It was sunny and 65 degrees today and hucks were flying at this season’s first major tournament, the Stanford Invite. Many teams decided to battle it out in the air, with a few, like British Columbia and Carleton, absolutely dominating the skies.
The big surprise on Saturday was the strong play of last-seeded Whitman, who beat Harvard and Washington on their way to finishing second in B pool. Also, a highly touted Pitt lost a close game to Oregon 14-16 to give Ego the top spot in D pool.
Carleton had the strongest performance of pool play, going 4-0 and outscoring their opponents 53-30. Known for a conservative and efficient offense, Carleton was brave enough to open up the field with lots of deep throws, which paid off well.
Texas had a rough start on Saturday. In their first game, Tuff fell to Tufts 11-13, and went on to fall to Santa Cruz. They came back to beat Santa Barbara 13-11 and came alive against Carleton. CUT took half 7-5 with Texas playing with very few mistakes. The offensive lines traded points, climaxing in Grant Lindsey lay out for a score thrown by Justin Norden. The Texas D-line got the game to within one break, but was unable to outlast. Carleton wins 14-12.
The rest of the pool ended with Santa Cruz taking the second spot after beating Tufts 13-8. The Slugs also beat out Santa Barbara a 13-9 win today. A highlight from the Santa Cruz-Tufts game involved a deep huck to UCSC’s Russell Wynn. Despite being surrounded by three Tufts players, Russell went to the house and came down with the disc.
Moving on to championship bracket: Carleton, Santa Cruz, and Tufts
Colorado made it through Saturday unscathed on their way to winning B Pool. Their biggest challenge was a hard fought game against Harvard at the end of the day. Mamabird beat Harvard 13-9 and brings a lot of momentum into Sunday.
The big story in B pool was Whitman’s upset of Harvard in the first game of the day. Captain Jeremy Norden explained, “We decided to come out and throw everything we had at Harvard.” Whitman took control of the game early, going up five and taking half 7-2. After half, Harvard rallied back, taking it as close at 13-12 until Whitman finally put it away 14-12. The Sweets went on to beat UC-Davis 14-12 before getting trounced by Colorado 13-3. “We opened up our line pretty early,” admits Norden about the Colorado game. The assumption was Whitman wanted to save their energy for the next game to secure the #2 spot in the pool. It seemed worthwhile, because Whitman was able to put away regional rival Washington to end the day 3-1. The game against UW showed Whitman grabbing another early lead, taking half at 7-5 and at one point leading 10-6. Again Whitman had to fight off a comeback before vanquishing UW 13-8. Whitman was playing with only 14 players today. “Ben McGinn stepped it up and Charlie O’Rourke was great on both offense and defense. But really, it was a whole team effort,” says Norden.
Harvard took third in the pool after beating UC-Davis 13-11 and UW 14-12.
Moving on to Championship bracket: Colorado, Whitman, and Harvard
C Pool was filled with talented teams and very hard-fought games. British Columbia dominated in the air on their way to claiming C Pool. In UBC’s game against Cal, the first ten points of the game were scored without a single turnover. The teams traded points until around 9-9, with UBC closing it out 15-11. Next, British Columbia shellacked Stanford 15-5.
Against Wisconsin, UBC really showed their dominance in the sky. Wisconsin captain Ben Feldman remarked on the lethal throwing by one of UBC’s handlers. “We were forcing backhand, but he started killing us with his I/O backhand break,” explained Feldman. “So we had to switch to forcing forehand.” At 11-13, a cutter for UBC caught a disc but mistakenly called timeout when there were none left. Despite this mistake, UBC managed to get the disc back and score 11-14. In response, Wisconsin’s Ben Feldman got high for a big grab and threw it to Brian Hart for a score to make it 12-14. But in the next point, British Columbia ended the game on a dramatic play. UBC throws a deep huck that is headed out of bounds when a Wisconsin player decides to D it anyway. With a massive layout, the Wisconsin player hits the disc and tragically macks it in-bounds and 20 yards downfield, where a UBC player catches it in the endzone for the score.
