This preview and the 2012 College Tour are presented by Spin Ultimate
The pool of death? Possibly. Pool A features the top seed Oregon, North Central powerhouse Minnesota, Atlantic Coast champ North Carolina, new comer Ohio, and the two man show of Georgia Tech. While Oregon is the favorite to take on the pool, there is a lot of potential for shuffling amongst the bottom seeds. Who will be fighting for pre-quarters in their last games on Saturday? Time for a good ole fashion team by team preview of Pool A.
The Year of the Ego?
High powered offense? Yup. Experienced seniors? John Bloch and Topher Davis. Young talent? Dylan Freechild, Ian Campbell, and Aaron Honn. Oregon seems to have it all this year, going 30-1 during the regular season, losing only to Michigan State in pool play at Centex. They’ve definitely been bent, but not broken, winning Centex 15-14 over Minnesota and handling Pittsburgh 15-13 at the Stanford Invite in the championship game. For any avid ultimate fan, the story for this team goes all the way back to 2010.
John Bloch’s Callahan Video
In 2010, Oregon entered as the number one seed, blowing away opponents during the regular season. At nationals, they fell well short of expectations, losing in pool play to Georgia, UCSD, and finally going down to regional rival Cal in the pre-quarters. Eli Friedman, Eli Janin, and even Cody Bjorkland ran an exciting style of play with quick decisions and deep hucks. They ultimately faltered with a pace that seemed too urgent, often relying on their athleticism to make up for their decisions.
There are similarities this year to the 2010 team, such as the fast paced offense. John Bloch has the ability to throw it immediately off of an in cut to players like Camden Allison-Hall. Senior Topher Davis helps lead the defensive line, and after that it’s clear that this is a team dominated by youth. Dylan Freechild is already touted as a potential future Callahan winner, and Aaron Honn proved to be a stud, winning the Red Jersey at Stanford this year. However, trying to squeeze Oregon down to simply a few play makers does the entire team an injustice. Gabe Fruchter, Trevor Smith, Tyler Cable, Sam Brickwedde, and others add to the large depth of Oregon’s squad.
Ego’s Road to the Championship:
This is a team that likes to go on runs, good and bad. They are the most talented team in this pool, without question. The only that can throw them off is their own execution. Minnesota was one of those challengers that took advantage of Oregon mistakes late in the Centex Finals. I don’t expect them to falter early like their 2010 counterparts, and we should see them in the semi finals. From that point? Well, lets just enjoy the show that could come from these top four seeds facing off.
Watch Oregon tear through Centex in their highlight reel.
The Enigma, Minnesota
Stanford left us questioning just how good they were, after losing 15-6 to North Carolina. A finals appearance at Centex left us wondering if they could take the North Central crown, and two wins over Wisconsin showed promise. However, two consecutive losses to Carleton in the series, and a loss to Wisconsin at regionals, seems to point that Minnesota still may be the little brother of the North Central. This weekend will be their opportunity to prove it when it matters most.
A vertical stack offense usually features Greg Arenson getting the disc on the under and sending it deep to one of his teammates, such as Reese Horness. Luke Dwyer is a big reason why Minnesota rose up Centex while Danny Miesen controls the field from the handler spot. Jason Tschida is another veteran to watch out for, while Stephan Mance has been getting his share of hype. If Minnesota is going to preform well this weekend, it’s going to be on the back of their defense which was downright nasty at Centex.
Grey Duck’s Road to the Championship:
In 2011, not winning your pool was a death sentence. Despite the format not being terribly taxing, quarterfinals still favors those who finish early on Saturday. We’ll know on early Friday if they will likely be fighting for second place as they start off the morning with the number one seed. They have no reason to fear the Ego, but will need to find another gear to win the pool. With a second place finish they potentially play Pittsburgh in the quarter finals, giving them a road where they will likely have to go through the top 2 seeds. Regardless, they’ll face some tough games against North Carolina, upstart Ohio, and Nick Lance and company. After Oregon, it will be about survival.
North Carolina Darkside, resiliency
Things seemingly could not have gone worse at Conferences for North Carolina. Star player Thomas Sayre-Mccord went down against South Carolina in pool play, and heavily favored Darkside did not win their pool. After a semi-finals loss seemed to put things spiraling out of control. Mike DeNardis, a finalist for Skyd’s All American Coach of The Year, rallied the troops to take revenge on North Carolina Wilmington second in the conference. At regionals, where the 10th, 11th, and 8th seed all made semi-finals, North Carolina was the one constant. Despite lacking Sayre-Mccord, their depth shined, sparkled, and dominated like the playing of Call Me Maybe at Centex.
That depth is why North Carolina was able to hang with some of the best in the country this year. Sophomore Christian Johnson has continued to get better, Marshall Ward has been steadfast at the handler spot, and Justin Moore has had the non-flashy task of shutting the opponents better players. Tristan Green came back in the spring from study abroad and packs a powerful punch into his small 5’6” frame. On top of that, Jon Nethercutt’s flick pulls should be making an appearance while Max Shepherd helps run the defensive line. Even then, you can’t go through a game without mentioning, Matt Zeman, Adam Carr, Curtis Bowman, and many more. This team will win on it’s depth, handler play and defensive scheme.
Coverage of North Carolina from Easterns
Darkside’s Road to the Championship
Despite their impressive run through Atlantic Coast regionals without him, the absence of Thomas Sayre-Mccord is a major concern. While depth has gotten them here, players will need to step up and fill the void. Expect Green and Johnson to be the major play makers, and they should have the confidence as they have taken down all but Oregon at some point during the school year (Defeating Georgia Tech at Classic City Classic in the fall). It would be a hard task to win the pool, and it’s possible that we could see their season end in pre-quarters or quarters.
Ohio Ultimate, in the making since 2009
Like some of the other new comers in the field, this moment has been years in the making for several players on the Ohio squad. Ever since 2009 nationals, this has been a dream for several current players. Take a look at this Inside Breaks piece to see where they’ve come from.
This year’s road wasn’t easy, but Ohio was able to hang on to a strength bid for the Ohio Valley giving them an opportunity to take home second place after losing in the quarterfinals the previous year. Their performance at Queen City Tune Up, and Easterns proved more than enough to get them into the top 20 at the end of the regular season.They did not face much of a challenge at regionals, marching to finals, and dispatching rival Ohio State 15-8 in the game to go.
Mitch Cihon has been making defenders pay for the last several years, usually the first cut out of horizontal stack with an ability to hit Connor Haley and Nick Wetzel deep. Mike Bruce, Logan Kruger and Eric Converse lead the handling crew. Cihon will have to win his match-up if Ohio is going to do well this coming weekend.
Coverage of Ohio at Easterns
Ohio’s Road to the Championship
The road to the championship bracket will indeed be a tough one. Ohio came close to beating North Carolina at Easterns, but has not yet earned a victory vs. any of these squads. They’ll be fighting for their lives on Saturday, but a pre-quarters berth isn’t out of their reach.
The Tonight Show with Nick Lance and Jay Clark – Georgia Tech
Nick Lance is without a doubt, the major reason Tech has gotten this far. Jay Clark is the clear co-host, and came up with some possession saving bids in the game to go vs. Florida at South East regionals. After moving veteran Andrew Fish to offense, teams were unable to shutdown all available options for Lance to throw to, creating flow. Karl Staber was one of the hero’s in getting the Tribe this far, intercepting a Florida pass after poaching off his man. David Koch completed the job the opportunity to cut break, catching the winning goal from Clark.
While the focus of the crowd will be on Lance, the pressure will be on depth players to play up to their opponents. Clark will often draw the best defender, to limit Lance’s options, so Tyler Plunkett, Taylor Rasco, and J.P. Tiernan will play large roles. Brian Walsh, affectionately nicknamed Big Bird for his 6’6” frame, is a young talent that will have the responsibility of guarding any big time receivers. Nick Hunter proved to be one of the favorite deep targets, often on the receiving end of Lance’s long strikes.
Tribe’s Road to the Championship
The format is a huge opportunity for Georgia Tech to shine. With Lance and Clark already playing the majority of the points, they will have the opportunity to be fresh for most of Friday and Saturday. I’m not sure Ohio will have the ability to contain Lance, and North Carolina without Sayre-Mccord is a question mark. A possible third place finish could draw regional rival Central Florida, which would spell bad news after a thorough beat down in the regional semi final. Possible second place finish? They did lose to Minnesota at Centex, 13-11, but the format could give them the edge Lance and Clark need to pull out a victory.
Georgia Tech Second Half Game to Go vs. Florida
I don’t see Oregon losing this pool. After that, I think it’s possible to see everyone else finish in a different order. Minnesota is likely to be at least going to the pre-quarters, while it will probably come down to Georgia Tech and North Carolina to decide the third spot. With Sayre-Mccord out for North Carolina, I’ve got Tech going to the bracket as the third spot in their pool.