The day began with essentially every team still in the hunt to make the mixed division championship bracket, and the teams came out like they knew it. The first round included two double-game point finishes in addition to a marquee match up between Seattle Mix-a-lot and Philadelphia Forge in Pool A.
Seattle and Philadelphia both brought a ton of intensity and sideline energy to their game, knowing the winner would have still a shot of finishing atop the pool. Seattle is one of the more complete teams in the division – they do a good job of spreading the disc around and utilizing their women. They all look comfortable with the disc in their hands, but they also have Kate Daugherty directing traffic on the field from her spot in the handler corps alongside the likes of Carly Campana, Stephanie Phillips and Cylas Schooley. Forge often came down in a zone defense that relies heavily on a huge cup. With 6’6" Josiah Zulauf playing on one side of the cup, putting his giant wingspan in front of the disc can easily rattle the thrower. Unless the thrower is Daugherty. Her poise never wavered, and she still managed to find open receivers all across the field. On the other side, Forge relies heavily on the height of Zulauf – both with planned deep shots in his direction and for high-stall, bail-out throws. They worked on several occasions; Seattle’s roster includes just one guy listed at 6’0". But in the end, Seattle’s well-rounded attack put the game out of reach. They won 13-9.
The pool’s 4 v. 5 match up was one of the first round’s double-game point contests. After a hard-fought but turnover-heavy game, it came down to a power cut to the front cone on the open side. Both teams had opportunities to score that final goal, but South Dakota SoDak came away with it, defeating Atlanta flATLine 12-11.
In the day’s second round, Forge defeated San Diego Powerline, and Washington, D.C. Swing Vote defeated SoDak, both convincing victories, to lock up their spots in the championship brackets, along with Mix-a-lot. But to figure out in what order they would emerge, Swing Vote and Mix-a-lot still needed to square off. That match up came in the day’s third round. The stars from both teams showed up, but so did some uncharacteristic mistakes. Drops and a handful of execution errors made the game messier than expected. It’s almost as if zone defenses work in Seattle’s favor – despite teams usually running them to bottle up powerful offenses – because it forces them to take their time and allows Mix-a-lot to showcase their impressive disc skills. Swing Vote’s game swings more toward the explosive end, largely thanks to big receivers like Joe Freund. The teams seemed to take on a little of each other’s styles in their match up, with more deep shots going up from Seattle and more quick-moving, shorter offense from D.C. They traded a break a piece early on, getting back on serve at 4-3 before Swing Vote tacked on a couple more breaks, heading into halftime up 8-4. Seattle couldn’t close the gap; Swing Vote rode out their lead to a 13-9 win, the top spot in Pool A and a bye into tomorrow’s semifinals.
The Bay Area Happy Cows are good. That’s really the bottom line. In what was ostensibly the game that would lock up the top spot in the pool, the Happy Cows took on Oregon Flood, the 2014 champions. Flood is a strong team, but the Happy Cows ran away with the game, never giving anyone reason to doubt they’d win. Their offense is incredibly efficient, and they do an admirable job of sticking to their system. It probably helps that it works so well. On defense, they run wall version of zone that completely stifled the Flood offense. The Flood handlers were patient, doing a good job of swinging the disc, but they were nearly unable to gain any positive yards. After forcing yet another turn, the Happy Cows converted for 6-1 on a nasty fingertips layout grab into the end zone from Michael Fodor. They just kept on rolling through the second half to close out the game 13-6. The Happy Cows closed out their day against Minnesota Superior in a game that didn’t matter for their overall standing. The Happy Cows won that one 13-10.
