Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and some well deserved time away from work and school. I’ve dried off my notebook finally, so here’s what I saw on day two of Missouri Loves Company 2012.
As anyone who’s read about the tournament by now surely knows, day two wasn’t the most favorable ultimate conditions. The round of sixteen would feature stiff winds, followed by rain during the quarterfinals. The temperatures dropped about twenty degrees from Saturday and the wind/rain combo make it hard to put too much stock into what happened. Still, I’ll give my impressions from how the teams handled these conditions. With three of the top five original seeds finding their way into semifinals, there is certainly something to be said for the top teams overcoming circumstances to win no matter what the conditions are like. Anyone who saw the finals in 2011 knows that playing in absurd wind might make or break a championship. Here’s how things played out.
The wind was blowing and clouds were rolling in, but the sky was completely dry for the entire round. Most teams seemed to be playing for field position by punting downwind and waiting to force the inevitable turn. I set up between CUT vs Ohio and Colorado vs Eastern Michigan. Carleton and Ohio traded downwinders until CUT put in a big upwind score for a 5-3 lead. Simon Montague and Julian Childs-Walker were exclusively bringing in the disc for CUT after turnovers. Simon’s throws upwind were great helping CUT to rattle off several upwind breaks where other teams could only muster one or two. Carleton took half 8-4 against a good Ohio team by outlasting them on long points and punching in their upwind chances. Ohio didn’t score again the rest of the game as CUT rattled off seven straight points, four of which were upwind, for the 15-4 win.
On the next field Colorado and Eastern Michigan were playing a much closer contest. Colorado’s downwind offense consisted of Jimmy Mickle picking up the disc and shooting for the endzone in one throw. Mickle threw 4 or 5 one-throw scores when picking up the disc, but he also had 7 or 8 turnovers on those scenarios. The teams traded points downwind despite the fact that Colorado was playing 17 or 18 guys, and Eastern Michigan only seemed to be playing 8 or 9. EMU had a few guys with wicked hammers, and they played fearlessly against Mamabird. Colorado finally stuck in an upwinder to take half 8-6 after being close so many times before.
On the adjacent fields Texas took half against a small Carnegie Mellon squad and Pitt was up a few on Oklahoma. Texas would go on to win 15-6 as CMU didn’t have the day two legs to keep up with their impressive day one performance. Pitt beatOklahoma10-7 doing just enough to survive and advance. Meanwhile the second half of EMU-Colorado saw Mamabird pull upwind. After turns by both teams EMU unleashed a hammer to just outside of the endzone and called timeout. They scored easily after the timeout to get within one at 8-7. The next point Mickle jacked what should have been a turnover but Hidde Snieder made a huge grab in the endzone to save his captain and put Mamabird up 9-7. The teams traded out the game from here with EMU refusing to quit. The cap horn blew before Colorado scored downwind to make it 13-11. That would be the final score.
Elsewhere three pre-quarters games went to double game point, but they were on the far side of the complex from my vantage. Wisconsin survived Luther 10-9, Illinois beat pool D surprise Arizona 10-9 and Minnesota beat Kansas 10-9. Wisconsin-Luther was played on a more upwind-downwind field, the other two games were on slight crosswind fields.
No sooner had the first pull gone up in quarterfinals than a steady rain began. The wind died immediately, but the rain quickly soaked every hand, disc, shirt and shorts at Cosmo Parkand took away any advantage the offense gained without the wind. No matter the conditions however, matchups like Texas-Texas A+M and CUT-Wisconsin were going to bring out the best in everyone’s game. I perched myself between these two games on the showcase fields, missing Colorado-Minnesota and Pitt-Illinois entirely. After watching 90 minutes of hard fought rain soaked Ultimate, I was pleased with my choice.
After a relatively easy first point for TUFF, A+M would take several turnovers and break saving D’s to finally tie the game at 1s. Dozen would then break to the slight upwind endzone to go up 2-1. That was the last lead A+M enjoyed as Texas took control from there. Dozen’s man defense was impressive and their handlers swung the disc well considering the conditions, but TUFF had more depth. Will Driscoll barked orders at his zone from the deep position in the TUFF zone, which forced enough turnovers win the game. Texas would prevail over their rivals 11-7, booking a spot into semis.
Next door Wisconsin and Carleton, our sport’s greatest rivalry, was getting set to play out. Wisconsin had been wearing blue all weekend to Carleton’s red, but the Hodags changed into red before this game, winning the color flip I assume and playing head games with CUT. It wouldn’t work as CUT scored first, then took advantage of a dump turnover by the Hodags on their own endzone to go up 2-0. After the teams traded to 3-1, Wisconsin would get a break of their own thanks to a monster layout D and a nice grab in the endzone. A turnover by CUT on the next point would see the Hodags tie it 3-3. Simon Montague played well but his throws seems slightly more bothered by the rain than the wind during the previous round as he had more turns in this game than any other before. Dayu Liu played well for Wisconsin, showcasing his break throws and doing his best to keep the offense moving. The rain made keeping notes impossible from this point, but the effort of both teams really stood out. Despite it being the quarterfinals of a tournament in early November in the pouring rain, neither team wanted to lose this game. CUT would make just enough plays to come away with the victory scoring the winning goal in the upwind endzone and rushing the muddy field.
The tournament was called off from here due to Cosmo Park disallowing further play. Turf fields were made available for semis and finals to be played, but Texas wanted to get on the road and forfeited to Pittsburgh which had beaten Illinois. CUT also left to hit the road, though I didn’t hear them officially forfeit, perhaps believing the semis were not to be played.
Either way Colorado, who took down Minnesota 12-7 in quarters, met Pittsburgh at the rough turf fields on Mizzou’s campus for the MLC Finals. The rain was still coming down hard, and each team had twelve plus hour drives home, but they stayed to play anyways. The first half score remained close but Pitt looked the better team, getting break opportunities that they just couldn’t convert. Colorado took half 6-5 and the teams traded to 7-7 from there. Mamabird ran out of luck and gas after that with Pitt running off four straight breaks off Colorado turnovers and taking the shortened finals game 11-7.
The results from this game won’t mean much come May, they probably won’t even mean a whole lot in March, but Pitt was composed down the stretch. Colorado has to fix its turnover problems if they mean to play at the highest levels this season. Even forgiving for the wind and rain they struggled to run an offense that could posses the disc for prolonged stretches all weekend. Pitt for their part shook off the rust of losing to Texas A+M on Saturday and took down all comers Sunday, no matter the condition. With top handler Alex Thorne back in the spring, they look to be a contender for the title again.
Thanks to Mizzou Ultimate for hosting myself and 1,200 college athletes for MLC IX. I look forward to next year already.