Conference Match-ups: Georgia v. Georgia Tech

by | April 13, 2011, 10:34am 0

Georgia's Taylor Nilan lays out for a disc thrown to Garrett Braun.

When I was playing, it was safe to call the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry a big brother-little brother affair. While Georgia Tech was an Atlantic Coast Regional contender, Georgia played meaningful games at Nationals. If Tribe noted its quality alumni like Hensley Sejour or Russell Snow, Jojah could answer with Dylan and Swanson. And when it came to Sectionals, there wasn’t much of a question that Georgia would be coming out on top. (At least that was the case once Georgia and Florida were put into separate sections).

Last year, Georgia Tech turned the tables. Tribe beat Georgia in the Georgia/South Carolina Sectional final, 15-14, a win that was quite a few years in the making. “Our coach, Jonathan ‘Frito’ Monforti, never beat Jojah during his stint at Tech, so until last year it had been at least eight seasons since we had beaten them,” said Tribe’s Andrew Fish. “We started a string that included a victories at Classic City Classic 2009 (Georgia’s home tournament), Terminus, and Sectionals.” Fish went on to talk about the longer process that led to the victory. “The mutual respect [between our programs] had been growing since Russell and Will Moore’s last year in 2008. That year, we played them very close at Sectionals and Regionals, and 2010 was a great opportunity to prove ourselves against a perennial power.”

The 2010 Sectional final itself was a calm game (thanks to Georgia Tech, the full game is available for viewing here). There were few fireworks, and each team looked comfortable in a match-up with such a familiar opponent. It was windy, and as a spectator you might have expected the better team to emerge as the one that was able to hold it together for just long enough for the other to make more mistakes and eventually lose the game. And you would have been right– as long as you weren’t expecting that team to be Georgia. While Jojah’s Peter Dempsey made his mark in the start to his fantastic Series performance, Tribe veterans Garret Braun, Michael Spear, Andrew Fish, Hogan McHugh, and Nick Lance were able to put the game away with smart decisions and a few big plays down the stretch.

Asked what made last year different from those before, current Georgia captain Charlie Herrig gave a simple answer. “They were tired of being in our shadow.”

At Regionals, Georgia climbed back on top, beating Georgia Tech, 13-9, in the final game-to-go. “They made some great adjustments, especially helping deep and challenging us on the breakside more,” said Fish. “We didn’t come out very strong on Sunday morning, Dempsey played the best we’d ever seen him play, and most of our team was struggling after three hard, hot games. It was a downer to lose twice on Sunday of Regionals and watch them take another trip to Nationals, one we felt we had earned with a great regular season.

Tournament name change be damned, Georgia Tech will come into this weekend’s Southern Appalaichan Conference Championship in Athens, Georgia holding an unfamiliar but welcomed title: defending Sectional Champions. Whether or not that will still be the case on Monday, though, is up in the air. Georgia Tech’s 2011 season so far as been marred with injuries (Fish has been out with a leg injury since the ACC Championships in January, McHugh missed all of Queen City Tune-Up, and key players Nick Hunter and Sean Lee have missed significant time) that have led to poor performances. “Queen City and Easterns Qualifier felt like fiascos even though we went 7-5 overall,” said Fish. “Terminus, of course, was a successful one-day venture, but we really only got two good games out of that, and aside from Central Florida, no chance to play Tufts, Middlebury, or anyone else ahead of us in the rankings. We have definitely played poorly and earned a pretty low ranking by not beating some teams we should have.”

Herrig’s Jojah squad has not faired much better, losing to non-Nationals teams Ohio, Ohio State, and Dartmouth and going 0-6 at College Easterns.

Tribe's Andrew Fish gets up over Charlie Herrig while Nick Lance (11) looks on.

But Georgia Tech’s and Georgia’s rosters are full of quality players, and with the Series underway, the regular season is history. A win at the Conference Championships will likely mean a two seed at Southeast Regionals, a crucial position because it would mean avoiding Florida until the final. On that note, Herrig credits Georgia Tech as a serious threat. “[They are dangerous when] healthy and when Nick and Hogan are leading them while other players are feeding off of that. I haven’t watched them play this year, but when a team has two big players like that, anything is possible.”

For Tribe, this year’s Conference Championships are an opportunity to right the 2011 ship and to improve on 2010. On that note, Andrew Fish gave made the season’s most poignant statement to date. “We’re hoping to gear up for the Series and give ourselves a chance of getting to Nationals. This is the last College Series  for seven of our players.  I’m sure you can dig how pressing it feels to have only a few weeks left to make an impact.”

Photos by Chad Borer

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