Minnesota at Northwoods Conference Championships

by | April 21, 2011, 11:13pm 0

When I talked to players and coaches around the country back in January, quite a few mentioned Minnesota as a contender for the national title. The logic was basically that Grey Duck made quarters at Nationals in 2010, had a number of guys that played with Sub Zero over the summer, and hailed from the mighty Central Region. By many estimates, 2011 was the year for Minnesota to make noise.

But after posting a .500 record at President’s Day that included a weak win over Texas A&M, a loss to UC-Santa Barbara, and the application of the underutilized make-semis-by-losing-to-Oregon strategy, Grey Duck lost all of its Easterns pool play games before beating Virginia, Ohio, and Iowa in consolation play. Minnesota’s 2011 regular season has been far more inconsistent than dominant.

“Frankly, I think it’s generous of other teams to predict that we’ll finish in the top five at Nationals,” said Grey Duck’s Matt Marinello when I asked him about his team’s pre-season hype and how it relates to the results thus far. “We have talented throwers and athletic, tall deep receivers, so if we can complete two or three of those deep plays in a row, that’s three fast breaks. Those types of runs are probably the moments that stick in other teams’ minds if they consider us a top team. Sadly, we also have moments where we drop passes, turf the disc, and play lazy defense.”

Minnesota’s performance at this weekend’s Northwoods Conference Championships in Northfield, MN, according to Marinello, will hinge on which Grey Duck squad shows up: “the focused or the unfocused one.”

Working to ensure the former rather than the latter has not been easy, as poor conditions in Minnesota have kept the team from regularly practicing outside. The team has been unable to find level footing amidst the unpredictability, rolling Illinois, Ohio State, and regional foe Wisconsin-Whitewater at Huck Finn but also losing twice to Wisconsin.

At Conferences, Minnesota is likely to play Carleton in the final. “Carleton is a very strong team this year, as they usually are,” said Marinello. “Any team, ourselves included, will have a tough game against CUT. But we’ve had moments in games against them when we’ve had them on their heels and looked much faster than they are. If we play like that against them at Conferences, we’ll go up early and control the pace of the game. Strategically, if we can pressure some of their less experienced handlers well on defense and exploit some favorable deep match-ups on offense, we’ll be doing well.”

Cliches be damned: if Minnesota is going to right the ship and live up to expectations, this weekend is a good place to start.

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