2016 Masters Championships - Day Two Recap

Posted: August 5, 2016 09:29 PM
There weren’t many real surprises in the men’s or grand masters pre-quarters. With the exception of BigWheel knocking off Shadows in the grand masters division and Woolly Mammoth upsetting North West in the masters division (after being down 1-6), the higher seeds won across the board. If anything raised some eyebrows, it was how long it took Revueltos to fend off the Beyondors. They ended up with a solid 15-9 victory, but the Beyondors were the first to break. Revueltos got back on track and took half up 8-5 before running away with the game in the second half. 
The most exciting games were in the women’s division. Hot Flash managed the upset of the round by defeating Terra, and Retro and Lame Duck both mounted impressive comebacks after slow starts stay alive in the championship bracket. Retro faced Winnipeg Mint, and it didn’t look promising for the North Carolinians to start. Turnovers were frequent, and Mint was playing clean offense after the turn. After going down 3-6, Retro cleaned up their offense and, more importantly, turned up the intensity on defense. They fought their way back to a 14-10 win. A couple fields away, the Safari-tarians, who had a rough day one – going 0-3 – jumped out to an 8-4 lead on Lame Duck, the overall four seed. Safari didn’t play especially well on day one, so they had room to improve given their talent. They also added a couple reinforcements for day two – big ones. Manisha Daryani and Arthi Padmanabhan showed up for Saturday morning and made a big difference on the field for the Safari-tarians. Lines got tight for both teams late in the game, but particularly for Lame Duck. Jenny Fey played every point down the stretch, with Crystal Davis, Katie Shepley, Ashley Daly Morgan and Sarah Itoh also contributing heavy playing time. Lame Duck tied the game at 10-10, and the teams traded to 12-12. The final points were turnover heavy, often influenced by good defense rather than questionable decisions. Both teams had chances, but Lame Duck eventually won the war, scoring the last three points to earn the 15-12 win. Of note, Jenny Fey threw three of Lame Duck’s final five scores. 
Despite any excitement about heading into the quarterfinal round, only one game across all three divisions really ended up being close. True to their form this weekend, No Country went down against Endless Sunset but mounted a late comeback to stay alive. After being down 8-10, they tied it up at 11-11, traded holds and broke for 13-12, then 14-12 before winning 15-13. In the end, it comes down to experience and the comfort that is the result of having played together for years. They may yell at each other on the sideline, but when they’re back on the field together, those emotions have calmed, and they take care of business. 
Surly v. Alchemy was close for the first half, but Surly pulled away after the break, outscoring Alchemy six to one in the second half. Johnny Walker jumped all over their regional and cross-town rivals, Bighorn, and ran away with the game. Final score 15-3. The gap wasn’t quite as big, the story was similar for DinoSlam and BigWheel. The southerners outperformed their initial seeding this weekend, but "slammed" into a wall against the guys from Portland. DinoSlam went up 4-1 and never looked back. Final score 15-6. 
The higher-ranked seeds also took care of business in the men’s division, with every winner pulling away early, leaving little doubt by halftime who was going to emerge victorious. Johnny Encore broke to start against Black Cans & Highlands and tacked on a couple more to take half 8-4. Black Cans is a solid team, but Encore’s depth is hard to match up with. Ryan Farrell made it to the fields today, giving Encore an extra boost in their quarterfinal. Rest Stop and Surly also took early leads, against Woolly Mammoth and Pacemaker, respectively, and never looked back. The match up of the round in the men’s division looked to be the Real Atlanta v. Revueltos game – largely a rematch of the 2009 National Championships final. But the offense familiar to Chain Lightning fans everywhere was working this afternoon – deep shots on deep shots bracketed by cross-field looks to open receivers who managed to find their way behind the defense. Strong team defense, with help defenders dropping off on deep shots earned Atlanta their break chances, and they took advantage. Their first break came for 3-1, and they stretched the lead to 8-4 at halftime. Atlanta held onto their edge to a 15-12 win. 
The final score doesn’t really show it, but the best game in the women’s division was between Seattle Mint and Denver Molly Grey. Molly Grey started the day with a bye and apparently need some time to get their initial shakiness out of the way. Mint had their chance to do that during their pre-quarter game and used their "warm-up game" to their advantage, tallying the match’s first three points. The score was tied at 3s and again at 6s before Molly Grey really found their form. They doubled-down on their defense, taking away the under cuts and using their speed and height to get Ds when deep looks when up. Molly went on a four-point run to go up 10-6 and only allowed Mint two more points in the game, for a final score of 14-8. Sally Lambert was nearly unstoppable cutting downfield, and the ever-reliable Holly Greunke anchored the offense. With women like Dena Slattery to supplement the handler/cutter corps and Christina Contreras providing a big target downfield – not to mention the cadre of other strong players – Molly Grey is hard to match up with from top to bottom. Elsewhere in the women’s division, Salty, Loose Cannon and Lame Duck each earned sizable wins to advance to the semifinals.   
