With only 2 bids, one “sewn up”, 3 teams are vying to take the last spot available to nationals in the Ohio Valley region. Our own Nicholas Xavier Rogers goes over what to expect from the top contenders this weekend.
Location: State College, PA
# of Bids: 2
Pittsburgh has two legitimate Callahan nominees in Alex Thorne and Tyler Degirolamo and are the deepest team in the country. The offense primarily runs a spread and are very loose about who stays back to handle and who goes up field. Alex Thorne’s versatility shows this most clearly, but any player on Pitt’s offense is willing to hang back get the dump and hurt opponents with their throws or bust up field. This allows for impressively quick consistent continuation up the field. The defense is fueled by fiery freshman and experienced vets. The transition offense is more structured, but all players still have a degree of versatility. They are the clear favorites, and there is little doubt they will win the region. The real test for them should come at nationals.
Pitt’s three best players should all be locks for first team region. They are Tyler Degirolamo, who is one of the fastest players in the country and great in the air, Alex Thorne who has a complete array of throws and uses his quickness and field awareness to get open, and Isaac Saul who is the teams primary distributors and one of the best pure handlers in the country. One could make an argument that many of Pitt’s starters deserve first or second team all-region, but those three are the driving force behind Pitt’s success. The other regional award is far more intriguing, which of Pitt’s class of five freshman should win FOTY? In my estimation three are equally worthy, though they possess very different skill sets. Max Thorne , a part of Pitt’s effective offense, has all of his brother’s ultimate set, though he does not yet have his brothers ultimate IQ. Southpaw’s Trent Dillon is amazingly athletic and is often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s primary option. The most interesting to me is Pat Earles, who is a six foot plus lefty handler that pulls. He has too much utility to be overlooked.
Ohio State and Penn State owe Ohio a thank you for earning the region a strength bid to nationals. Both had rostering issues that deterred or eliminated their chances at earning a bid, however what Ohio will receive is a huge target on their back. Ohio’s ranking comes not from signature wins against top teams or from blowing out mid-tier teams, but instead by staying with all the teams they lost to (the exception being their first game against Tufts) and their wins at the Queen City Tune Up. Ohio managed to avoid Ohio State for the regular season (which would not have hurt their ranking this year due to Ohio State’s results being invalidated), and finally faced off with the Leadbellies in the finals of Conference Championships. A universe victory hints at the parity between the rivals though the wind effect certainly helped keep the close.
Ohio’s offense utilizes Mike Bruce as their primary distributor. He’s a solid handler who is very consistent, but not particularly flashy with or without the disc. Nick Wetzel often attacks from the dump position, but is more than willing to go up field. He has throws, athletic ability, and speed making him one of the most dangerous weapons Ohio has. Connor Haley is a big cutter and will hurt teams deep. Mitch Cihon is the key to Ohio’s offense, but not because he gets the disc every other or hurts team with big plays (both of which he can do). It is because he makes smart cuts and allows his teammates to make plays instead of always trying to get the disc back. Wetzel and Cihon deserve first team all-region consideration. Ohio’s biggest problem is that they cannot move the disc consistently against better teams without a couple of these players on the field.
Ohio State is a younger team and there results attest to that, however it also attests to the fact that they are getting better. The most impressive win on their resume is over South Carolina on universe, the current champ of the Carolina CC, which was avenged. They should be the four seed in the region, and will need veteran players like Kevin Baumann to lead and their underclassmen to take the next step to have any chance to steal the second bid to nationals. While they do not look like the best team on paper, they are always a thorn in Ohio’s side. It would not be that surprising to see them get the upset. Leading into the game against Pitt they face a tough Carnegie Mellon team. Working the top players too hard in the game against Pitt is risky, because they would have to win three games on Sunday to make it through the backdoor bracket with two of those games likely being against Ohio and Penn State.
After Queen City Tune Up and Easterns Qualifier, which was cancelled half way through due to weather concerns, Penn State was ranked ninth in the nation . They had impressive looking wins over Ohio State and Michigan Stage, however the next two tournaments caused Penn State to start freefalling down the rankings. A rough Easterns, which showed they were not ready to face the top teams in the nation, was followed by a terrible showing at the Chicago Invite losing to mid-tier teams. A different Penn State showed up at Conferences Championship in which a loss to Shippensburg was avenged, Mr. Yuk was easily dispatched, and regional favorite Pittsburgh was upset. Even if Pitt played loose lines and despite being defeated in the finals, a win like that is a huge confidence boost for any program. Penn State runs a vertical stack heavily utilizing effective handler movement primarily the dump swing technique. It is disciplined and difficult to stop if a bit predictable. They rely heavily on Jeff Kiel, Tom Allen, and Tom Basset. As a program rebounding from being banned by their school they are on the right track to becoming a force on the national level.
The best of the rest
Cincinnati has proven their meddle by having gone to travelling four tournaments in the southern states and doing well at all of them. They have bought into their program and it is paying dividends. Losing to the Leadbellies twice on universe and staying with Ohio shows that the gap between them and the top teams is closer than most might think. Carnegie Mellon might pose a challenge if one of the top teams have a bad game, and could compete on pretty even terms with Cincinnati. Alec Assaad brings the Pittsburgh Impulse influence to Mr. Yuk, while Ben Clark, Chris Chang, and Nipunn Koorapati keep the engine running smoothly. Their most impressive results are against Michigan State, which were tightly contested losses.