2010 Easterns Saturday Pool Play - Open Division

Posted: May 15, 2010 08:35 PM

Round 1
Pennsylvania powerhouse Mt. Lebanon faced Virginia’s L.C. Bird in a 2/4 matchup in the B pool.  Both teams played aggressive zone defenses for the duration of the game, with Lebo running a four-man cup, and Bird running a three man cup.  Hunter Taylor anchored Bird’s defense, moving around between wing and deep positions to produce impressive sky- and layout-Ds.  But Lebo’s central handlers, Eli Stoever and Joe Bender, proved patient and talented enough to work the disc through, over, and around Bird’s cup, and they propelled Lebo to a 12-8 win.

And even though Watchung Hills ended up cruising to a solid victory over Lincoln-Sudbury, Taco Wagon gave the Warriors a scare with its unorthodox zone.  Taco Wagon’s 1-4-2 zone produced two quick breaks and brought the game close before the Warriors took half.  But in the second half, the theme of patient handling prevailed again, with Alan Kwok, Stephen Silva, and John Barnum dumping and swinging the disc to lead the Warriors to a 13-5 victory.

The first round’s best game featured Middletown challenging Columbia HS in a 1/3 matchup.  “[Middletown] definitely surprised us,” said Columbia player and USA World Junior alternate Evan Walter.  For the majority of the game, Columbia had no answer for Middletown’s side-stack, dishy-huck-heavy offense.  Alex Wetherell and Sal Marino were able to feed Garrett Santi, Jonathan Aldieri and other cutters on the break and force sides with ease.  But the Firestarters’ run and gun offense did turn the disc over occasionally, and Evan Walter was able to guide the Columbia offense up the field to capitalize on those turns.

After Columbia took half 7-5, Jonathan Aldieri put the Middletown defense on his shoulders and led the Firestarters to two quick breaks.  His defense, and the defense of Garrett Santi and Jeff Baran, made Matt Wright, Eli Graves, and the rest of the Columbia cutting corps work for every in and every out.  But once the Firestarters tied it up, Columbia made some defensive adjustments, bracketing the Firestarters’ cutters and forcing the Middletown handlers to throw into tight spaces and rely on handler movement.   Columbia’s tight dump defense was subsequently able to produce enough turns and breaks to crush Middletown’s upset hopes.  The second-seeded CHS came out on top by a score of 13-10.

Round 2
Hailing from just outside Philadelphia, Haverford (HUDA) soundly defeated last year’s New York State champion, Stuyvesant Sticky Fingers, by a score of 13-5.  The game was a test of perseverance and patience, as Stuyvesant threw a three-man cup for the entirety and Haverford threw its own four-man cup.  While Stuyvesant’s Ruozhou Ye threw as many around backhands and inside flicks as he could, he couldn’t solve the problems presented by the HUDA zone alone.  Haverford’s zone offense, organized by captains Tyler Kunsa and Eric Shaw, was able to shred Stuyvesant’s zone and lead HUDA to victory.

The West Windsor Knights continued the trend of upset scares by driving the squad from Needham High School into overtime.   The Knights’ vertical stack offense, while stagnant at times, gave handler Scott Xu options on break and force sides, and his around/break flick was unstoppable, even by the best Needham marks.  Dharun Ravi and Derek Yan sparked the Knights’ defense with incredibly tight marking and layout Ds.  Xu’s throws and Windsor’s defense enabled them to take half on the higher-seeded Needham team, 7-6.

The second half was full of marathon points, intense defense, and hotly contested calls.  West Windsor broke to start half and go up 8-6, but when the wind picked up, stagnant cutters hurt the Knights’ offense.  Matt Bandes, Ben Krupp, David Lunetta, Tyler Chan and Brian Baker helped Needham capitalize on Windsor’s turnovers and rattle off several important breaks late in the second half to put Needham on top 10-9.  After the hard cap sounded, Needham took the final point and won 11-9.

James Madison Memorial High School drove Watchung Hills into overtime, as well.  Watchung Hills’ offense, based on quick initial handler movement and subsequent hucks, propelled the Knights to an early 3-0 lead.  Memorial made adjustments, though, taking better care of the disc on offense and implementing smart handler poaches up front on defense to neutralize Watchung’s initial handler movement.  Memorial proceeded to tie it up at 3, and it became an entirely new game.

The most entertaining matchup involved Memorial’s Logan Pruess and Watchung’s Alan Kwok.  Pruess unleashed full field hucks past Kwok’s mark for scores, while Kwok’s quickness and agility earned him several open strike cuts to keep the Warriors’ offense flowing.  Nick Allen and Rein Boyd also provided solid throws and cutting for Memorial, while Scott Hampton and Is Ulaj consistently got open under and produced Ds for Watchung.

After Watchung took half 7-6, Memorial tightened up their man defense and ate up errant Watchung hucks that hadn’t been thrown in the first half.  Memorial’s D earned breaks in the middle of the second half to go up 11-10, but their offense faltered shortly thereafter, throwing into poaches and failing to move the disc past midfield.  Watchung capitalized on these Memorial turnovers (with Scott Hampton creating some) to go on to a 13-11 victory.

