This article kicks of Skyd’s coverage of Easterns in Wilmington, North Carolina on March 22nd, 23rd, and 24th.
A scouting tip for all the teams in Pool C in Wilmington this weekend: Mark Evans is going to run to the disc, throw an around break, rinse, and repeat after you turn it over in your game against UNC-Wilmington. Overcompensate to stop that first throw and he’ll run a give and go to the open side—the rest will stay the same. This is not insider information; you don’t need hours of watching the Easterns hosts to know it. Evans steering the Wilmington defense toward turns and breaks is as much a sure thing as the Seamen wearing black on Sunday.
A 23-year-old Communications exchange student from Sydney, Australia, Evans is the quintessential D-line handler: a savvy defender that is consistently open as a reset and skilled at breaking the mark. He makes converting break chances a bit easier for the run hard and then run harder-types that populate college defensive units, and his arrival was a windfall for an already strong Wilmington core eager to prove that last year’s abrupt exit from Regionals was a one-time thing.
Wilmington coach Greg Vassar asked Evans to step into an immediate leadership role because six Seamen veterans, one of them captain Tommy Lamar, sat the fall out. Evans started leading team workouts and captained a Seamen split squat at the Wolfpack Invite. Vassar knew that Evans’ international experience would serve the team well.”Having Mark get here this fall fresh off of playing Revolver in Japan brought a new level of composure to our team,” he says.
Evans played with the Dingoes, Australia’s national team, at Worlds 2012, with Colony, his country’s top Open team, at Club Worlds in 2010, and with the Australian U-23 team in 2010. He also played with Malaki at the Emerald City Classic in 2011 and has spent time with Friskee, a mixed team. He played the 2012 club season with North Carolina’s wHagonwheel.
As a standout young player in a country where the talent pool is top-heavy, Evans has developed on a world stage while many of his current opponents did most of their learning as underclassmen playing garbage points. “In Prague, I was one of the youngest guys on the team,” Evans says. “I was freaking out just trying to get the disc to the two better handlers.”
He saw himself as equally green while trying out for the Dingoes. But as tryouts went on, his skills gained polish and his confidence increased. He recognizes his movement on the upward trajectory that playmakers undergo. “It’s been an interesting transition to now, when I’ve got to be the dominant force,” he says. “But I think everyone goes through that.”
Evans is an adept navigator of team dynamics thanks to his array of playing experiences. And while knowing how to blend in smoothly and avoid stepping on toes is important everywhere, it is particularly crucial with a Seamen team heavy on brash, home-grown pride.
“There’s a lot of tradition,” he says. “It’d be a bit much for a foreigner to come in and take over the team because of the long-standing culture.”
Evans leaves administrative and primary speaking duties—the face of the team’s leadership—to Lamar and co-captain Truemann Nottingham. His calm demeanor is a productive contrast to Wilmington’s generally fiery attitude.“I think I add a bit of composure to the D-line,” he says.
Vassar says that it’s working so far, noting that Evans is a key contributor to the team’s efforts to balance its emotion with a recognized need for positivity. “Our team culture has historically been one of aggression, which can turn negative very easily. It’s a fine line to walk, and Mark is always positive. The guy doesn’t get down, or if he does, he doesn’t show it.”
Evans says that his stylistic approach doesn’t make him any less a member of the Seamen. “We’ve all got the same goal,” he says. “We all just want to get to Nationals.”
North Carolina teams have a strong recent history of Australian players helping them do just that. Brett Matzuka, an American who learned the game as an undergrad in Australia, arrived at North Carolina State in 2008 and helped lead the team to Nationals the following year. This past club season, Australian star John McNaughton was a key offensive handler in Ring of Fire’s run to the Club semifinals. Evans’ friendship with McNaughton and wHagonwheel captain Julie Morris, who had lived in Australia, put North Carolina on his radar.
Wilmington’s recent success sealed the deal. “I looked up all of the ultimate programs at the schools I could go to and the Seamen were the only one that had been to Nationals recently,” he said. “Every decent player at home wants to play ultimate competitively in the States.”
The Seamen will face Florida State, Pittsburgh, and Colorado in Easterns pool play at this Saturday, along with Carleton in a showcase game on Friday. The schedule is beyond competitive; it’s grueling. Look for Evans to help his team rise to the challenge.
Feature photo credit: Germán Borray
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