Pool play just wrapped up in the 2013 College Championships. Now it’s time for the hotly contested, much anticipated yet completely unpredictable prequarters round. A round the University of Wisconsin Hodags are a part of, taking on University of California – Davis.
But the hometown heroes weren’t supposed to be in this position. If the results exactly followed seed, the University of Wisconsin would be scouting their potential quarterfinal match-ups from the sidelines, not playing in hopes to even make it that far. The harsh reality, however, has the Hodags fighting for their tournament lives. And they’re fortunate to be here.
After cruising through their first game against 5-seed from their pool, Cornell on Friday, the Hodags took on CUT in a game that felt more like a final than pool play. The sidelines were lined with a Madison contingent that would challenge the Madison Radicals for attendance, complete with vuvuzelas and cowbells. The fans’ excitement was palpable and their cheers roared. Loudly. Once all was said and done though, it would not be enough, with CUT taking the W, 14-10.
This case, however, was the exception to the rule on the weekend. While they would be tested in each of their remaining games in pool play, Wisconsin would not fall again. They have their amazing fan base, in part, to thank for that.
The first challenge came at the hands of Harvard in what this correspondent considers the fastest game pace contest of the tournament. Both teams were clicking on offense and flying around the field like two teams full of Flash Gordons. The Hodags found themselves all knotted up at 10 with Harvard Redline, then something changed. It wasn’t the pace of the game. It wasn’t the weather. But it was something. Something called support from the fans, and that was just enough for Wisco to take the game after two strait breaks, 13-11 in soft cap.
Could it have been a fluke? Merely a case of turning in on at the right time? Maybe, had it not been for the final game of pool play on Saturday.
In that game, the Hodags took on Florida State, with FSU trying to play spoiler since they had already been knocked out of further advancement in the tournament. Once again the flow was back-and-forth, with both teams achieving chilly offense as well as some tenacious defense. The scoreboard showed 13-11 in favor of Wisconsin as the soft cap horn sounded. Unlike many of the other contests during the last round, Wisconsin absolutely needed a win to avoid being the lower seed (3) for the first round of prequarters. After holding serve and scoring to make the count 14-11, the Hodags pulled to a FSU squad with
the upset still in their sights. Florida State rattled off two strait points to bring the count to 14-13 in favor of the home team. DUF looked suddenly rejuvenated when a shoulder-height layout D gave them the disc on the goal line. They easily converted for the score from there, bringing the contest to 14-13. Then, somehow, it happened again. The pull came down to Wisconsin and they drove down the field, working in cuts like chefs, to eventually score on a short pass to the front-middle of the end zone. Game,
blouses Wisco. Once again the overpowering fan section seemed to will their team to victory.
Don’t get it twisted, in no way am I attempting to take away from the hard work and dedication the Hodag players showed this weekend and throughout the season. But this is Nationals, every team here has dedication to their cause. So it takes a little something extra to pull through in this, the biggest weekend of the college ultimate season. Can the Hodags enlist the power of spirit again in their pre-quarter match up against UC-Davis? Stay tuned…
EDIT: The University of Wisconsin could not keep the pre-quarter contest against UC-Davis close enough to call upon their fan-fueled magic, falling 15-11 in a game that saw Davis take an early lead and never look back.
All photos credit to Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com