodags showcased some miscommunications. Their handlers looked flustered or even rushed, trying to manufacture offensive looks that just were not connecting. Out of half, it appeared that they had given up, which is not the typical attitude we see from the Hodags, especially defensively at this point in the season. Quite frankly, both teams showed signs of inconsistencies throughout the weekend to focus on improving until Boulder.
The other semi-final was a rematch of the West Plains D-1 Conference Championship between Iowa and Luther. This game was much more exciting, and saw the return of Peter Graffy into LUFDA’s lineup (ankle injury). In the first half, IHUC demonstrated the ability to score using a few throws and a barrage of hucks. Luther tended to swing and distribute the disc more, but also capitalized on big throws for scores. EJ played really well, as expected, but this game was won because he has a talented supporting cast. Ben Kofoed stood out defensively, helping generate turns with numerous layout-Ds, and having Graffy back in the lineup helped to provide added firepower to the LUFDA offense. Though the game got a bit chippy in the homestretch, Luther took the game 15-12, to face CUT in the finals.
After the first few points, CUT ran away with the game. Carleton’s home field advantage and big game experience showed, as Luther struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
2nd Place Bracket
Meanwhile, the rest of the field worked through the backdoor with hopes of securing a bid. UNI and Milwaukee were eliminated by the remaining Northwoods teams on Sunday morning, forcing them to fend for the 5th and final spot. (I was watching the women’s final during the 2nd Place quarters game, so I have little to say that Score Reporter can’t tell you).
The Minnesota /Wisconsin game was not a very exciting one. We saw an entirely different Hodag team in the 2nd place semi game than we did at 9 am. They came out radiating energy, and most notably, on the same page. Jordan O’Neil was operating in another gear as anyone trying to defend him. As a receiver, he was open consistently on any one at any time. Wisconsin scored four straight before Minnesota was able to answer with their only point of the first half. Minnesota became visibly frustrated, with players losing their cool in numerous instances. The Hodags opened up their lines and allowed many of their younger players to step up and get a lot of points – this added depth will surely help as the post-season goes on. Grey Duck’s loss to Wisconsin secured them the 4th seed out of the North Central on the way to Boulder.
With losses in bracket play to CUT, Luther squared off against Wisco in the 2th place game. After the first few points, EJ sat out on the sideline, indicating they were throwing in the towel. His little bro Luther looked good, but Wisco ran away with point after point. It was not a close game, but it was entertaining to watch Hodag freshman Shane Saddison-Bradford scoring several goals and following them with gratuitous endzone celebrations.
5th Place Bracket
If you’re still reading, it’s because you want to know about Duluth. Let’s review: Minnesota-Duluth did not outright qualify for regionals. Other teams in the region turned down bids, and UMD quickly snatched up the wait list bid. Earlier in the season, UMD struggled against teams like UNI, Milwaukee and Cornell. It was just one week prior that UMD captured the North Central’s attention by taking Minnesota to universe in the Northwoods D1 Conference semi-finals.
By a combination of luck and strategy, they maneuvered the backdoor with ease. Thanks to point differential, they qualified for the championship bracket. Thanks to seeding, they had a good road to the backdoor finals. Thanks to strategy, they had the energy to win when they needed to.
Northern Lights prevailed over Milwaukee, winning on universe on Sunday morning, and opted to play the game against Wisconsin strategically. After going down early to the Hodags, they rested their studs so they could recover and come out fresh against UNI. Co-captain Jay Drescher explains, “We started the first two of those games with the intention of winning, but we didn’t get anything going in the first half so we cut our losses and rested our starters to conserve legs for the game that mattered.”
UNI had a great tournament, but was pretty gassed after the one point win over Iowa State. Duluth finished on hard cap, earlier than the other 5th place semis game. Drescher adds, “It was nice to avenge the two universe point losses to [UNI] in the regular season at Chicago. Losing those games fueled our team to perform like an underdog no matter who we were playing and what the score is.”
On the next field over, Milwaukee was up by a few over Iowa. IHUC turned up the pressure, and honed in on some decision making. Jake Oakley played well for IHUC, generating turns with his high intensity D. After Milwaukee literally dropped the game winning point in the up wind endzone, Iowa battled back to tie it at 10s. Universe point saw multiple turns by both teams. IHUC turned the disc on a swing, and Milwaukee capitalized on a quick turn, sending a receiver deep off of a strike cut.
The game-to-go happened without the clear favorite (Iowa) to take home the fifth bid. Frankly, that’s why they play the game. Northern Lights benefited from ending their game more quickly than Milwaukee did. UMD had more energy, their hucks were more precise, and their receivers made more plays. “We pulled to start half and our D-line broke 3 times in a row. We let off a few breaks before the game ended, but felt very confident with a 5 point lead as soft cap was on,” said Drescher.
Northern Lights is going to Boulder for the first time in the program’s history.