A sunny and calm day two in Riverside began with a final round of pool play before bracket-play. The most notable game was PLU’s matchup against Amherst College. Amherst had given teams a run for their money all weekend, losing to Carleton GOP on universe and playing close with Claremont. Though PLU had pulled out a victory over Claremont out the previous day, they had showed inconsistency, and an inability to start warm. PLU held on early, but Amherst shot up to a 9-5 lead before PLU shifted into gear. PLU used their big hucks and disc reading skill to break twice, and then twice again eventually giving them a 11-10 universe victory. Coach Nick Dare attributed the struggle to a lack of fitness, and with fuel hemorrhaging out of the tank, PLU needed to find enough to rally against Rice in the first play-in game.
Rice streaks deep, PLU touches top play
Coming off a sloppy loss to Puget Sound, Rice was hankering to prove themselves as one of the top teams at this tournament. As Rice met PLU, both teams worked to display dominance trading points with a hucking game. Michael Drewry on Rice displayed impressive speed, scoring most of Rice’s points teaming with the keen hucking ability of Kevin Shen. Soon PLU’s hucking endurance ran out forcing a more conservative game from Reign. But lacking the cutting spacing to be effective, Rice took half 8-6. Despite the deficit, PLU was determined to rally, with Riley Swanson and Craig Chamberlain on PLU acting as a deep shots and defensive dynamos. PLU was able to bring it back to 9’s before exhaustion hit and the hucks of Rice’s Shen put final daggers into Reign. Certainly Reign’s game was affected by their come-from-behind the round before, but when PLU had the energy to play the huck game, they dominated the skys. If Reign can develop dump-swing movement to give their deep streakers points to relax, then PLU will be a force to be reckoned with come May.
Rice over PLU 13-10 – Leaguevine stats
GOP’s strong swaglines
Seriously, what is it about Ellen DeGeneres’ “swag” and sexually suggestive anagrams that make GOP sideline cheers so effective in pumping up their team? It may seem like the most developed case of counter-culture college adolescence, but GOP’s brand of team unites their players under an actually sophisticated system of support and uniqueness that creates an us against them mentality. The edge was apparent as their game against rivals St. John’s BAM began, with the voices of GOP ringing loudly. St. John’s sideline was nowhere to be seen and further reduced by the short squad they had in comparison to GOP’s masses. Without even considering the score, the difference between these two teams could be outlined by GOP rushing the field in positivity whether they scored or not, and providing detailed sideline talk to players setting marks on the field. The voice of GOP infused the type of energy that wins a team a national final, and despite a roster that isn’t particularly deep talent-wise, confidence won the day.
By the time St. John’s had put a point on the board, GOP was already up 4-1. Even the effectiveness of Nihal Bhakta was numbed as St. John’s tried to work it through their full roster. Bhakta was underutilized and soon was outwardly demoralized and ineffective as discs he’d typically come down with were pressured away. GOP never really looked back, with the focused handling of Niko Duffy and Max Willard couple with the cutting of Ian Fischer and the ever-present Rhys Lindmark, GOP keep the energy going to take the game easily, 13-8.
Postmen deliver again
Coming off their victory over PLU, Rice was hungry to rematch UPS. Handler movement and hucks by Kevin Shen kept Rice ahead early on, while a lackluster start put UPS down a break early. UPS would rally thanks to the competent handling of Jonas Cole and Eric Hopfenbeck, along with fast-footed blocks by Daniel Mozell. UPS’ put on a familiar arrowhead zone that shut a tired Rice out of the game, as even UPS bench players stepped up with shutdown defense.
UPS wins 13-7 – Leaguevine stats
Zack Purdy raises a gloved finger to haters
Still high on a victory over St. John’s, GOP was ready to go. Claremont had the foresight to realize that the only way they could play on GOP’s level was to match their sideline intensity. Rested after a play-in bye, Claremont used their extra energy to get up early 3-1. The Brain’s pumped up offense and handler pressure defense put them as far as 6-3 before GOP pulled together a comeback. Generating turns with enough pressure, the calm handling of GOP’s Max Willard and Scott Graber brought Carleton back within 1 at a 7-6 Brains halftime. Out of half, GOP held for a couple points with Lindmark involved in a couple more gangly scores, though visibly tired. But the consistent handling of Nathan Hall and Zack Purdy and strong under cutting finished out the game for a more energized Claremont.
Claremont wins 13-11 advancing to the finals – Leaguevine stats
I hate to say I told you so…UPS can ball
My prediction of UPS winning DIII Warmup 15-11 in the finals proved true (except the final opponent). With an assortment of break throws, leading way to confident dumping and swinging, and intelligent, aggressive defense led by Peter Geertz-Larson — I said it before and I’ll say it again — UPS was the most complete team at this tournament. While a matchup between the Postmen and GOP would have put the team’s morale through a good test, UPS fought hard, and smart with a myriad of zones and an uncanny ability to make more athletic plays than anyone else.
In their matchup with Claremont, UPS brought a positive sideline intensity they had not needed to reach into during the rest of the tournament, going up quickly to 4-0 thanks to the competent hands of Jonas Cole and the all-around clutch play of Spencer Sheridan. Sheridan would win the Skyd Tournament MVP red jersey presented by Spin Ultimate for his consistent work. Sheridan moved the disc in the handler position and saved the day when UPS would have otherwise turned it. Claremont’s Zack Purdy noted Sheridan’s baller-status. “Spencer played shut down defense, dominated the skies and had very consistent throws,” Purdy exclaimed.
Perhaps it was the close fight against GOP in the previous round that had taken the spark out of the Brains, but despite putting considerable numbers on the board and excellent breaks by Nathan Hall, Claremont gave up control of the final early. Alex Gruver, who had provided much of Claremont’s playmaking, was all but taken out of the game by Geertz-Larson, Dylan Harrington and the Postmen’s arrowhead zone.
Even when Claremont got a couple breaks back late in the game, the Postmen remained stable and confident, able to trade out until their inevitable victory 15-11. Puget Sound coach Adam Lerman was not satisfied, even in victory, suggesting that the final was not the Postmen’s strongest performance. He looks forward to the challenge of the Stanford Open, where the format will test his team’s depth.
Final score: UPS over Claremont 15-11 (Elliot’s prediction: UPS over St. John’s 15-11.)
Puget Sound is clearly the best DIII team in the nation right now. For the majority of the weekend they were unchallenged and displayed play that was a step above the rest. I’m still interested to see if they can get over their GOP hump, as a pumped up and energized Carleton has proven to play above expectations. That being said, Claremont has show they have tactics to match and beat GOP, taking them out in both pool play and in the semis. However, if GOP can develop their bottom roster, they may be able to give their starters enough of a break to give them the edge over the Brains.
St. John’s is a good team that, after this weekend, I don’t see having the depth to compete with the likes of UPS, Carleton and Claremont. If they can figure out a more consistant way to use Bhakta they might have a chance to take down one of the top three on a good day.
Many of these teams won’t see another head-to-head until Nationals in May, so until then it’s all about building against tougher opponents and developing a mental game. Looking at our power rankings, my rearrange would go something like this.
2. Harding (can’t move ’em)
4. Carleton GOP
5. St. John’s
We’ll have a full video recap of the Warmup later this week. Kudos to Zack Purdy, Rhys Lindmark and both Claremont and Carleton GOP for putting such a great tournament together. Their hard work represents an important step in the future development of DIII ultimate.
Feature photo of Peter Geertz-Larson by Spencer Wu.