Round 3
Hunter Taylor of the LC Bird Skyhawks gave Columbia fits early on with monster defensive play, and he often initiated LC Bird’s offense with a solid first throw or in-cut.  LC Bird jumped out to a surprising 5-3 lead, but the defense of Eric Nelson and sure hands of Evan Walter and Brian Phillips brought Columbia back into the game.  Columbia punched in several breaks, took half 7-6, and cruised to victory in the second half with a 13-7 final.

Holy Family Revolution matched up against Watchung Hills in an intense 4/5 matchup that ran into the hard cap.  While Warriors were cramping up left and right, Frank Strasser and Michael Bissonnette were working every defender assigned to them on the unders and on the outs.   Revolution had trouble converting in the redzone, though, forcing throws and falling victim to pressing defense by Scott Hampton and Stephen Silva.  In overtime, at 8-7 Revolution, Watchung’s Jayson Lian point-blocked a Revolution handler on Holy Family’s own goal line, but miscommunication and a bobbled dump gave the Revolution the disc back.  Had the Warriors scored, the game would have gone to double-game point, but the turn allowed the Revolution to regain possession, work the disc up the field, and score to win 9-7.

In other games, Memorial prevailed over Lincoln-Sudbury in a game that had many a marathon point by a score of 8-4, and Mt. Lebanon crushed Middletown 13-3.  USA World Junior team member Amos Adams and Amherst also cruised to victory 13-1 over Stuyvesant Sticky Fingers.

Round 4
The most intriguing game of the final round of pool play pit Virginia’s Yorktown/HB Woodlawn against Needham.  YHB broke Needham early and often; despite Matt Bandes’ best efforts at center handler, the YHB zone frustrated Needham throwers and trapped them deep in their own half.  The handling of Xavier Maxstadt and Jay Boyle helped YHB capitalize on the turnovers their zone forced.  Antoine David and Isaac McDonald cut efficiently out of YHB’s vertical stack and played aggressive defense.  YHB’s solid play on both sides of the disc and Needham’s shaky handling resulted in YHB being up 6-3 just before half.

After halftime, though, Needham put on an inspired performance, going score-for-score with YHB’s offense and rattling off several important breaks.  Ben Krupp, David Lunetta, and Tyler Chan came up with point blocks and layout Ds to lead the Needham defensive charge.  Early on, the Needham defensive strategy had alternated between man and zone looks, but YHB had always found ways to go over or around Needham marks and cups.  In the second half, Needham played tighter man defense and used straight-up marks to limit YHB hucks and keep YHB cutters honest.  Needham defenders were able to pounce on risky YHB in-cut throws and eat up errant swilly throws.

Once the soft cap went into effect, Needham had battled back to 8-8, forcing a game to 10.  Shortly after YHB received the pull, Needham forced a turn, and Manit Munshi streaked to the endzone to catch a score and give Needham its first lead of the game at 9-8.  With the game on the line, YHB marched down into the Needham red zone, but called a timeout it didn’t have, resulting in a turnover.  David Lunetta eventually caught the final score later in the point, and Needham upset YHB 10-8.

Amherst rolled past HUDA 13-1 (both teams rested their starters), Columbia found its stride and dismantled Lebo 13-3 (Caleb Williams caught four scores), and the Sticky Fingers topped Nashville in a hard-fought game by a score of 12-10.

Middletown’s inconsistent performance throughout the day left fans wondering whether or not they’d be able to pull things together to advance to the championship bracket.  If they were going to do that, they’d have to get through a crestfallen YHB team looking for revenge and a spot in Sunday’s top eight.

Both teams threw four-man cup zones early on, and both tried to force discs into tight spaces.  Despite risky throws, YHB looked to be in control in the early stages of the first half, as they were moving the disc through and around the Firestarters’ cup.  Once Middletown tightened up its cup and its wings became a little more aggressive, YHB’s flow was disrupted.  The strong defense of Jonathan Aldieri and impressive breakside throws of Sal Marino combined to help Middletown produce breaks and take half 7-4.

Middletown’s defense didn’t let up in the second half.  Big pulls forced YHB to try to break the Firestarter zone from deep in its own endzone, and YHB’s handling corps was not up to the challenge.  Middletown went on to win 13-8.

Mt. Lebanon and West Windsor were tied at 4-4 until Scott Xu and the Knights pulled away to a 9-4 victory.  Neither team could find holes in the other’s zone, but Xu’s impressive handling and Dharun Ravi’s great defensive zone play (on the wings and at the deep position) proved to be the deciding factors that broke the early stalemate and sent West Windsor into the quarterfinals.

Stephen Silva once again proved to be a central figure in the Watchung Hills offense, as the Warriors handily defeated the Nashville squad 11-7.  Nashville had trouble establishing offensive flow, and the Warrior defense pounced on risky and errant throws.  Silva, Alan Kwok, and others executed smooth offense against both man and zone defenses, dumping and swinging when necessary.  While the Warrior offense did have some red zone issues, their decision-making was largely prudent and made the difference in their victory over Nashville.

And despite a slow start, Haverford also ended up cruising past Memorial 13-3.