With contributions from Zack Smith
Win one for the Yinzers
Pittsburgh started off 2012 on the right foot with a tournament victory, something they were unable to accomplish in 2011. Facing off against surprise opponent Central Florida, Pitt started the game off with a break on the way to a 7-2 lead. Their depth and freshness were obvious as they were able to trade out the rest of the game to a 15-11 victory.
The only blemish all weekend was Pitt’s 15-12 loss to Carleton. Every other team couldn’t escape without multiple defeats. The reason Pittsburgh made it out alive? Depth. Most players were not required to play on both sides of the disc throughout the tournament, saving Alex Thorne’s and Tyler Degirolamo’s legs for the final game. While the scores were similar between Central Florida’s semifinal and Pitt’s win over Georgia, it was remarkable how little effort Pittsburgh had to put in to get the job done.
There seem to be pieces at every position that are working well for Pittsburgh. Isaac Saul worked well as a distributor from the center handler spot. Jason Kunza filled in on give and goes with Saul when other options were unavailable. Colin Connor, Zach Kaufmann and Marcus Dropcho anchored the defensive line, taking advantage of deep shots and able to work it up the field. After all of this, we haven’t even gotten into Pittsburgh’s stellar freshmen.
Max Thorne, Trent Dillon, Pat Earles, Joe Bender, Christian Pitts are 5 freshman starters for Pittsburgh. Thorne and Dillon rounded out the offensive adding an element of athleticism and youthful energy that most teams would be hard pressed to find. Earles has found his position as a puller on the defensive line with Bender and Pitts making big plays themselves. It’s hard to say, but it looks like Bender, Dillon and Throne are the top 3 in contention to take the freshman of the year in the Ohio Valley. This is of course assuming that that no other team is sporting a freshman, but I’d be surprised to find this talent on other teams.
After their lone loss to Carleton, Captain Zach Kaufmann had his squad run sprints in the back of the end zone. Pittsburgh is certainly setting the tone that anything less than a championship this season is a failure, and probably comes out of this tournament as number one ranked team in the country. Coach Nick Kaczmarek seems to be bringing a different attitude to Pittsburgh this year, keeping them focused on adjustments in game and perspective after. It’s early for any accolades, but I certainly like the direction this squad is heading.
Central Florida! Number one in the South East?
Central Florida shocked the ultimate community with huge wins over Carleton and Wisconsin, and by reaching the finals of Warm Up. They bested Georgia Tech twice, and in watching them play, are clearly the top of their region for now. How did they get the job done? Well the short and tall answer is Mischa Freystaetter.
Freystaetter is the 6’8’’ match up nightmare for any team that steps out on the field. The only team that really had an answer for him was Pittsburgh, and even then he was able to win some of the battles. Coming from a basketball background, Freystaetter is well equipped to come down with the lofty hucks that the Central Florida handling unit sends. After he’s proven he can go deep, he’ll gain the underneath cuts with relative ease. So far the following line has applied: “You can’t hope to stop him, only hope to contain him”.
The other players on Dogs of Wars are no slouches either. Big play makers feature Michael Hickson, Matt Nations, John Best, and Kyle Bettis. Hickson gets to battle everyday on the defensive line with Freystaetter, being the only one with height to compete against the gentle giant at 6’5’’. Nations, Best and Bettis all have the handling ability to help stabilize the offense. There is no doubt that this is a hucking team, but they have the patience to seek the underneath cuts and aren’t making too many mistakes.
Part of Central Florida’s rise can be attributed to talent, but their patience is definitely a well-developed scheme. Coach Andrew Roca definitely deserves some of the credit for their early season success. Check out an interview with Skyd Magazine’s Zack Smith:
The North Central, still at the Top?
The answer is clear; there were four teams at this tournament that were impressive, Pittsburgh, Central Florida, Carleton, and Wisconsin. The North Central still showed up for games, but it’s clear that there is work to be done, and work will be done. Wisconsin played even lines throughout the semi-final game vs. Central Florida despite being down throughout the second half. Carleton is working on replacing several losses, including the gaping hole left by Grant Lindsley.
The Hodag’s have an athletic squad that should grow in the same way as last season. They are clearly missing Dave Wiseman, who’s out with injury until Stanford, but besides that they don’t have a Callahan nominee that’s going to shock the world. Alex Simmons may be the team’s most important player, but you won’t see a highlight reel that can tell you that. He played the majority of points as a center handler, was the crux of the offense, and got his team moving in the right direction. The athletic depth is certainly there for this squad, with players like Zach Alter and Zack Ehler making plays down the field.
