The Charles Dickens classic, with the similar name, connects readers to London and Paris leading up to the French Revolution of 1789. Today in Cincinnati, two teams in pool C – Texas TUFF and Florida State DUF – were connected through their pool play game. After which, each team went in different directions. One team had their day end in disappointment, the other lived to see another day. It all started in one game.
Entering the game, neither team had performed where they wanted. For the number one seed in pool C Texas, anything other than holding that seed, and continuing to hold that high expectations of themselves, would be a disappointment. When they fell to North Carolina by 2 in their first game, already the weekend was started on a negative note. Then in the next game they saw UMass, and had to pull out a 16-14 victory in order to finish Day 1 with a victory to their name. What loomed in Day 2 seemed even more out of reach. Meanwhile seed three in pool C, and seeded 10th overall, Florida State had their own high expectations for the weekend. An up and down season for DUF, they were looking to put their Southeast Regional performance behind them and progress into a strong performance in Ohio. Their Day 1 was just as disappointing as Texas’s was. They too barely squeaked out a win against UMass, winning 14-13, and Tufts later in the day gave them fits and gave them a 14-11 loss to their name.
Both teams finished Day 1 with a loss and a win, putting even more importance on their Day 2 matchup at 10:30am. The game would set the tone for the day, and how each would approach the rest of their day; and the tournament.
It’s 10:20 in the morning. With one round already in the books, the fields are buzzing. There are people all around, the food truck is just arriving, a blimp flying overhead, and even a youth tennis clinic going on next to the far fields that Texas and Florida State are facing off on. When I walk over, DUF is in a heated half-field scrimmage to get themselves prepared for the game. Every mistake is taken as if it was made during a game. Meanwhile, Texas is still running the drill ‘four line’, having just moved to the deep huck portion of the drill. Their players seem looser, seem more confident before the game than the Florida State players do. The flip lands with Texas receiving to start the game, and Florida State gets even more amped up and caught up in their defense. They are ready.
In what would become a familiar line of the day, the DUF player covering TUFF star Will Driscoll would have issues. DUF has become infamous for their physical defense, laying out at every opportunity. When Driscoll gets the disc downfield after Texas works through their vertical stack on the first point, a disappointed State player gets up after. When Driscoll was in the backfield handling, as he was in the second Texas offensive point with the score tied, DUF still had no answer for him. He was able to huck almost instantly for a score to a deep cut out of the vertical stack.
Defensively, Texas had the answers against Florida State as well. They were able to do small things on a point-by-point basis which completely disrupted the flow that DUF had become accustomed too. Schemes and plans that had worked just fine during their warm ups were no longer working. For the first points of the game, the Texas defense excelled by moving their defense into different settings of ‘loose’. To explain, the first defensive point – and many others this game – Texas would play very tight defense on the Florida State handlers, and play loose on the cutters downfield. It didn’t always work, and for a few points right before half, and a few right after, this was a frustrating look for the Texas defenders. It seemed they always felt like they could’ve been there for a play on the disc had they been playing a tighter man look with the cutters. And on other points they did; the cutter defenders played tight while their handler defenders played loose. In the beginning of the game, this helped Texas generate the opening break of the game for a 3-1 lead over Florida State and other break opportunities in this game. For the most part though, this switching of strategies truly frustrated the Florida State offensive line. Especially watching the usual ease in which Texas was able to work the disc on offense.
The Texas offense was only able to work the disc with ease though when they weren’t being stifled by the poachy defensive looks of Florida State. Early in the game, this gave Texas a lot of trouble. All but one point this half, when FSU earned back the Texas break, TUFF was still able to score. But each point was very long, with a large amount of handler movement between the TUFF players before finding a few holes to get the score. In this section of the first half, the Texas cutters were not doing enough to get the disc. Open holes in the poachy looks from the Florida State zone were not being exploited enough, and it seemed every instance they were, something would click, a light bulb would go off, and Texas would realize they could exploit that hole every single offensive point. But no, nothing seemed to stick for Texas. In fact, later in the first half and for a bit in the second half, Florida State grew so confident in Texas’ inability to find those holes, they moved in tighter on the handlers.
Late in the game, the Texas defenders really stepped up and helped to break away by five breaks come the end for the 15-10 win. Taking advantage of small mistakes by the Florida State handlers, they rushed to the disc on every opportunity. The turns forced by the Florida State handlers came off the heels of handler pressure – large marks in the faces of DUF, and when the handlers were hoping to receive the dump pass, every single opportunity was heavily contested. In the first half when on offense the Texas cutters were avoiding the open spaces, in the second half the throws from one side of the field to the other lead the flow of the game, and the Texas cutters into open spaces and in strong positions to continue their assault on Florida State.
Texas finished the game strong, going on a 4-1 run against Florida State. Will Driscoll especially looked energized, finishing with 3 goals and 6 assists in the game. It all ran through him when he was on the field, and when he wasn’t, Texas seemed confident in their strategy to keep pushing against the physical Florida State. DUF meanwhile, looked defeated. They did not yet know their fate for the rest of the tournament was already decided.
With Tufts winning their first game of the day against UMass the round earlier than this game, and North Carolina beating up on UMass in the same round, Florida State would be eliminated from contention for the two pre-quarters posts up for grabs. The expectations that followed the team were not able to followed, and the team collapsed in one of the tougher pools at Nationals this year. In their final game of the day, against North Carolina the eventual pool winner, the veteran offensive line and a defensive line of rookies and subs mostly, showed the energy the squad had shown at other tournaments. This season was still alive and well even if their chances at glory were not.
Texas meanwhile, would have a strong game against Tufts to decide where each team fell in pre quarters play. They would hold onto win 15-11 in the same fashion that they were able to take down Florida State. Using a strong and consistent offensive line, that even through adversity was still able to put the disc into the endzone, they pulled out the win. This set up a pre-quarters matchup against Central Florida, the defending Nationals runner-up from the year before. That game too would fall in a similar fashion. The defense of Texas was important after UCF took an early lead. The offense hunkered down in the second half and helped withstand the attack of the Dogs of War, running perfectly executed plays off of the pull, and perhaps getting a little bit lucky.
In this tale of two teams, Texas is moving on to see Oregon Ego in quarterfinals after strong play on both sides of the disc starting in the first game of the day, and continuing through their last two. Florida State meanwhile bypasses the expectations set upon them this season as they start to look towards heading home, and what next season has in store.