Wisconsin’s Feldman went away from the British Columbia game impressed with UBC’s great throwers and strong cutters. UBC cutters would usually start shallow and take off at full speed with the handlers throwing the hucks early and accurately. “I think they match well against Colorado. They play a similar game,” said Feldman.
Against Stanford, Wisconsin went down early but managed to take half 8-7. In the second half, the Hodag’s offensive line started to fall apart. A cutter went down with an injury and the game started to slip away, reports Wisconsin’s Feldman. Wisconsin was also playing without key cutters on defense this weekend. Wisconsin managed to finish off Stanford 12-9.
The Wisconsin-Cal game showed Cal consistently swinging the disc, eating up yards. Cal played very well, despite missing Sam Kanner and captain Andrew Hagan. The consensus was that California looked like one of the freshest and well-practiced teams at the Invite so far. In the end, huge plays in the air won this game for Cal, beating Wisconsin 10-12.
Cal would however fall to Stanford 15-10 in the showcase game knocking them out of championship bracket contention.
Moving on to the championship bracket: British Columbia, Wisconsin, Stanford
Pitt debuted their highly anticipated season today with wins over UC San Diego (15-8) and San Diego State (15-6). Oregon then handed Pitt their first loss of the season in a very close, tense game. Two Pitt players were injured on late bids by Oregon players, resulting in two player misconduct fouls on Oregon (they would later earn a third PMF against Pitt). The wildcard San Diego State beat UC San Diego 15-8, and put up 11 points on Pitt. The consensus at the end of the day was that despite Pitt not winning D pool, they were still a very talented team who definitely had the talent to make it to semis and beyond on Sunday.
With solid performances at Presidents’ Day and the Santa Barbara Invite, San Diego State may still yet make some noise as well.
Moving on to the championship bracket: Oregon, Pitt, San Diego State
All in all, Saturday was a great day for Northwest teams with both UBC and Oregon going 4-0 and Whitman going 3-1, upsetting some teams in the process.
Eugene has proven it’s still a city that breeds talent with both Ego and Fugue on the women’s side going undefeated in pool play.
Sunday started out slow with wet fields and rainy weather. Despite raining all night, the fields held together and were not a big factor on Sunday. Teams still looked to the skies for deep hucks and big scores.
On Sunday, there were big comebacks from Harvard against Oregon and two comebacks in a row by Pitt against British Columbia and then Colorado. Also apparent today was toll of injuries over the tournament. Many teams showed that they lacked endurance or depth as key players continued to get injured. Despite this, tournament director Nick Greenfield was proud to say the trainer tent was relatively quiet. “There were pretty few catastrophic injuries, which is awesome. The only serious thing was one ankle injury.”
In the championship bracket, Wisconsin started against Northwest upstart Whitman. Wisconsin’s Ben Feldman said of this game, “It was the best D we played of the weekend. We forced a lot of turnovers, had a lot of layout D’s on unders.” Whitman relied heavily on handler Jeremy Norden and cutter Jacob Jannin, showing off Whitman’s great throwing and good chemistry. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop Wisconsin who won 15-11.
After getting knocked out of the winner’s bracket, Whitman lost to San Diego State 10-15. By that time, the wear and tear of battling through two tournaments back to back took its toll. Of the 14 players Whitman started with on Saturday, they were down to 7. Whitman called it a day and forfeited their last game.
On a side note, Stanford’s team showed great hometeam hospitality towards Tufts on Sunday. Tufts, disappointed that Whitman had forfeited, asked for another game, since they had come all the way from the east coast. Despite beating Tufts 11-12, Stanford let Tufts move on to play San Diego State for 9th place.
After beating Whitman, Wisconsin moved on to play Carleton in the quarterfinals. Both Wisconsin and CUT started off the game with deep hucks for scores on several of the first points. In a clean and fast game, CUT grabbed two breaks in a row to take half 8-5. After half, Carleton tore loose on a 7-1 run to finish the game 15-8.
