In the third volume of Tuesday Morning Standler, I review the Chesapeake Invite, predict this week’s wildcard outcomes and look forward to Labor Day.
Top seed at Nationals: Ironside
After their two tournament victories, Ironside has tight grasp on the number one seed going into Nationals as long as they put down rivals GOAT and PoNY at Northeast Regionals. Despite being thin at the defensive handler spot with an injured Jacob Goldstein (hamstring) and Alex Simmons (knee), Boston cruised through pool play and went unchallenged in the championship bracket.
We have to start thinking of George Stubbs as possibly the best player in the game. He was as impressive as always, making big play after big play throughout the weekend. Whether it was a diving catch with a last second adjustment or a blind turn around huck with a mark all over him, Stubbs delivered throughout Sunday play. It’s not as if any of this is surprising, but he’s on the short list of top players in club Ultimate right now. In the past, Kurt Gibson, Beau Kittredge, Robbie Cahill, Bart Watson, and Brodie Smith have been mentioned in that category, but Stubbs may be it.
The offensive line for Ironside has continued to build on their sucess from ECC, where they were only broken 5 times after their first loss to Rhino .
There are nine players in the rotation, but the core consists of Matt Rebholtz, Jacob Taylor, Stubbs, Peter Prial and Josh Markette. Rotating in are Alex Cooper, Danny Clark, Alex Kapinos, and Jim Foster. Clark has gotten the majority of the play time out of this group, with others filling in. Aside from Cooper, the chemistry that is there from two years of playing together and the size and speed that Ironside’s offensive line possesses has made life difficult for opposing defenses. The one thing holding Ironside back is the one or two mistakes or imperfect huck looks a game. Unfortunately for Boston, these mistakes will only be punished by a handful of teams, and they will see those teams in Power Pools at Nationals. All that means is that they won’t be tested until Friday in Sarasota.
Boston’s defensive line is robust, but has lacked continuity due to injuries. Ironside and Revolver are the two teams that aren’t concerned about their capability of matching up on individuals when healthy. Russell Wallack, Jack Hatchett, Colin Mahoney and Will Neff can handle a lot of opponent’s top guns. Hatchett, who was a Skyd All-American due his defensive presence, has produced nearly a block a game so thus far. The depth of this team is outstanding, and will pay dividends come Sarasota. That should close the book on Boston until Northeast Regionals.
Stat of the Week: No team scored double digits on Ironside all weekend.
I picked GOAT to finish 4th at Emerald City Classic because they’ve always been a deep team. Unfortunately, they only brought a skeleton crew of 15 players to Seattle and their only win came against Voodoo. At Chesapeake, however, GOAT nearly ran the table by beating Chain Lightning in a huge comeback win. Despite the finals loss to Ironside, Toronto is coming home with a second bid for the Northeast. So far, life after John Hassell hasn’t been so bad…
While Chain Lightning was up on GOAT 10-7, Zack Smith and I were at the far field watching what we thought would be the closest semifinal. Next thing we knew, the game was tied at 12’s. Capitalizing on Atlanta miscues, Toronto tied the game at 12. Cam Harris did his best Greg Jennings impression, absolutely ripping some beautiful deep hucks to where only his receiver could get it. After a Greg Swanson throwaway at 14 all, the classic dump swing worked to perfection and GOAT took the game 15-14.
Aside from the finals loss to Boston, Toronto left Chesapeake with one other loss, going down 13-8 to Ring of Fire in pool play. Despite missing Adrian Yearwood and Mark Lloyd, they carried on to have a great weekend. There was a little bit of a talk about the Ewing theory in regards to John Hassell, but I think that’s just a little presumptuous.
All you need to know on Chain Lightning…
The blossoming of Christian Johnson: Ring of Fire
The story for Ring of Fire in the semifinal vs. Ironside was second year player Christian Johnson. The scouting report on Johnson (affectionately called Delicate Flower by his North Carolina college teammates) at the beginning of last year was this: speedster, flick huck, doesn’t layout, rattled by contact. We can certainly cross “rattled by contact” off the list. Johnson held position on several deep catches, resulting in three goals and one upheld foul on the goal line. We still haven’t seen layouts from him, so that will be his next step in development. The good news for college fans is that he’s only going to be heading into his junior year at North Carolina this coming fall. Although he certainly wasn’t the only thing impressive about Ring this tournament…
Brett Matzuka was a name we missed when considering Team USA. Anyone watching him play with Ring will note that the offense needs his creativity to keep things running. Whether it’s a backhand break or a short scoober, Matzuka helps relieve defensive pressure by throwing out of tight situations. Once Noah Saul returns to health (knee injury), the chemistry established from the previous season with Paul Weeks and Brian Casey will help make things easier on the offensive line. Matzuka then won’t be required to bail out the offense as much.
Ring of Fire is a few tweaks away from being a sleeper team for semi-finals. After watching them this weekend, it’s clear that the talent and the athleticism is there. You can’t say that for every team, and that’s why I have Ring of Fire on an upwards trajectory. Ken Porter was not himself in the game vs. Ironside, only playing a handful of points. When asked if he had an injury, he reported that he was fine. With Porter healthy and Noah Saul back, this Ring of Fire team will be formidable. The things they have left to work on are chemistry and strategy, making things easier on the offense and taking advantage of break opportunities.
