Each one of these pool play recap articles will highlight a particular matchup for each round.
After an intense round and a half of action, I took a little break to meet up with Chris Pereira, General Manager of the Wingate Hotel in Tuscaloosa, and Don Staley, the Executive Sports Director at Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission. Not only was Chris nice enough to provide a place for me to stay over the weekend, he gave teams a discount at his hotel and has been a supporter of Alabama Yellow Ultimate for many years. Don gave Moore and the tournament crew a large sum of money to help put the event on, which made me realize how much Tuscaloosa supported the sport of Ultimate. The three of us spent time discussing the future of the T-Town frisbee community, including their hopes at putting Tuscaloosa on the map for some major college and club events. It is not easy to see from photos and videos, but the field site for this tournament was absolutely amazing. The fields were beautiful and soft, surrounded by thick red lines. Also, brick marks were painted, and the endzones were marked by tall football pylons, making this tournament look as official as they come.
As a player and leader that relied solely on the funds of my school as well as the efforts of my team’s fundraising, I am jealous to see such commitment from an outside party. Alabama Ultimate is lucky to have Chris and Don!
I made my way over to the end of the Davidson vs. Alabama and though my stay was short, I tried to take note of a few things:
Running through Evan Carter, who is a very strong all-around player, Davidson looks like sure force to be respected in the D-3 Nation. Carter is coupled with the speedy freshman Mikeie Reiland, who is very aggressive behind the disc as well as in the cutting lanes. Also, with big time receivers like Rob Stevens, Lukmon Babajide and Mike Rydberg, who made a monster toe-the-line sky against Alabama, Carter will be able to use his arsenal of throws to a wide variety of targets. While Davidson fell to Yellow Hammer 12-9, it was certainly a hard fought battle.
Check out this clip, coming off of a time-out for Alabama, as Brian Moore fights for the up-line score from Michael Venezia:
As there was some confusion about the starting times of each round, certainly due to the modified format, I arrived on the sidelines of the Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Oklahoma State Ultimato match, with the latter up 4-2. This game was all Oklahoma State from the get go, as a veteran heavy roster was having their way with a Georgia Southern squad that was having a lot of trouble with the heavy wind and the tight Ultimato zone. OSU was also very good at striking quick off of the turn, often with a huck between two of their most experienced players in Max Barowski, Bryan Downey and Cory Egan. Also, Ultimato had a strong handler core that was able to maintain consistent flow and possession of the disc until they found a way to dissolve into one of their main set plays.
At 6-4, OSU was running their very spread out offensive system, leaving plenty of room for isolated cuts in the centered of the field. With the disc trapped on the force side, an Ultimato handler put up a hammer to Barowski which he fully extended to make the one handed layout grab. Just outside the end-zone, he threw a short inside backhand break to a surprised Egan, who fell as he bobbled the disc. However, trailing the play was Andrew Boyd, who laid out over Egan to make the 7-4 grab, bringing the first half to an exciting conclusion.
Coming out of half, Georgia Southern takes advantage of some lax transition defense as a deep shot goes up to sophomore CJ Clarke, who makes the layout grab just outside the end-zone. However, the Eagles were unable to take advantage of the situation, throwing it away in a high stall situation. Not taking any chances, Downey punted the disc all the way to the Georgia Southern end-zone and called for Ultimato to reset their zone. A dropped swing pass led to an Egan goal, courtesy of Barowski as OSU earned the 8-4 hold.
Trying to employ a more patient style of play against the Oklahoma State zone, the Eagles moved the disc from side to side, earning breaks and resets easily.
As the youth of Georgia Southern began to show, more throws traveled at high speeds through the cup, eventually leading to another drop. Again striking quick, Egan found Scott Larson for the 10-4 lead. The Eagles found themselves in the end-zone one last time, hitting senior Channing Watson to bring it to 10-5. The last three scores were quick strikes, with the stats going to Barowski, Downey, Egan and Michael Gryzbowski. Final score 13-5 Oklahoma State.
While this was an obvious route of the Georgia Southern Eagles, it could be a very good learning experience for them. Losing 13-5 when you are a 1 seed can be very humbling if you react constructively. Towards the end of the game, the Eagles began to flow better in their zone offense, moving through the speed and athleticism of freshman Jericho Barbour. Georgia Southern is also sporting a very young roster, with 14 of their 23 players being underclassmen. With players like Michael Smith, Mike Price, Drew Libowsky, Nathan Thompson, Watson and Barbour, the Eagles are definitely a team to be reckoned with; though their zone offense obviously needs some adjustments.
A quick note on Jericho Barbour: Jericho injured himself earlier in the school year, laying out for a disc and landing squarely on his right armpit, causing a torn labrum, torn bicep, torn deltoid and a few more tears of the smaller muscles in his shoulder. However, if you saw Barbour playing, it was hard to tell that he was injured, as he was able to fight through the pain and discomfort and throw with his right arm. His active faking with both arms, as well as his speed and decision make display an advanced knowledge of the game for a freshman.
On the other side of the field, Oklahoma State clearly felt comfortable in the windy conditions of Saturday. While most of the statistics went to Egan, Downey and Barowski, the rest of the Ultimato squad were fantastic role players.
Check out my interview with Downey, Egan and Barowski as they talk about their success against Georgia Southern: