The Road to Boulder: Michigan State

by | May 23, 2012, 10:48am 0

This preview and the 2012 College Tour are presented by Spin Ultimate

Of all the teams that will be competing in Boulder over Memorial Day weekend, it’s possible none had as much of roller coaster ride of a season as Michigan State Burning Couch. Starting off At Queen City Tune Up, Michigan State went 4-4 suffering losses to Ohio, UConn, UNC, and Dartmouth along the way. All teams that finished highly at the end of the season, but at the time, this was not seen as a strong start to the season. At the partially rained out Easterns Qualifier, Burning Couch was again seeded high, but had a rough time. Two point victories over Carnegie Mellon and Tennessee were accompanied with a loss to Penn State in pool play before they kicked it up a notch and trounced Georgetown in pre-quarters.

John Michael Guest goes up for a disc - Photo by Alex Jakstys

This next bit is the kicker though. After this lackluster start to the season, Burning Couch was seeded 16th at Centex. Following losses to Nationals qualifiers Washington, Luther, and Colorado, Michigan State rocked the Ultimate scene when they defeated #1 Oregon. From there, it’s been (almost) nothing but roses. Since Day One of Centex, Burning Couch has wins over Whitman, Georgia Tech, Carleton, Michigan, and Illinois. However, this seemingly strong finish has not come without some question marks. A second place finish at Chicago Invite was marred by two bad losses to Iowa in which they were outscored 10-28. And at Regionals, as most of you know by now, Burning Couch lost 8-15 to Michigan in the finals and was down 5-10 before an outstanding comeback against Illinois in the backdoor game to go. Captain Bradley Morstadt told me that there were “few words [to] describe what it was like to be a part of our team [in that game].” He went on, saying, “It was by far the best ultimate game I’ve been a part of and if we lost that game, my feelings would still be the same.”

Burning Couch’s steady improvement throughout the season was part of a determined effort by Morstadt and other team leaders to “ratchet it up at every tournament.” Mostadt explained they wanted the team to show some improvement on a tournament-by-tournament basis to “take pressure off the team throughout the season, knowing that our peak is in late April and May.”

This is Burning Couch’s first Nationals appearance since a run of appearances from 2004-2006. Since then the team has had several opportunities to punch a ticket, including coming in to Regionals as the #1 seed in 2010 and 2011, but has lost three games-to-go these past two years. Morstadt had some more to say on that unfortunate statistic, “I knew that the team this year was different than years before. I know that we are a team with a never die mindset and we always feel like we earn every victory we get….something that separates the Couch this year to the Couch of previous years.”

While Morstadt insists that this is not a team with any superstars, there are some key distributors and cutters who act as rocks on their O and D-Lines. All-Region Nominee Dave Hochhalter is their primary handler and was responsible for the full field huck that ended the game against Illinois at Regionals. Ryan Morstadt “is the glue for our O-Line” according to his twin brother Bradley. “He has great break throws, probably the best accuracy on the team and has the ability to become a cutter in our Ho stack if necessary,” Morstadt added.

Aaron Ziegler makes a contested catch - Photo by Alex Jakstys

In addition, Michigan State’s defense is anchored by All-Region Nominees Jesse Ellwood, John-Michael Guest and Aaron Ziegler who routinely match up against the best handler or cutter on opposing teams. Burning Couch’s primary defensive front is simple, hard man D. “We feel that very few teams can put out 7 offenders that can beat our 7 defenders,” Morstadt explains.” While he admits they do not have much national attention in that regard, he recalls members of Colorado, Oregon, and Carleton commenting after their games at Centex on how tough their man D was to get open against.

However, their results this season indicate mighty sporadic play at times. Michigan State’s squad could be described as a faceless army of men who do their job and do it well, but I worry that the lack of a dominating offensive force will cost them some points at Nationals. They do a good job of capitalizing on mistakes though, as shown by their 8-1 half against Oregon, so if Burning Couch is able to consistently strike quickly following opponent’s miscues, they’ll have a better shot at making pre-quarters. They’ll have their work cut out for them in Pool D, however, as Wisconsin, Central Florida, and California are three regional champions that have proven their mettle on the big stage.

Nevertheless, Burning Couch is ready to show the country that Centex wasn’t an aberration. This is a team that can play with, and beat, anyone in the nation. As their Morstadt told me, “Our expectation at Nationals is to make LOTS of noise. We’ve beat the best team in the nation, we’ve proven we belong here, now it’s up to us to do the rest.”

Featured photo by Alex Jaktsys

Michigan State’s amazing comeback against Illinois in the backdoor game to go to Nationals

Comments Policy: At Skyd, we value all legitimate contributions to the discussion of ultimate. However, please ensure your input is respectful. Hateful, slanderous, or disrespectful comments will be deleted. For grammatical, factual, and typographic errors, instead of leaving a comment, please e-mail our editors directly at editors [at]