Last year’s finals rematch was the best game of the first round. Blackbird and Polar Bears were trading points and breaks, each working upwind with style and excellent throws. Polar Bears tried to huck upwind a few times but quickly gave up that strategy after their throws were quickly grounded. When they switched to working the in cuts, they excelled upwind and took the first, crucial upwind break. However, Blackbird responded with a few breaks of their own, especially doing well with around break throws. Eli Janin and Brian Garcia took over for Blackbird, involved in many throws and assists. The game was tied at 10’s when Polar Bears began struggling with their dumps. The dump players were colliding and dropping easy discs, looking like they were starting to feel the mental pressure of the matchup. Blackbird capitalized on the turnovers and went up to lead 12-10. Polar Bears tried to stay in it, but they couldn’t narrow the gap. Alexa Kirkland had a fantastic left hand layout grab to win a long point for the Bears and make it 14-12, but Blackbird responded with a layout of their own as Brian Garcia dove in the back corner of the downwind endzone for the game winning score. Blackbird moved on to play Cosa Nostra while Polar Bears faced Chad Larson Experience.
CLX went up early on the Bears by effectively shutting down their dump offense. In addition, the wind was forcing a basically upwind-downwind game, and CLX was connecting on their deep shots more than the Bears were able to. Half time came at 8-4, and the Bears decided to restrategize and take a new approach. They began a "huck-and-zone" type of play where they would send it deep with a couple cutters and hope to get some turns. This worked out for a while and they brought it back to within a two point margin. However, CLX went on the run again, with big plays from a couple players that pumped up the team. They were beating the Polar Bears women by running an atypical 4 women offense, letting players like Cami Nelson, Magon Liu, Becca Miller and Melissa Gibbs (just to name a few) make big plays. They put the game away 15-10, and Polar Bears went to watch Blackbird’s tight game against Cosa Nostra to see where they would end up in the pool.
Cosa Nostra has been playing close games with the best teams at the Championships yet weren’t able to secure the wins to keep them out of pre-quarters. They started the game against Blackbird up a couple upwind breaks, crucial points that would keep them ahead until 12s. They were throwing very impressively and the cutters were working hard to create open side options. In some instances, they even worked the disc upwind the whole field on the openside, making Blackbird extremely frustrated. This game saw a lot of calls as well; Blackbird was even assessed two TMF penalties which could have been costly. However, late in the game, Blackbird began capitalizing on drops from Cosa Nostra, and scored a couple upwind breaks of their own by methodically working under cuts. At 13-13, Cosa Nostra was on the doorstep of another score but turfed the throw to the endzone. Blackbird worked it upwind to score and got the chance to work it downwind for the win, taking the game 15-13. This put Cosa Nostra in the pre-quarters, set to face American BBQ.
In the other power pool, Drag’n Thrust had a great day with a comeback win against The Ghosts. Though the Bostonians got an early break, Drag’n was able to fight back and make some key grabs in the second half. Austin Lien, James Hron, Pat Niles and Jay Drescher all dominated on both offense and defense throughout the game, pumping the team up with big plays but staying impressively relaxed to continue successful offensive flow. Drag’n took the pool with a 15-12 win over The Ghosts.
In another Pool F game, Slow White struggled to contain Odyssee. Slow White had secured an early lead, even towards the end of the game at 12-10, with a game to 14. However, Odyssee was not ready to give up, and minimized the turnovers to rattle off a couple breaks. The game was tied at 14 when a Slow White player threw the disc just a couple inches to low for his teammate to make a play. Odyssee remained calm, though their excitement was mounting, and with a break and a swing, a cut to the breakside was wide open for the quick score. Odyssee defeated Slow White, forcing Slow White into prequarters against Mischief.
The prequarters games were very exciting for two different reasons. In one game, the 16 seed Cosa Nostra defeated American BBQ with throwing consistency is the strong wind. BBQ had a few turns on the edge of their endzone that let Cosa Nostra take over and launch huck after huck upwind. Though they rallied back with a great layout from Sarah Carnahan and Steven Chang, BBQ was unable to catch up enough to stop Cosa Nostra. The Cinderella story of the tournament: Cosa Nostra moves from 16 seed to quarters!
The other prequarters game saw the most crucial upset of the tournament so far, with Slow White was facing off against Mischief. Mischief’s hucks weren’t connecting in this game as well as they’d like, but they were winning downwind points by being comfortable with throwing away hucks to force Slow White into a poor field position. However, Slow White was able to take advantage of occasional lulls in the wind and work it upfield to put a few upwind breaks on the board. Slow White led the first half with strong play from Chris Waite, Lindsey Neubecker and Dave Truesdale, but the second half was a different story. Mischief turned up the heat on D, putting 6 breaks total on the board to rally back. Though the wind was clearly hurting Mischief’s throws, their legs kept them in the game as they made difficult defensive plays look easy. For example, Chris Farina had a huge layout D in the endzone on the player that he wasn’t guarding after Slow White had worked it all the way downfield, laying out feet above the ground to smack the disc down. With strong upwind hucks from Captains Kevin Smith and Matt West, Mischief clawed back to end the game with 5 breaks in a row and take the spot in quarters 15-13. This is the only the second time in eight years that Slow White has not qualified for quarters at the Club Championships.