Tyler Degirolamo, a rising star
Tyler Degirolamo looked like he was playing second fiddle to Alex Thorne this last college season on Pittsburgh. There has been a marked difference between his play at College Nationals and the last two months. There are going to be players that elevate their game when surrounded by higher levels of talent. It’s why the Heisman trophy winner or the best player in college basketball doesn’t outperform counterparts when they reach the pros (See Tim Tebow, Tyler Hansborough). There are those who will dominate purely based on athletic talent in college (see Brodie Smith in 2010) and those who benefit in the club game by having throwers that can deliver the disc.
Degirolamo has a combination of size and speed that make him difficult to guard, and his throws are now quite dangerous. With NexGen, there were too many good players to stop, and he shined. With Oakland, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, but teams will start game planning specifically for him. Is he a top 10 player in club? Not so fast my friends, players are defined in club by what they do at Regionals and Nationals. Now that the bullet is on his back, lets see how he performs.
Back to Chain Lightning
Is the GOAT loss indicative of a growing problem, or just an isolated incident? Last year we saw Sockeye lose game after game that they should have won, but few thought that they’d miss Nationals. Is the same thing in the works for Chain Lightning? It’s doubtful, as they are filled to the brim with athletic playmakers. They tore through competition otherwise, and one game doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. If they blow a couple of leads at Labor Day, we may have to slap the overrated tag on them.
Their game plan is still to huck the disc to one of their many athletes. Chain’s handlers hold the disc more than other squads, continuously looking for the deep shot. Asa Wilson is still a goal scoring machine, often fooling defenders into a lull of security underneath before beating them in a dead sprint. Jay Clark was given time on offense and Mark Poole is now an O line mainstay. We’ll get to see more of them at Labor Day, which will give us an idea of what to expect come the Series as Nick Lance rejoins the squad.
PoNY gets whooped, Boost Mobile and Condors take advantage
PoNY had a dismal weekend without Jack Marsh and Dan Heijman. We all know that every team deals with missing players and injuries, but unfortunately for PoNY, they do not have the depth to cope with those losses. This squad has probably lost a strength bid, but won’t be down and out come Regionals. When they have their full squad, and everyone playing in their role, they can take down GOAT or even Ironside (with some luck). Boost Mobile and Condors both scored wins over New York, likely giving them spots in the top 16. The Condors are probably in better shape for now with four wins on the weekend and only one bad loss to Chain Lightning. Boost is going to be on the fringe, and a bad Labor Day could mean a bid lost.
Southpaw can still play Ultimate without referees
Southpaw had an up and down Chesapeake, barely squeaking by Florida United but crushing Boost Mobile. Chemistry and conditioning is what got them to Nationals last year, and both were evident this weekend. Southpaw cannot afford a bad Labor Day. Last year, they went winless, including a loss to Voodoo. Similar results would have them losing a strength bid for the Mid Atlantic.
After a weekend of Chesapeake and Heavyweights, there were a few changes. While I had Boost Mobile falling out of the top 16 and PoNY staying in, their fortunes were reversed. Southpaw also likely entered the top 16, but it’s still close heading into Labor Day. I don’t think Madison Club did enough this weekend to get in, and we have to worry about Sub Zero dropping. Here’s my predicted bid allocation…
NE – 2- Boston, Toronto
MA: 2 – DC, Philadelphia
GL: 1 – Machine
NC: 1 – Sub Zero
SW: 3 – Revolver, Boost Mobile, Condors
SC: 2 – Johnny Bravo, Doublewide
SE: 2 – Chain Lightning, Ring of Fire
NW: 3 – Rhino, Sockeye, Furious George
Boost Mobile, PoNY, Sub Zero, Truck Stop, Southpaw, Madison Club, Condors and Madcow are all hanging around the bottom in this next edition of the rankings. At this point in the season, it becomes too close to call. PoNY has no bad losses, but no signature wins. Sub Zero goes back and forth every other game with no consistency, so it’s tough to tell where they will be placed. Madison Club didn’t dominate the lower level teams, and a four point win over Phoenix isn’t going to cut it. Southpaw lost big to GOAT but slammed the door on Boost Mobile. Madcow beat Truck Stop and Streetgang and a previous weekend loss to Oakland who got one win over Tanasi.
What does this all mean? Truck Stop and Southpaw are linked because both need to be in to get an extra bid. The same thing goes for Sub Zero and Madison Club. If either team in those situations falls out, someone isn’t going to Nationals. With the Labor Day schedule looking incredibly tough for Southpaw, Madcow, Madison Club, and Boost Mobile, this might mean someone like PoNY, with a record of 6-11, could receive that very last bid. Point differential at Labor Day will be big.
Questions for Labor Day
Is Revolver ready yet? Will Revovler look dominant like in years past? I don’t think they’re going to be true to form just yet. If they want to win, it’s going to be up to Cahill and Kittredge to do most of the work. Their focus should be on developing and growing as an offense.
New Look Rhino. We’re still holding our breath to see if Chase Sparling-Beckley is going to make an appearance this weekend; his status is up in the air due to the disc/life balance. Jacob Janin, Jeremy Norden, and Dylan Freechild will rejoin the squad. All three should be difference makers, but the question of chemistry is still valid. Will the ECC success continue?
Is Johnny Bravo a semis team? The talk from US Open and Colorado Cup is that these guys are a semis-at-Nationals squad this year. I’ve never doubted their athleticism, I just did not like their offensive movement from last year. At Labor Day last year, Jimmy Mickle was hucking it almost every time off of a turn. The offense needs to be less predictable and more systematic. If they have added those elements, they will be a scary team.
Tune in next week for a recap of Labor Day!
(Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com)