After losing to Carleton, Wisconsin ended the day on a sour note by losing to UC-Santa Cruz 15-11. Captain Ben Feldman admits that many players decleated after the CUT game, simply too hurt or exhausted to go on. Wisconsin was marred by injury and and the absence of many key players this weekend. Lots of younger players had to step up, and Feldman acknowledges that Wisconsin’s job after Stanford Invite is to address endurance and fundamentals. “We’ve got playmakers, we just need to hold onto the disc.” Often, Wisconsin would be able to get the D, but would inevitably give it back to the other team. Still, look for this team to continue improving throughout the season as the team gets better conditioned and the newer players gain more experience.
Another notable game on Sunday was Harvard vs. Oregon. On Saturday, Oregon had shown that it has a bruising defense and a fast, dangerous offense. Oregon repeatedly would score on long throws and quickly after a turn. After taking half 8-6, Ego continued to dominate the skies, marching to a 6-12 lead. At that point, Harvard began an epic comeback, going on a 5-1 run. At 11-14, a big layout d by Harvard helped them bring it to 12-14. Harvard would battle on to a 15-14 win. Captain George Stubbs gave a great performance on Sunday. Nick Greenfield of Stanford said of Stubbs, “He’s really fast and has good timing. He’s uncoverable when he’s cutting.” Greenfield also came away impressed by Stubbs’s toughness. On when he would get fouled or hacked on a throw Nick says, “He never called it. He played through everything. It really impressed me.”
The other comebacks in the winner’s bracket would come from Pitt. Pitt had easily the toughest schedule of the tournament, playing all four of Saturday’s undefeated pool winners. On Sunday, they started the day strong with an easy win over Tufts. Next, in their game against British Columbia, Pitt fell behind with UBC taking half 4-8. Pitt would come back from a 5-10 deficit to fight all the way to winning 16-15 on universe point. “We what weren’t able to show yesterday was coming back from behind,” explains Rich Coker, an alumnus of Pitt who was with the team all weekend. “Eddie Peters was phenomenal on defense against UBC, getting multiple D’s when it mattered.”
Pitt would then face Colorado in the semifinals. Each team got a break early and mostly traded until Colorado got two breaks in a row to take half 5-8. Pitt battled to tie the game at 10’s. Pitt got a break to get ahead 12-11, and the teams traded until Pitt won 14-13 on soft cap.
Unfortunately for Pitt, after two long, grueling comeback games, they met a well-rested Carleton team in the finals. “Over the weekend, we probably lost a player a game to injury,” explains Coker. Many of Pitt’s top players had gone with injuries from overworked muscles. Pitt had been able to wear down UBC and Colorado with their great depth and reliance on the entire team, using a much wider rotation than other elite teams. “This day was won on depth,” says Coker. By Carleton, the team was beaten up and unable to face a talented Carleton team that had gotten time to rest before the finals. Carleton won 15-8 to take the championship.
There are many things to take away from the Stanford Invite. First and foremost, Carleton has shown that it is the best team in the country. CUT outscored their opponents this weekend 98-52. The team is all-around very solid, much thanks to Grant Lindsley’s fantastic cutting. Carleton’s offense can be patient and efficient, or devastatingly quick with great cuts and accurate throws. Expect them to lead the way to the College Championships in May.
There are several teams who can walk away from this tournament with their heads held high. Despite injuries, Pitt played very well and showed immense mental toughness in their first tournament of the season. Also, Harvard bounced back after a somewhat disappointing Warm Up and early loss to Whitman on Saturday to battle to the semis on Sunday. Their comeback against a very good Oregon team shows they have the grit to make far this season. Whitman should be very proud of making it into the championship bracket on Sunday. Hopefully this team can get healthy and continue playing at this level. Whitman, Oregon, and especially British Columbia have shown just how strong the Northwest region is in Ultimate. Finally, UC-Santa Cruz has shown itself as the team to beat in the southwest region, playing as the best team from California this weekend.