2015 Westerns - Day One Boys' Recap

Posted: May 31, 2015 03:54 AM
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Despite the cloud cover in the morning at the Crystal Lake Sports Park in Corvallis, Ore., the only storm brewing was on the fields. 

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Pool B

In the first round, in Pool B, we saw Summit Storm, Oregon’s boys’ state champion, under new stewardship this year, as long-time coach Luke Smith passes on the reins to Aaron Switzer and Dylan Darling, pitted against Gunn High School from Palo Alto, Calif. After coming out to a commanding 9-1 lead, through a punishing pace of deep shot after shot from Summit seniors Cam Ficher and Taylor White to anyone with a step, but especially sophomore Kyle Switzer. They capitalized on their athleticism and won personal match ups to grind out their lead. Gunn wouldn’t go down easily, though, clawing back with a 6-1 run to bring the game to within six points. Summit’s first-half lead proved insurmountable, and they held on to take the win. Summit went on to play cross-state rival and state champion runners up, the South Eugene Axemen. South Eugene, a team with historically strong showings at Westerns, came out firing and broke early to take a 3-1 lead. Despite a strong three-assist showing from Summit’s Kyle Switzer as well as a massive layout block from senior Ryan Schluter, Summit was only able to bring it within one at 7-8. While their athleticism continued to carry Summit, they weren’t as able to get back turns from the honestly surprisingly stingy South Axemen offense. Though South Eugene often looked stagnant downfield, their handler core led them, particularly junior Aaron Rogers who finished the game with over half of the team’s assists and a goal to boot. South Eugene would took as long as they needed to find their opening downfield and held on to take the win 9-7.

Summit and South Eugene both dropped games against Pool B’s top seed and the runner up at the Washington State Championships, the Franklin High School Quakers. Franklin was able to capitalize on several missed Summit hucks, after they had become used to creating pressure on their opponents by pushing the pace of the game. They now found themselves in the hot seat as they seemed unable to keep up with Franklin’s lighting-fast handler movement coupled with receivers hungry for 50/50s. Freshman Marc Munoz had some particularly impressive grabs. Franklin not only does a great job moving the disc quickly but also demonstrated an impressive ability to call shots at an extremely fast pace: At one point, junior Ivan Lee caught an under pass and turned and shot off a flick huck to a receiver barely 10 yards ahead of him, but out to space with such precision that the receiver never had to change speed. While Summit’s miscues on hucks cost them against Franklin, neither South Eugene nor Gunn, the fourth seed, could keep up. Franklin held seed and took the pool 3-0, while the Oregon contestants, South Eugene and Summit, finished the day 2-1 and 1-2, respectively. Gunn ended up 0-3 after a heartbreaking come-from-behind, double-game point loss to South Eugene.

Pool A

Gunn was not the only team that would lose a heartbreaker. In the third round of the day, in Pool A, the Berkeley High Coup, the eighth overall seed and second seed in the pool, faced off against the one seed overall and Washington state champions, Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale looked practically untouchable in their first pool play games, both 11- 6 wins over crosstown rivals Ballard and Ingraham. Both Ingraham and Ballard were able to put points on the board, but Nathan Hale looked to be in control the entire way with a defensive decision to switch to man D instead of zone against Ballard being the nail in the coffin. In the third round, however, Nathan Hale’s star-studded cast of upperclassmen, most notably Zach Johnson, who dominated on both sides of the disc, and Will McDonald and Liam Batemen, all left to attend Nathan Hale’s prom. But they left Hale in the impressively capable hands of  Manny Eckert and freshmen Ben Perkel and Gabe Port. Nathan Hale went up early off of glossy handler movement and break throws, Hale’s throwers seemingly uninhibited by the mark. A dropped pull for Berkeley led to another break on a quick one-two huck from Hale’s Echert to Zach Airith. Berkeley clawed back into the game with the help of Colby Chuck, Jeremy Dolezal-Ng and Efejon Ustenci, In one spectacular play, Ustenci picked off a huck, leaping up and snagging it midfield, only to sky huge again on the other end of a nasty breakmark backhand huck from Chuck. Berkeley eventually upset Nathan Hale 10-9 and took the pool with a 3-0 record. In the bottom half of Pool A, Ballard eked out a 10-8 win over Ingraham with stand-out play from their big man, senior Henry Weigand, to hold seed and take third in the pool, relegating Ingraham down to fourth.

Pool D

No upsets were to be had in Pool D as the Northwest School marched through the opposition 13-4, 13-2 and 13-6, which came against California state champions Atascadero. Atascadero’s showing at Westerns, however, has been less strong so far, as they suffered several injuries. Homegrown team Corvallis High nearly upset Atascadero in their match up in the second round. After going up 9-6 using patient handler movement through Atascadero’s zone, led by junior Andrew Lewis, Corvallis struggled to keep up after Atascadero’s defensive switch to man, highlighted by back-to-back layout blocks from senior Isaac Mort. The blocks forced double-game point, and Atascadero pulled out the comeback victory, 13-12. Despite more huge plays from Mort and his younger brother Ryan Mort, Atascadero couldn’t hang on against the quick and explosive Cleveland, a Seattle-area team, who went 2-1 to hold seed over Atascadero and Corvallis.

Pool C

The upsets would return, however, in Pool C, a unique pool containing only three teams and games to 15, while the other pools played to 13. The pool featured the Roosevelt Rough Riders, the overall nine seed and second seed in the pool, led by Kai Marcus who demonstrated his impressive throwing ability, handily leading his team in assists, but also proved his worth as a downfield receiver as well. In Pool C, Roosevelt was set against Monarch High School from Colorado, the second-place finishers at their state championship, and Garfield, another Seattle-area school and crosstown rival of Roosevelt. The Roosevelt Rough Riders handled both Monarch and Garfield, with close 11-8 and 12-8 final scores, but those scores are closer than they games felt. Roosevelt’s efficient and dangerous offense always looked poised and rarely looked forced. Their offense breezed the Riders into their crossover round against Berkeley, who they handled just as easily, 11-7. While often the crossover round is the most exciting and contentious round of day one, as it usually provides berths to the quarterfinals or pre-quarters, in this crossover round, the quarterfinal team had already been determined, and the crossover results only effected the quarters seeding. As a result, almost all of the teams took their feet off the pedal and coasted through the day’s final round. Most notably, Nathan Hale, who seemed untouchable earlier in the day, took a loss against Berkeley in their last pool play game and dropped another game to Monarch 6-11 in the crossover round; they nearly didn’t play the second half due to concerns of heat stroke and cramping. Franklin also took a cavalier approach to the crossover round, playing a defensive line of only six players to save legs for the tomorrow.

Looking Ahead

On the horizon for bracket play in the morning, we see top-seeded Roosevelt taking on bottom-seeded Summit; Monarch v. Franklin; Berkeley v. South Eugene, a rematch of 2013 Westerns final; and Ballard taking on the undefended and reigning Westerns champions, the Northwest School. The big question heading into tomorrow is whether the seeding going into the quarters will be a factor, and if so, for whom.

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