2014 Nationals - Men's Division Day 2 Recap

Posted: October 17, 2014 11:49 PM

A recap of Friday's action in the men's division at the 2014 National Championships in Frisco, Texas.


2014 Nationals Men's Division:


Today might go down as one of the craziest days in Nationals history. Both of lasts year’s finalists are out. Replacing them are last year’s seventh- and 11th-place teams in GOAT and Ring of Fire. Double-peaking – reaching your zenith at both the World Ultimate Club Championships and the USA Ultimate National Championships – is really difficult, and perhaps that explains some of what went on today. But no matter the cause, it was an uncanny day of ultimate in Frisco.

Also, if you have any reasonable theories as to what the heck is going on in the men’s division, please be sure to share them with the rest of us. 


Headline #1: Revolver Falls Early

The reigning national and world champions started their day against Furious George, the tournament’s 16 seed. This morning, Furious managed to put up nine points on Revolver, at the time, the most points they’d scored in any one game. Revolver coach Mike Payne was happy with his team’s performance in the first round, citing their ability to keep lines open, resting many key players, while also getting the team ready for tougher games ahead. While scouting the Sub Zero v. GOAT pre-quarterfinal, he thought the better match up for his team in the quarterfinals would be GOAT; they have a more predictable offense than Sub Zero and rely less on deep looks, theoretically lessening the amount of running (and tiring out of their legs) Revolver would need to do to be successful. As it turned out, they couldn’t do quite enough.

Nats14 Thai D2M2
Photo Credit: Daniel Thai, UltiPhotos

Revolver kept their lines pretty open to begin the game, but when time started getting tighter, and GOAT was still up by a couple points, the stars really started to come out. Beau Kittredge ended up with five of Revolver’s 12 goals in the game. And as you would expect, on double-game point with their tournament on the line, Revolver loaded up with Cassidy Rasmussen, Russell Wynne, Ashlin Joye, Kittredge, Lucas Dallman, Robbie Cahill and Joel Schlachet: guys that have been making big plays for Revolver all year. But they needed a break to steal the win, and for the first time in recent memory, they couldn’t get it done.

Many people spectating at FC Dallas this afternoon assumed the game’s outcome was a foregone conclusion and didn’t make the trek to the far south portion of the field complex. But as word started to spread that GOAT was up on Revolver and could very well knock the overall favorite out of the tournament, fans quickly migrated toward their field, faces popping over and through the fence that surrounds Dr. Pink Stadium. GOAT took their time on double-game point, finding the open man with short passes. After one too many tight throws and high stall counts, they called a timeout. A couple quick passes and a scoober to new GOAT Mark Lloyd later, the Canadians had scored the upset of the tournament – a competitive field this year – and knocked the defending champions out of contention.

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Photo Credit: Daniel Thai, UltiPhotos

Headline #2: Sockeye Knocked Out by Regional Rival Rhino

Like their Pool A counterparts, Sockeye also started their first-round match up by resting some of their stars. Sockeye and Rhino aren’t strangers. Given their geographic proximity, they see each other often, and Sockeye likely felt pretty confident in their pre-quarters draw. But the Rhino that showed up this morning was a different team than the one that showed up yesterday. The team that went 0-3 on day one played intense defense on day two, contesting every throw and earning themselves chances to break. Rhino’s offense was also firing on all cylinders. They didn’t give up the disc very often, and Sockeye couldn’t force the turn they needed on double-game point. Rhino held and stole the game, moving on to the quarterfinals.

Headline #3: Ring of Fire Bounces Back

After a less-than-stellar start to their Nationals 2014 campaign, many were questioning Ring’s ability to make some noise on day two, but that "many" obviously didn’t include Ring. As Ring coach Mike DeNardis mentioned yesterday, he liked their match up with Machine. Given Ring’s win over Sockeye, who utilizes similar offensive strategies to those of Machine, the confidence was justified. Ring stepped up their defensive efforts and clamped down on Machine’s handlers while crowding the cutting lanes. They stuck largely with a man defense but utilized switches to help hamper their opponent’s handler movement. When Ring got break chances, with a few exceptions, their defensive offense showed a new patience, quarterbacked by confident handlers like Tristan Green, Josh Mullen and Mark Evans. They got three straight breaks before half, fueled by their touted blue-collar defensive intensity. The cushion carried them to the time cap, and with one more break, they sealed the deal and a spot in the quarterfinals.

