North Carolina Darkside defeated the North Carolina-Wilmington Seamen 15-13 in yesterday’s Fall Easterns final. The win made two things clear: first, North Carolina is still the Atlantic Coast frontrunner going into the spring, and second, Wilmington will likely be the champions’ biggest obstacle come April.
While Darkside rolled through Saturday pool play and trailed for only a few points in its semifinal against Penn State, Wilmington held the slight upper hand throughout most of the final. The Seamen captured the game’s first break to take a 4-3 lead, took half 8-7, and got the cheater’s break out of half to go up 9-7. The home team benefited from two big air plays from freshman Austin McGrayne and was North Carolina’s first opponent capable of breaking through Darkside’s force middle scheme and stingy handler defense.
North Carolina, however, never trailed by more than two points, and after holding to 9-8 broke to even the game at 9-9. While Wilmington broke back to go up 12-10, Darkside evened the score once again at 12-12. At 13-13, Wilmington junior Ross Anthony landed on the line while trying to reel in a Trueman Nottingham throw just outside of North Carolina’s endzone but earned the disc back with a handblock. The ensuing Wilmington possession was the Seamen’s last chance to take the lead, and a turnover led to North Carolina’s first since being up 3-2. It was the last lead change of the game, with Darkside going on to break twice in a row for the 15-13 victory.
Wilmington’s decision making got sloppy late in the game. While senior captain Nottingham, Australian import Mark Evans, and sophomore Xavier Maxstadt stepped up to make the majority of the team’s yard-gaining throws, each had lapses that lead to Darkside goals as the game wound down. Those three won’t have to shoulder such a heavy load in the spring: this fall the Seamen were without fifth-year standouts Tommy Lamar, Alan Gruntz, and Cory Morris, all of whom bring dependable disc skills and playmaking ability to the 2013 roster.
North Carolina also played the fall without some key starters: graduate captain Justin Moore, senior Adam Carr, and junior Ben Snell. Their return will bolster the frontrunner’s handler corps, particularly on the defensive line.
Of those that were present and playing for North Carolina and North Carolina-Wilmington, standouts were Christian Johnson, Justin Foster, and Tristan Green for Darkside and Evans, Nottingham, and Maxstadt for the Seamen. Rookies and B-team call ups also made a number of plays for both sides.
The Fall Easterns crown is North Carolina’s second in a row as well as the team’s second tournament win of the fall. The first was last weekend’s Wolfpack Invite. As what has become usual for tournaments hosted by North Carolina-Wilmington, Fall Easterns featured continuous communication to teams from tournament director Greg Vassar, full rounds, lined fields, and ample space between sidelines. Temperatures around 70 degrees and light wind made the weekend all the more enjoyable for players and spectators alike.
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com