Friday of the 2014 College Nationals is a wrap and a few things are already apparent. Momentum means everything, and at this point, if you don’t know who you are as a team, it can cost you wins. While the first day of any tournament can be only so telling – at this time their respective regionals, for instance, Central Florida and Florida State were on the outside of Nationals looking in, and Eastern Michigan was still an afterthought – pool play does play a significant role in tournament success.
The momentum monster made early appearances this year. In round 1, 9-seed Florida found itself in a tie game late with ME Regional Champs Rutgers. A well executed greatest completion to a quick score later and Florida ran away with the game to a 15-10 win. Michigan MagnUM then paid their dues with madame momentum just in time for a comeback, double game point win over the UCF Dogs of War in their first game of the day. An early exit by the madame spelled a surprising loss in the next round, however, and MagnUM finished Friday 1-1.
In what many (read: this author) considered the game of the day, both UCSD and Harvard rode the momentum train to a hard-fought, multiple turnover, double game point finish. Earlier in the contest, UCSD found themselves down by two when momentum came calling. Again it started with an amazing greatest, this time from out the back of the end zone to a layout catch for a score for UCSD. Harvard then went on to drop the ensuing pull, and UCSD stuck in the short-field break. From there, the two teams traded exciting, high-flying points until universe. As quickly as momentum can giveth, momentum can taketh away. After earning the turn on double game point, UCSD marched down the field, despite an increasingly stiffening wind. It seemed like UC-SD would end the game on a floating backhand to the end zone, only to have it dropped with no defensive presence in the immediate area. Harvard then contained this instantaneous and unlikely momentum to end the game after only three throws. At the national level, talent is so abundant that it is the teams that can manage momentum, either positive or negative, that find ways to get wins in pool play.
Who They Are
“Who are we?” “CUT! CUT! CUT!”
Carleton knows who they are. It took a tragic event to cement their identities, but cemented it is. After an unprecedentedly trying season, CUT is back where they have been every year since 1990, save one. They are back where they are comfortable. They are back again at College Nationals.
Unlike teams in their Nationals infancy, CUT knows mentality can get you further than unbridled talent at the highest level. And that was on display right out of the gate again this year. It began with the team that was coming into Nationals hot after a surprising AC Regional championship over favorites, and big brothers, North Carolina. Carleton never seemed rattled in the slightest despite UNC-Wilmington’s infamous gamesmanship. I would like to interject here that while said “gamesmanship” UNC-W is known for may
have been of an origin that pushed the limit of legality, it has since transformed into UNC-W finding ways to dictate the tone completely within the rules. In the game against CUT, Wilmington threw everything in the playbook at the perennial Nationals competitors. Despite varying defenses and offenses from the Seamen, Carleton was forever constant and stayed the course to a 15-13 win.
There is a certain calm about this year’s CUT team, a quiet reserve. This year is all about CUT staying focused on CUT…and only CUT. A precedent set by coach Phil Bowman and bought into by every single member of CUT 2014.
A stern comfortability has led Carleton to two wins over higher ranked teams in their pool, already. Another win Saturday morning against a struggling Rutgers team, and CUT will be even further in familiar territory, positioning themselves in the knockout stage of Nationals as they seemingly always are.
Either riding the ever-changing wave of momentum, or standing firm by what has taken them this far, teams will need something more than raw talent and skill to take the national crown. Day one was defined by momentum, only time will tell if the entire tournament will be defined by it, as well.