Having spent the last two months publishing old news and speculating on pure results from afar, it was good to get down to an actual tournament and get a fresh take on some top teams. As far as writing about it is concerned, I’m not sure how to cleanly put together everything I want to talk about while leaving a bit to expand on in the coming days and without just word vomiting. Here goes…
Carleton (Warm Up Champions; 8-2 on the weekend; two wins over Colorado, 1-1 vs. Wisconsin, lost to Florida)
- My first glimpse of Carleton was in their Friday morning game against Virginia. CUT’s offense didn’t turn the disc over for the first few points, but once Night Train did start to force turns, Carleton quickly dug in on defense and refused to let them capitalize. One of the big things that stuck out to me this weekend was just how strong Carleton and Colorado’s (and, to a lesser extent, Florida and Wisconsin) offensive defenses were. You could just see how hard O players worked to prevent breaks. I can think of two big reasons for this: one, breaks lose games, so if you’re one of the best teams out there, there’s a good chance you’re pretty good at preventing breaks. The logic can get circular, but I think it’s worth noting. Two, given these teams’ recent depth, most of their O line players probably cut their teeth on D whereas teams like Harvard and Virginia have younger guys playing offense because of their sheer skill level.
- In their profile, I wrote that Carleton liked to use the middle of the field for its cutters, but that didn’t really hold true at Warm Up. Instead, they used both horizontal and side stacks to really clear out the force side and try to give either Grant or Julian an entire half of the field to work with. (For anyone who has played Seattle juniors, they did this by using Dirty Sanchez a lot out of the ho, with the side cutter on the force side pushing deep to make the space. It actually looked a lot like the Sockeye offense that any of us UltiVillage heads would recognize.) This worked quite well at times, as both of those guys are extremely fast and remain threatening with the disc in their hands, but it also hurt them at other points in the weekend; with the handlers so used to having a wide open cutter on the force side, they didn’t look to swing the disc all that quickly.
- Carleton is certainly familiar with Florida, but again, it’s one of those things that is both a gift and a curse. In their Friday night game, I noticed that CUT defenders were avoiding pick calls even as they were being run through the stack. I think that’s a smart move since Florida’s rhythm is no rhythm at all: their players are really accustomed to stoppages, and they thrive on them because their audibles are so good. On the other hand, they looked like they over-respected the threat of Florida’s deep game by running some poachy looks. I’ll get to this in a second, but long story short, I don’t think Florida’s deep game is all that good and I think it’s a mistake to make it your defensive focus if you’re playing them.
- While their offensive D was pretty strong this weekend, CUT’s defensive O could have improved. In both of their losses, they had a lot of chances to earn breaks in the middle of games but just couldn’t convert. And in both games, Florida and Wisconsin eventually cleaned it up and the opportunities weren’t there past point 10 or so. In their first game against Colorado, Carleton dug themselves a pretty big hole by going down 7-4, but they got out once they bumped a few O players over to D.
- Other notes: Christian Foster had some of the biggest pulls at the tournament, and was one of CUT’s best players on the weekend… Simon Montague, a sophomore, stood out as a strong defender and handler for CUT’s D line. He’s over six feet tall and long, and his hucks were impressive… Justin Norden, also a sophomore, spent the weekend as CUT’s middle handler on offense. I saw him throw into a few poaches, but I also saw him break the mark, huck in the wind, and play good defense in all of their games… Nick Stuart only played for a bit on Friday and then shut it down for the weekend; Grant Lindsley did not play on Sunday; Jonah Herscu won’t join the team until Carleton’s Spring term begins.
Colorado (Warm Up Runners up; 7-3 on the weekend; two wins over Florida, two losses to Wisconsin, lost to Virginia in the final game of pool play)
- In my opinion, Colorado played the best ultimate of the weekend. Quick, clean offense (like, two or three throws on what seemed like 45% of their O points), all seven guys playing in your shorts, very involved sidelines, and a whole lot of focus an intensity. At times, Mamabird looked straight up unstoppable.
- But they didn’t put together complete games against Carleton in either of their opportunities. In each Colorado-CUT game, Mamabird took an early lead only to leak out breaks on offense midway through the game. I still can’t quite wrap my head around what it was that caused them since both teams were turning the disc/getting turns, but I give Carleton a lot of credit for being the team that cashed in. Twice. That says something…
- Colorado ran O and D lines, but kind of didn’t. It was more like old and young lines, where the one featuring upperclassmen Matty Zemel, Jack McShane, Evan Padget, Timmy Beatty, Hylke Snyder, Marty Freeman, and Dan Gruber played more O and the one with younger players Jimmy Mickle, Austin Killien, Zander Padget, and Daily Kluck played mostly D. But they definitely switched it up a lot. For example, if Colorado started a game with a break from the D/young line, the older line almost always played the next point. Conversely, if the O/old line got broken, a lot of the young players were on for the next point.
- Read over that upperclassman line again. Snyder, Zemel, and Beatty (who played undergrad at UC Santa Barbara) were all First Team All-Region last year, and McShane and Freeman were Second Team. The younger line has the previous two Freshmen of the Year winners in Mickle (2010) and Padget (’09). Colorado is stacked. (All-Region/FOTY info is here).
- Neither of Colorado’s games with Florida were even close. From what I saw, they matched up man-to-man, rotated their match-ups, and forced middle. Colorado put both its athleticism and defensive intensity to the test by playing Florida honest instead of trying to poach, and it paid off. All of their defenders were competent against Florida’s deep threats, so they didn’t just give them the unders or give away easy resets because they were off poaching somewhere else. They also showed Cole multiple defenders, the most successful being Hylke and Mickle that marked from a few feet away to really take away Sullivan’s backhand break. Finally, their force middle really killed the flow that Florida uses to get its hucks off, making them launch the disc across the field rather than from a sideline toward an isolated cutter. Also, it virtually eliminated a break side, which is what Florida really thrives on.
- I’m going to write more about Colorado in a post/response to Joaq’s analysis of their New Years Fest video.
The hour is now quite late, and I’m starting to nod off. I’ll come back and write some more on the remaining teams tomorrow. Now that I’ve got some actual substance to talk about, I’m hoping a reader or two will want to chime in and we can talk strategy or something…