The most exciting, and important, game of the day was between Utah Swarm and Maine Rising Tide. To advance to the championship bracket, Utah needed to win by at least six points. That would put them through in the three way tie at 3-3 in Pool B, while a Maine win would put them solidly in the third spot at 4-2 overall. Even if Maine lost, they would need to lose by more than that six-point margin to be knocked out of contention. Swarm played a solid game and got some help from a few monster plays – like the incredibly layout hammer grab for the halftime goal from Alex Dehlin and multiple great Ds from Garrett Martin. Wilhelmina Graff and Lauren Hall also had good games for Swarm. Utah had a three-point cushion at halftime, and stretched it to 11-7. If Utah was able to score the final two points, they would find themselves in the championship bracket. But Rising Tide was just as adamant about advancing. They made a couple runs in the second half to keep their hopes of advancing alive, on the backs of great play from the likes of Dex Dremann, Evie Clement and Andrew Muscadin. In addition to a good heads-up D, Muscadin pulled in Maine’s final three goals, putting them through to tomorrow’s quarterfinals. They’ll join the Happy Cows and Oregon Flood in the championship bracket.
Directly after their lengthy final pool play game against Utah, Maine Rising Tide headed into their quarterfinal against Seattle Mix-a-lot. Overall, it was a clean game, with both offenses largely taking care of business. Lines tightened even more in the quarterfinals for both teams, but particularly for Maine. Their big guys – a chunk of the Falmouth High School crew in Ben Field, Dex Dremann, Sawyer Wood and Andrew Muscadin – were nearly permanent fixtures on the field, with a few others offering brief respites on occasion. For the ladies, Marijke Rowse, Evie Clement and Grace Stoughton got a fair amount of playing time. But like in their previous game, most of Rising Tide’s scores ended up in the hands of Muscadin – turns out he’s really fast. Often times, the throws came from Field or Dremann. Seattle tried a few different match ups on Muscadin. Amanze Oleru may have been the most effective, largely due to his leaping ability, but Muscadin still had a huge game. As soon as he gets more comfortable with the disc in his hands, he’ll be an even more impressive force. Even with Rising Tide finding success in their deep game, Seattle largely stuck to what they know works. They again had a few uncharacteristic turns (with Maine often returning the favor), but their talent is unmistakable.
The teams traded early breaks before trading points all the way to 8-7 before Seattle was able to convert another break chance. Again scores were traded until Mix-a-lot found themselves up 12-11, looking to win on offense. A ridiculous save from Carly Campana, laying out sideways to save the trust throw put up to her that floated just past her outstretched fingertips on her first attempt, kept the disc in Seattle’s hands, just outside the end zone. Campana took an injury after her rough landing on the catch; Elizabeth Crach subbed in and, with a quick flip of the disc to Noah Kregenow, Mix-a-lot advanced to the semifinals.
In the other quarterfinal match up, Philadelphia Forge was taking on Oregon Flood. Forge also stuck with what has worked for them all weekend. For them, it’s their tall zone cup. They have some strong throwers, but they’re not quite as experienced as the Seattle handlers who were able to navigate around and through the long-armed cup. Forge also got some help from telegraphed and/or slightly lazy throws near the cup which were easily knocked down. Zulauf didn’t shrink any between rounds either (go figure), so deep shots to him were still a big part of the Forge offensive arsenal. Philly got the lead early, thanks to several of those quick Ds by their cup that earned them the disc near their end zone, and never relinquished it. After going down by three, Flood worked their way back to within one before Philadelphia pulled away again. It took some work from Forge to close out the game – after getting the turnover, they called a timeout, which was followed by messy offense, with lots of crowding around the disc and nowhere to throw. Flood unintentionally bailed them out with a late-stall foul, and just before the new stall count was set to expire, an easy break-side toss into the end zone got Forge the win. They advance to face D.C. Swing Vote in the semifinals tomorrow morning.
The mixed division semifinals get underway in Blaine at 8:30 tomorrow morning. While Forge takes on Swing Vote, Mix-a-lot will face the Bay Area Happy Cows.
The potential for a rematch of last year’s lightning-interrupted finals between Swing Vote and the Happy Cows is still alive and well. But the semifinals come first. Expect to see a battle between Swing Vote’s Joe Freund and Forge’s Juengst, as the team from the District tries to neutralize Philly’s biggest offensive weapon. As the teams with arguably the best offensive systems in place, Mix-a-lot and the Happy Cows will face off in a battle of efficiency.
The mixed division champions will be the first ones crowned this year, with the finals kicking off at 10:30 a.m. CT.