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Middlebury wins 2013 D-III Open Championship

Posted: May 20, 2013 03:08 PM
 

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Scoreboard
 

Quarterfinals

Stevens Tech (3) vs. Wake Forest (4)

The match up of the three and four seeds in the quarterfinals reminded everyone that perhaps the initial seeding on Saturday was not perfect. Both teams proved their athleticism and ability to make incredible plays all day on Saturday. Both teams also lost to the third seed in their respective pools in the first round of the day and followed up by rolling through the rest of their pool play match ups. The game started level, but Stevens Tech quickly jumped out to a 6-3 lead. With few turns coming on either side, Tech efficiently took advantage of Wake Forest’s miscues. Neither team was afraid to boost the disc deep and let their cutters make plays. Wake Forest got one break back, but Tech still took half 8-6. Coming out in the second half, Wake Forest looked deep immediately, but Mason Compton’s (#11) phenomenal sky saved the score, and Stevens Tech marched down the field to break, going up 9-6. Wake Forest would not go away and responded with a run of a few breaks to tie the game at 10s. The two teams traded holds until 13-13, and hard defense on both sides generated turns and break opportunities. Eventually, Stevens Tech would hold onto its slim lead, and with soft cap on at 14-14, surge to a 16-14 victory and a spot in the semifinals. 

Puget Sound (1) vs. Harding (2)

In what many spectators expected to be the finals match up, Puget Sound and Harding met two rounds early and provided one of the most intense and exciting games of the entire tournament. Both teams earn their deep looks, staying patient until an open opportunity presents itself for any number of capable players on either team to rip a huck downfield. Both teams played incredibly close games on Saturday and were ready for this intense match up. Puget Sound got the first early break and went up 3-1. After trading points to reach 4-2, Harding broke back to even the score at fours. Harding quickly earned another break to take their first lead of the game at 6-5. However, as they proved in their game against Lehigh, Puget Sound could rally and rattle off a few breaks of their own, coming back to go up 7-6. Tied at sevens and both looking to go into half with a lead, the Postmen received and, after marching it up the field, called a timeout on the goal line. Jonas Cole (#33) tapped the disc in and immediately threw a beautiful low release, around backhand break to take half. Harding would hold coming out of half, and shock UPS again with another break to go up 9-8. A Puget Sound huck sailed out of the end zone, and Harding converted once more, putting the Postmen in a position all too similar to previous day. The Postmen buckled down, held their next offensive point and broke Apocalypse twice to go up 11-9. It was just that kind of game. The two teams traded holds again before a misguided hammer from UPS allowed Harding to execute their huck game for a break, going up 13-12. UPS came back with a huge sky from Sam Berkelhammer (#44) to tie the game at 13-13, game to 14. Eric Hopfenbeck (#23) came up huge for the Postmen, skying Harding’s deep cutter. Hopfenbeck eventually streaked deep and made an easy two-handed grab over his defender to win on universe point. 14-13. 

Claremont (5) vs. Amherst (7)

In another match up of relatively similar styles, both teams primarily sought to make smart throws to under cuts instead of looking deep. After a disappointing start to the tournament, Claremont came out fired up and ready to take it to the upstart Amherst squad. Although even without Lock Whitney, Amherst remained confident in their system and their depth. The Braineaters jumped out to an early lead, breaking Amherst to go up 3-2. The Army of Darkness came right back with a hold and a break to put the game back on serve. Claremont looked a little unsure after being broken but came right back and did the same to tie the game at fives. After trading points to reach 7-7, Claremont pulled to Amherst. The point to take half proved to be the most intense of the game yet, with huge layout blocks coming from both sides, including a phenomenal bid by Army of Darkness future captain Giaco Corsiglia (#16). Despite Corsiglia’s efforts, however, Claremont pulled out the long point to take half. Right out of half, Braineaters captain Devin Drewry (#15) got a great D on an Army of Darkness huck and took off downfield for a great sky to go up 9-7. Amherst turned it again, but another great layout from Corsiglia and subsequent strike cut for back-to-back bookends brought them back within one. The score went back and forth before an incredible Amherst run to go up 12-10 behind the exceptional play of Stefan Breitling (#80) and Fred Shipley (#55).  The Braineaters were not about to roll over and struck back with a hold and a break from Drewry. With the game tied at 12s, both this game and the Puget Sound v. Harding game themselves at universe point at the same time with fans on both fields excitedly shouting to one and other about the respective scores. In the end, Amherst could not be stopped, and with a final monster sky from Corsiglia, the Army of Darkness advanced to the semifinals.