Other skilled players of note are cutters Jordan O’Neil and Brian Hart, who had to take major roles in the center of the field as Camp could only do so much without Wiseman. Tanner Marshall also stepped up into a big handling role on the offensive line, teaming up with Simmons and Dan Park. Marshall seemed to be working on his short field game, rather than sending his flick bombs to the athletic Hodag cutters. It was also apparent that defensive handler Dayu Liu wasn’t taking as many chances deep, possibly letting some other players step into the spotlight in this early season tournament.
Carleton had to rely heavily on the talents of Simon Montague and Justin Norden to win close games throughout the weekend. Julian Childs-Walker was also an important safety net from the cutting stand point, but CUT has to continue to develop their depth. They didn’t look like the dominant team they were a year ago, but it is early in the season and were missing Jonah Herscu due to conflicts with Carleton’s basketball team. Without Herscu, the handling line of Norden and Sam Keller seemed to have a gaping hole. While some younger handlers like Ben Caffrey were able to get some serious play time because of this, CUT’s offense seemed to be more force-side heavy in comparison to what most are accustomed to seeing.
Another name to mention is Nick Stuart, whose athleticism and speed was incredible. Stuart’s downfall may be his ability to stay healthy throughout the season and deep into the series. While Warm Up’s schedule was far more grueling that your typical tournament, Stuart’s absence on Sunday (along with other CUT starters like Mike Clark) was apparent. With about a month till Stanford, can’t wait to see the new look of this team then.
South East, the big regional winner
The Southeast was likely going to do well in the rankings by simply just playing Pittsburgh, CUT and Wisconsin. Besides UCF, Tech played competition close, especially against UCF which should translate to Tech being pretty high in the rankings. Georgia got wins over Florida, CUT, and lost a close game to Wisconsin, and played Pittsburgh twice. Expect these games to pay dividends later in the season once Carleton, Wisconsin and Pittsburgh are steam-rolling other opponents.
Florida, what happened?
Florida’s defense is still there, but the offense is left with question marks. The problem is that there are no standouts that are making opponents quake with fear on the field. They beat Wisconsin, showing that when they are fresh, they can compete with the best. However, their tight rotation eventually got the best of them, falling to regional rival Georgia 15-8 after beating them 15-9 at Joint Summit Classic. Alan Baird came back from injury to play well for his squad, but just wasn’t enough to move his team above and beyond. Bobby Ley has been a strong point, as a freshman, earning the honor of a spot in Florida’s top line.
The Gators still seem to have the ability to step up and play against the top teams. Their style of play still frustrates opponents, as particular teams seem to fall into the same trap time and time again. While Pittsburgh was able to win in easy fashion, it did look like Florida was able to get to the youth of En Sabah Nur early in the game…something they may take advantage of in later tournaments.
Georgia Tech, The Tonight Show with your Host Nick Lance and Co-Host Jay Clark
The Tribe showed that they were not the same team that lost to Maryland in quarterfinals of ACCUC, but one that could play close to top competition. Nick Lance continued to show why he should be considered in the Callahan race, continuously winning battles in the air, playing a large amount of points, and pulling out some big wins to put Tech in the bracket. Not much had changed since seeing them the previous week, Jay Clark was still the much needed other player to Lance’s abilities. Andrew Fish is also huge in getting the defensive line to convert on turnovers, which they were able to produce, but not convert on break opportunities. Ramu Annamalai and Taylor Rasco are two important leaders that will need to continue help get the depth on the team up to snuff as the season progresses.
Who benefited most from the format? Georgia and UCF
Georgia scored big wins over Florida and Carleton, but this was after these teams were already 2+ more games into the weekend than Jojah was. Playing on Friday proved to be a significant disadvantage for these top squads, and Georgia didn’t help their case by rolling over quickly in the semifinals against Pittsburgh. While the scores were similar, the Georgia-Pitt semifinal was over just after halftime of the Wisconsin – UCF game. Max Leonard was of huge importance, working as in a distributing center handler role. Leonard is also one of the few players on Georgia who constantly threatens the break-side look, as his low-release inside backhand helps Jojah use the full with of the field. While Charlie Herrig, Caleb Edwards and defender Fletcher Hartline are certainly names to know, Georgia’s real force is the speedy Elliott Erickson. Often putting himself in situations where it is a dead sprint to the disc, few people will be able to stop Erickson in this fashion, and will have to find ways to take him out of his comfort zone.
Central Florida was certainly fresher in their battles against Georgia Tech, when Lance and Clark had already played point after point. Don’t think that this tournament is more telling than it is. Florida and Georgia Tech are right there with Georgia and Central Florida. With these top teams exhibiting results that should land them in tournaments of their choice, this region has positioned itself to get multiple bids. Even if it does, I don’t expect to know who is coming out of the Southeast till the dust settles.