It was a fitting end to a dominant season for Colorado Mamabird, as they cruised to a 15-10 victory over North Carolina Darkside in the finals of the 2014 D1 College Championships. Since the spring season began, it seemed like destiny that these two teams would meet in the finals. One team, Colorado, led by Jimmy Mickle, Tim Morrissy and a cast of others talents like Stanley Peterson, led Mamabird to the promised land to join the national championship team of 2004 in team history. The other, North Carolina Darkside, led by Christian Johnson, Jon Nethercutt and a slew of athletic players with solid fundamentals thanks to Coach Mike DeNardis, was looking to finish #1 for the first time in team history.
At Stanford Invite, there was an early preview of this matchup. On that windy occasion, North Carolina took down their soon-to-be finals rivals by the slimmest of margins, 13-12. That wouldn’t be the full story though. Mamabird would close out their season winning the remainder of their tournaments, including a close win over Texas TUFF in the finals of the South Central Regionals. This earned them the number one seed at Nationals, and a pool with challengers in Harvard and Wisconsin, as well as UCSD and Eastern Michigan as well. Darkside stumbled into Nationals, first at Easterns in late March, and then again at Regionals a month later with a loss to the UNC-Wilmington Seamen in the finals. That hiccup knocked their seeding down to sixth overall and entered them into a pool featuring Texas, Florida State, Tufts and an upstart UMass team.
Both teams won their pools, each with one loss. Mamabird saw Michigan in quarterfinals and dispatched them easily. Later Sunday night, they met Oregon in the semifinals; Freechild and co. couldn’t hang with the discipline Colorado brought to the field. Meanwhile, Darkside saw Wisconsin in the quarterfinals and defensively brought them down. In the last game of Sunday’s play, they had a rematch against UNC-Wilmington from regionals; this time, Darkside got their revenge in a dominant performance.
Mamabird and Darkside met at 2:30 in the afternoon on Memorial Day. To start their game, there was a touching tribute to the Carleton players. A team of three paratroopers flew into the stadium, the last with a giant American flag to commemorate the holiday. And then the game began. We know how it ended: Colorado Mamabird came out on top with a 15-10 victory. But this matchup separated itself from the previous matchup between the two teams, Mamabird truly conquered Darkside on the way to victory.
Colorado started the game on defense, and like they had done to Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Oregon previously, got two quick turns and punched the disc in for an early 2-0 lead. This allowed the offense to focus only on execution to win the game. Granted, a 2-0 lead is a far cry from a 15-10 final score, but with an offense so potent and precise clicking on all cylinders, it was all Mamabird needed to ensure a cruising victory. Even when the offense turned the disc, there was a sense of calm, seemingly partially from knowing they had a 2 break lead in their pockets, and partially from their overarching ‘relaxed but intensely focused’ attitudes. Nothing seemed to faze the Mamabird offense. If the downfield cuts were shut down, they would immediately look to dump and reset. If the handler reset was covered, then a cross-field, semi-blady flick was the answer. No matter the defensive look, Colorado calmly knew ways to break through for easy scores. The final trick up Mamabird’s sleeve? They knew UNC would key on Mickle and Morrissy, so they designed plays to get others involved, like Mark Rauls, who finished with 4 goals and an assist.
How did Darkside look to stop the Mamabird offense? It started with their pulls. From the start of the game, purposeful out of bounds pulls seemed to be the game plan to stop Mickle and company. The pulls would roll out of bounds around Mamabird’s 30 yard line, and from there UNC had two different sets they set in. The first was a zone look, which they ran for a few points in the first and second half of the game. Each time though, Jimmy Mickle just threw right around it…or over it. First with a hammer, then a scoober and each immediately caused Darkside to move out of the set. Later, UNC came down with the same strategy but set a man defense instead. Instead of getting around the defense as they had in past instances, Mamabird worked it up the force side and scored. The strategy simply wasn’t working.
North Carolina also got very physical with their man defense on Mamabird as well. Four TMFs were handed out to the Darkside defenders, and as a result Mamabird moved to the reverse brick-mark in prime position to score. While the observers were noticing, it didn’t seem like Colorado was. Jimmy Mickle especially was being played physical, primarily by Charlie Shaffner but also by Christian Johnson and Jon Nethercutt in some instances. Despite the physical defense, Mickle was able to work for the disc and get open with ease. Other players in the Mamabird offense were given the same amount of resistance to their cutting and positioning, but regardless were still able to execute their offense.
Meanwhile, Colorado’s defensive plan also seemed to revolve around a great pull. From the first point, the pull was where the defensive stand started. It was Mickle the first point, but many other players for Mamabird sent the disc flying off the line towards Darkside. And more times than not, it helped Mamabird at least earn a chance at the break. North
Carolina made their fair share of mistakes, but as seen in the game against Oregon Ego the round before, many players stepped up to the plate for Colorado when they needed to, and helped them earn their second title in team history – players like Stanley Peterson, Andrew ‘Oak’ Nelson, and Jack Barrow knew their individual roles on this Mamabird team and executed them with precision, taking some pressure off their slightly more well known teammates.
Both of these teams will look vastly different next season, between who is and who isn’t returning for each team. Whether or not we see a two-peat performance as Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur had these past two seasons, both with undoubtedly be as hungry as they were next season as well. For now though, Colorado Mamabird leaves the 2014 season for the summer with the Callahan winner in Jimmy Mickle, a strong performance in Cincinnati, Ohio and a National Championship.
- While NexGen and ESPN had their fair share of problems this weekend with their streams, we’ll be thanking them all for the quality of production to archive this year’s event sooner or later.
- Speaking of the event, the USAU and the Cincinnati Ultimate Players Association did a fantastic organizing job. Tons of helpful people all around the field, and USAU has truly stepped up their game in making it an event once teams are eliminated.
- We’d also like to put out an informal request to USAU to let us know if the parachute show will be a yearly event. If so, we think Skyd would love to sponsor the sky divers.
- WAY too early predictions for 2015: Oregon, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Carleton and Wisconsin are our favorites.