Middlebury (10) vs. Lehigh (12)

Every other quarterfinal featured top eight teams, but this particular match up demonstrated what these teams thought about their initial seedings. Lehigh’s almost takedown of the one seed and Middlebury’s thrashing of their pool set the stage for an exciting game. Ultimately, the Pranksters proved their dominance again, jumping out to an early 7-3 lead over Lehigh. Between their smothering defense and athletic offense, Middlebury dominated Lehigh the rest of the game. Middlebury’s defensive line deserves a lot of credit for pressuring Lehigh handlers into misthrows and converting turns efficiently. Lehigh was unable to reduce their deficit in the second half, and Middlebury rolled off the last few points to win 15-8.

Semifinals

Stevens Tech (3) vs. Puget Sound (1)

UPS struggled throughout the tournament to maintain its leads and avoid deficits, and Stevens Tech quickly took advantage in jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Behind the strong play of Berkelhammer and Cole, Puget Sound got back in the game with a huge outside-in flick huck. UPS got a break after an errant Stevens Tech around-flick blade to the end zone, and worked the disc down the field to score. They followed up with another break on another Tech end zone miscue to go up 5-4. The Postmen love going up-line and throw a lot of floaty strikes that allow their handlers to run onto them and gain yards while surveying the field for hucks and continuation throws. While the strategy worked well and allowed UPS to eat up yards, it also allowed poaching defenders to break early and grab Ds. Stevens Tech did just that and hucked for a score. An errant scoober on the goal line gave Tech the disc back after pulling, and they converted to break and go up 7-5. Stevens Tech had a another layout block on a UPS strike cut, and after several overthrows and defensive plays to turn the disc back and forth, Tech’s Mason Compton (#11) was able to throw a beautiful around break to Jonathan Lee (#22) for an easy score and to take half 8-5. The Postmen’s resiliency showed itself again with a hold and subsequent break on a huge huck. Tech’s Marques Brownlee (#82) got a finger on the huck, but the UPS receiver still pulled it in for the score. The teams proceeded to trade points to 10-10. In the course of trading points, two TMFs were issued to Stevens Tech players, the first for repeated illegal marking and the second for an offensive cutter not involved in the play preventing his defender from making a play on a floaty huck by boxing him out. After a Tech misthrow, UPS quickly scored to take their first lead since being up 5-4 in the first half. The Postmen were fired up, and Stevens Tech looked a little rattled, throwing much riskier passes than they had in the first half and miscommunicating several times on their cuts. After adding another break, the Postmen held off a late run from Tech and took the match 15-13. Daniel Mozell (#4) caught the Postmen’s winning huck easily, continuing his excellent play throughout the tournament. 

Amherst (7) vs. Middlebury (10)

On the other side of the bracket, Amherst and Middlebury matched up in a New England regional showdown. The two teams missed each other at the Regional Championships and relished the opportunity to take down their rivals. Middlebury came out strong, holding their first offensive point and quickly jumped on an Amherst miscue to break immediately. On the ensuing point, Amherst turned the disc on the Middlebury’s goal line, and the Pranksters were able to march it down the field, using their solid handlers and systematic cuts to earn another break and go up 3-0. Amherst held their next point, but Middlebury countered by scoring three straight to bring the score to 6-1. While the Pranksters’ defensive line played hard man defense and forced high pressure situations, most of Amherst’s turns seemed to come from miscommunication and poor execution.  Both teams got a little sloppy going into halftime with misfired hammers and hucks, but Middlebury continued to roll in the second half, going up 10-5 on the Army of Darkness.  Taking advantage of Amherst miscues gave Middlebury another two breaks and a dominant 12-5 lead. The Army of Darkness scored three straight to bring the game a little closer, but it was too little too late. The Pranksters closed out the game using two enormous blades to work down the field and score to win, 15-10. Middlebury ran fairly strict offensive and defensive lines, trusting every member of the lines to work hard – and that trust paid off. The Pranksters rolled through to the finals, undefeated on the weekend and without any serious threats.

