The nation’s top men’s teams enjoyed fantastic weather on the first day of play here in Myrtle Beach. Tournaments this year seemed to reverse the norm, with Stanford getting the bad weather bug, and Easterns being calm and sunny. The field site in North Myrtle Beach is very beautiful. Once one gets past the signs for the official dance of the city (it’s called the shag), it’s a great place – some have commented to me that Easterns not being in Wilmington is a weird feeling, but I could get used to coming here this time of year.
But after watching play today, I’ve got a memo to (almost all of) these teams. North Carolina, Pittsburgh you can ignore this. Harvard, Minnesota you can pay half-attention. Everyone else should listen up. This is the link to a search of Skyd Magazine for the word ‘energy’. This is a link to a Google search for the phrase ‘how to get pumped up for a game’. I can’t overstate the importance of bringing energy and intensity to a top tournament like this.
North Carolina was far and away the best team in this pool today. Unlike at Stanford, there was no stumble in their game. Instead there was solid all-around play from every member of Darkside.
UMass showed glimpses of nationals level play, finishing second in their pool. As the day went on, they found a consistency in their offense as each game progressed.
Michigan, meanwhile, had a strange day as they finished with one win in pool play. Their offense was driven heavily by handlers with rapid passing and quick strikes. When it was firing at all cylinders (or doing something like this) they seemed like a team that deserved respect.
And lastly, Carleton CUT, in their first tournament since the tragedy before Stanford, went without a win today. It was emotional day for them as they returned to the field for the first time. In-game, they didn’t look like the well-polished Carleton team we’re all used to seeing; throws were not there, there were uncharacteristic drops, and the defense especially wasn’t at the same intensity. Today, they were wearing a white jersey featuring three CUT logos and tributes to their teammates.
Minnesota would win this pool, even though they constantly found themselves in close, heated games. Jason Tschida was the best player for Grey Duck without a doubt, but you can’t help but wonder if he’s being under-utilized as the main handler for the team. In that spot, he had problems getting open for the dump-looks, but did have a strong arsenal of throws. In the past he’s look so good as the main cutter; easily creating space for himself and his teammates down field.
Florida can certainly compete with the top teams in the nation, but the strategy of running a pretty consistent seven players the entire time is questionable. They don’t have the same level of talent when they were winning it all. Without depth, I think they’ll hit a limit against the top teams, especially on the second day of tournaments.
Meanwhile, Stanford looked like the team from first day of the Invite again. Nothing consistent out of this team, especially in their decision-making. How many times can the Stanford offense attempt to throw a line-drive IO flick huck in the same point before realizing it isn’t working? Answer: a lot.
The Whitman Sweets didn’t play as poorly as the 0-3 record states, but they were winless for a reason. A lack of consistency was their undoing. After trading with Minnesota through the first half, they quickly lost their grasp on the game with mental errors on both sides of the disc.
Harvard looked like the second best team at the tournament, only falling short of North Carolina’s performance. Redline had strong contributions from their depth and especially were able to look at early-game adversity as merely a bump in the road on the path to victory. In the double-game-point universe win against Central Florida to close out pool play, John Stubbs and Jeremy Nixon were the best players on the field, but it was the endzone-layout by sophomore Andy O’Rourke that saved the game for Redline.
Brutal day for Central Florida. Early in the day, it looked like they had their offense figured out. Several times I looked at an offensive point for the Dogs and saw flawless execution of their cutting patterns (one point, every opposing defender was walking off the field with a case of the broken ankles) en route to a score. More on the Dogs in a bit.
UNC-Wilmington was not the same team that dismantled Minnesota yesterday. They were still very good defensively; but they were plagued bad decisions, errant passes, badly timed cuts. The close losses to Harvard and Central Florida all looked like they could be Seamen victories at one point or another in the game. Instead, they finished pool play 1-2.
Georgia on the other hand never looked at the level of the rest of the field. They have talent, but haven’t figured out how to put it together. Leaving Saturday with no wins doesn’t spell success for their season.
Pittsburgh would once again rise up and win their pool. It wasn’t without a scare or two; Illinois provided a big one, and the defending champs did let Luther back into the game for a bit as well. However, these were momentary scares as they finished undefeated.
Same old song and dance from Florida State. They would have leads on teams, only to let them back in the game and fall behind. For two games today, this trend ended with a loss. The leads came off the back of strong defensive play, and the losses off of an offense that turned feeble.
Luther had some expectations as a potential spoiler coming into the tournament, since they were returning their previous years’ College Championships squad. For 3/8ths of each game they looked like a nationals contender. They need to find the remaining 5/8ths.
Lastly was Illinois, will they contend against Michigan in the Great Lakes region? Most likely. They looked a lot deeper than their regional counterparts. For their first real look at top-level competition this season, they didn’t leave with wins, but with moral victories that they can build on.
UNC-Wilmington and Stanford was a close game in the early stages. But man, that strong UNC-W defense… when it really takes hold over a team, there really isn’t anything that can be done. For a while, point after point, Stanford couldn’t work the disc past the first third of the field. Wilmington would win this game going away, and advance to play in-state rival North Carolina.
In another game of domination, Florida State-UMass would end all in favor of the Demented Ultimate Freaks. The trend of teams with strong defense winning continued. DUF wouldn’t let upstart-Amherst back into the game.
I’m unsure where to start with the Michigan against Luther, which MAGNUM would win to face Harvard on Sunday. There were a lot of long, back and forth points between these teams; Luther was hanging with Michigan and outplaying their offense often. But LUFDA couldn’t finish points, and Michigan goes on.
Lastly was the Central Florida game, where they saw in-state rival Florida. By now, Central Florida’s offense wasn’t clicking the same way it was earlier in the day. While Florida was still implementing their tight-lines, UCF had open lines at first and had kept it back and forth. But out of all the teams today, they faded the most , they were more tired when it reached this round. The train really came off the rails for the Dogs late; and with that Florida goes onto Pittsburgh for quarters.
Easterns is a proving ground for contenders, but as we mentioned earlier, the lack of energy shown by teams makes it hard to predict what happens next. That means Sunday is still ripe for the taking. More on that when all is said and done, or you can follow me on Twitter (@Skyd_JLeppert) for more updates than I had through all of Saturday play (think my Twitter linked through text message was messed up, apologies).