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Photo Credit: Brian Canniff, UltiPhotos

With Chain Lightning’s win over Prairie Fire, fans got the Southeast Regional final they expected to see two weeks ago. It was the same type of fiery match up it has been for years, with multiple TMFs being issued to both teams. Ring’s pressure succeeded in making life difficult for Chain; there were very few uncontested throws and not many open looks for the Georgians. The deep game Chain has been known for over the last several years was virtually nonexistent on Friday, and Ring’s various defensive strategies certainly didn’t do anything to encourage those looks. The North Carolinians had garnered a couple breaks by halftime and hung on to them long enough to come away with a 12-10 win. After a disappointing year in 2013, Ring is back in the semis at Nationals for the second time in three years.

Placement Brackets

2014 brought with it some changes to the Nationals format that give teams more chances to play into next year’s Triple Crown Tour Pro Flight, which equates to more meaningful games – always a good thing. So in the waning afternoon hours, teams were still battling to set themselves up for better opportunities next year.

Revolver responded with a vengeance after their loss to GOAT. They met Truck Stop in the semifinals of the fifth-place bracket, went up early and never looked back, winning easily 15-4. In the other fifth-place bracket game, Chain Lightning and Rhino fought all the way to double-game point. Again, the intense, hard-nosed Rhino took the field, this time donning their baby blues as opposed to their easy-to-find neon greens, and worked hard to make Chain create offense outside of Nicky Spiva, Jared Inselmann and Joel Wooten. On the other side, Chain matched up some of their best and quickest defenders, guys like Byron Liu and Nicky Spiva, on Rhino’s Dylan Freechild, trying to keep the disc out of his hands. Defense won the game for Rhino, converting a break opportunity to seal the game, and Freechild still ended the game with two goals and one assist, but the one-on-one battles were entertaining to watch. Rhino will meet Revolver tomorrow morning in the finals of the fifth-place bracket.

In the seventh-place bracket, Sockeye barely withstood a solid effort from PoNY, pulling out a 14-13 win, with help from a great possession-saving layout on the goal line from Justin Lim on game point. The win kept Sockeye alive for a spot in next year’s Pro Flight, while PoNY drops down to play Temper for 11th place. On the other side of the bracket, Temper continued to surprise people with their athleticism and ability to put up points but couldn’t withstand Doublewide, falling 15-13. Relying heavily on the chemistry the Thorne brothers, Tyler DeGirolamo and Pat Earles have developed over the years, Temper surpassed a down-on-themselves Machine in the first round of the seventh-place bracket. Somewhere along the way, Max Thorne became one of the best deep receivers (far) under 6’0" in the division at the ripe old age of 21. He managed to come down with four goals in the Machine game alone. No matter what happens against PoNY tomorrow morning, Temper has to be pleased with their first-ever Nationals performance.

Semifinal Saturday

Tomorrow, the two remaining early favorites, Ironside and Johnny Bravo, will take on Ring of Fire and GOAT, respectively, in the semifinals.

Historically, Boston teams have been like kryptonite for Ring of Fire. Ring hasn’t managed to beat Boston’s top men’s team in about two decades, a streak that extends back long before Ironside was founded. The closest they’ve come in recent memory was at the U.S. Open in 2013, an event held in Ring’s backyard. Ring surrendered a lead late in the semifinals to lose on double-game point. But if they can maintain the same level of intensity they showed today, no matter the outcome, it should be a fun game.

Ironside continues to do what needs to be done to keep advancing, but given their abundance of talent, oftentimes, they look a little rough around the edges. In particular, their offense stagnates at times. And their end-zone offense clogs under tight defensive coverage, forcing both throwers and receivers to make plays in uncomfortably small windows.

On the other half of the bracket, Johnny Bravo will take on GOAT. Given their track record with Revolver this year – a blowout win in pool play at the U.S. Open but three straight losses to them in bracket play – Bravo is probably pretty excited about tomorrow’s match up. Bravo’s offense is undoubtedly more explosive than GOAT’s, but the Canadians could provide some interesting match ups for Bravo’s defense, particularly downfield. The prospect of a potential Stanley Peterson or Hylke Snieder defensive match up against the likes of Mark Lloyd or Cam Harris should be enough to get fans ready to use #SCTop10 early and often. 

Standout Performances

  • Abe Coffin has been a consistent force for Prairie Fire through the first two days of play, accounting for seven goals and 11 assists so far. But the stats don’t reflect the effectiveness of his initiating cuts or his ability to break down a zone defense or get open at will to keep the offense moving.
  • Ring of Fire rookie Hunter Taylor had a pair of huge layout Ds in the end zone during the team’s quarterfinal match up against Chain Lightning, resulting in at least one break and plenty of momentum for Ring.
  • Chris Mazur’s visor (PoNY) – nice work finding a visor with a 3D foam lion face.


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