Finals

Puget Sound (1) vs. Middlebury (10)

The Division III National Championship finals featured one team everyone expected to be there. UPS’ beautiful handler movement kept teams on their heels all season, and their hucking ability forced teams to scramble to keep up with their core of athletic cutters.  They demonstrated their tenacity time and time again, with come back wins against Lehigh on Saturday and Stevens Tech on Sunday and an incredible universe point win over Harding in the quarterfinals. The Middlebury Pranksters, on the other hand, rolled over their competition, shattering their initial seeding and proving their dominance. Both teams execute their handler resets well and have cutters with reliable throws to continue moving the disc easily. The crowd that assembled to watch the last game of the season added another factor for consideration, especially with the rowdy UPS parent section. 

The Postmen pulled to start the game, but the first point proved a little disappointing with unforced turns and overthrows coming from both teams. Each team had at least five possessions they failed to convert. However, after a Postman defender successfully poached the cutting lane and came up with the D, CB Wolf (#10) pulled down a disc over a huge crowd earning UPS the first point of the game and a break. After a few miscues on the ensuing point, Middlebury’s Will Lones (#2) scored on a nice around break. Back on offense, UPS would turn the disc on Middlebury’s goal line, but the Pranksters gave it right back allowing the Postmen to punch it in on a short field. The Postmen threw their 3-3-1 zone defense, got a great footblock, and Daniel Mozell (#4) skied his defender to break again, going up 3-1. Middlebury regained their composure behind main handler Davis Whitehead (#4) who proceeded to catch a goal, get a huge layout block on the next point and immediately huck to break the Postmen back and tie the score at threes.

At this point, the wind really began to pick up and affected both teams’ throws and ability to read the disc. UPS ran their typical handler motion while Middlebury continued to huck successfully. Then the Pranksters kicked it into gear and rolled three straight break points on the Postmen behind the play of Nathan Kawolski (#9). With the Pranksters up 7-4, UPS took a timeout to reassess the game and their strategy. With a nice high release around break flick, UPS held their next offensive point, but their bracket defense could not stop Middlebury, and Whitehead threw another score to Arnosti (#10) to take half 8-5. With the conditions making the game largely upwind-downwind, UPS desperately needed a break. The Pranksters poachy defense on UPS’ vertical stack seemed to be working well, clogging up their handler motion and taking away their first looks up-field. 

Out of half, UPS scored easily running strike cuts down the length of the field. After a few turns on both sides, including a Middlebury turn on the UPS goal line, the Postmen worked the length of the field through their cutter continuations to break back to pull within one at 7-8. With contested calls coming on both sides of the disc and physical downfield defense, the game started to get a little chippy. After a UPS footblock on a Whitehead huck, UPS utilized their give-and-go offense between Mozell and Hopfenbeck to earn back another break, tying the game at eights. The wind really picked up, and both teams began to punt the disc downwind to play defense and work for a shorter field.  Both teams had multiple turns during the next points, and offenses did not look confident in their ability to move the disc upwind. With the game tied at tens, soft cap went on, and the game was capped at 12. UPS came incredibly close to breaking upwind, which would have given them a downwind defensive point and an almost sure victory; however, an overthrow led to a quick Middlebury score from Whitehead to Lones. To counter, Mozell ripped a huck to Peter Geertz-Larson (#14) on the next point to tie the game at 11-11, setting up universe point. Starting on offense, the Pranksters immediately hucked it and gave chase down the field to play defense. After Mozell turfed an around break, Middlebury took advantage and punched in the score to win an exhilarating final and earn the title National Champions. 

Congratulations to both teams for playing a great game and to every team who came out and put it all on the line this weekend! The multiple upsets and comebacks proved how far Division III ultimate has come, and I think the future is looking even better. 


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