Denver has a chance to complete the hometown sweep!
Johnny Encore defeated Rest Stop 15-10, largely on the back of intense defense. Encore contested nearly every throw throughout the game and played heads up downfield, earning themselves more than one help D when a defender in the stack saw a throw go up. They are a deep team with a number of athletes who can play anywhere on the field. Guys like Adam Simon and Bart Watson, guys known for their handler-heavy roles, each found themselves on the receiving end of hucks during the course of the game. Their offense was smooth, oftentimes just working their way down the field with in-cuts to the open side, with occasional resets and swings to the break side just to open up space on the force side again. In the other men’s semifinal, the Atlanta offense that was clicking so well during the quarterfinal round struggled against Surly. The game was still close at half, with Surly up 8-7, but they stretched their lead in the second half. The teams traded hucks for the final two points – a dime throw from Calvin Oung in stride to Asa Wilson gave Atlanta their 10th point, but Surly returned the favor – their huck landed them just outside the end zone, but a reset throw to Dave Klink gave him the easy look to Kevin Ryan for the game winner: 15-10. Tomorrow, Surly will make their eighth finals appearance in 10 years.
Johnny Walker put together an impressive semifinal performance of their own against DinoSlam. Aside from their last pool play game against Alchemy (which they won, but in a tight game), DinoSlam had rolled their way through the Masters Championships. Until they squared off against Johnny Walker. Johnny Walker is a deep team full of role players. And everyone on the team has embraced their individual roles. While many teams bring big rosters to the championships, not all of them may get a ton of playing time. Johnny Walker spreads the playing time around – guys go in, give it their all for one point and come off to rest. It works for them. They got an early lead and ran away to advance with the semifinal round’s biggest point cushion at 15-8.  
What does it take to beat that experience we were talking about earlier? More experience! Despite being down in every game save one before the semifinals, No Country kept finding ways to win. Until the semifinals. A team with a winning tradition as great their own, Surly was a formidable opponent for No Country, and they had the mental strength to hang onto their lead, not getting overanxious or overzealous when they had a small cushion. They stuck to their game, maintained possession, and rode out their lead to a 15-11 victory. 
The women’s division semifinals were two very different games. Both were close, but they styles of play varied greatly. Molly Grey and Lame Duck focused on spacing, quickness and solid timing in keeping their offenses moving. On the next field over, Salty and Loose Cannon were taking a lot of shots they thought they might be able to complete. While Molly Grey and Lame Duck kept trading points, the Salty-Loose Cannon match up was a game of runs. 
Just given their playing styles, the Salty-Loose Cannon final was never going to be turnover free. Salty has height and, justifiably, likes to use it. Loose Cannon is a team of risk takers. And they’re feisty – sassy seemed to be a pretty agreed-upon term for them. They’ll take their chance, but they also don’t give up easily on defense, constantly grinding to earn additional chances. Salty went up 3-1, so Loose Cannon switched up their defensive looks a little and tied the game at 6s. Salty went on another run to lead 10-6, but again Loose Cannon countered, narrowing the gap to two. Unfortunately for Loose Cannon, they couldn’t close the gap any further, and Salty went on to win the battle of attrition 13-10. 
As I mentioned, Molly Grey and Lame Duck just kept trading. Lame Duck broke to lead 6-5, but Molly Grey got it back after half to regain the edge at 9-8. While many teams this weekend didn’t quite the depth necessary to match up with Molly down the line, Lame Duck did. Watching battles like Sally Lambert v. Samantha McClellan, Tracy Woo v. Jenny Fey, Dena Slattery v. Sarah Itoh, and many iterations of those and other similar match ups was incredibly exciting throughout the game. But even with their all-star line-up, Lame Duck likely wouldn’t have been in the game the whole way without Jenny Fey. One of my notes from the game actually says, "Oooh Jenny Fey" after a particularly beautiful hammer. A similar thought crossed my mind after she launched perfect huck bomb to Ashley Daly Morgan late in the game. All the usual suspects showed up for Molly Grey in the semifinals, with performances from Lambert, Slattery and Courtney Kiesow, among others. It was anyone’s game throughout, but a couple fewer mistakes from Molly Grey, which got them a late-game break, and their slightly more patient offense (not to mention their countless impressive defensive plays), earned them the win 15-13. 
Looking Ahead
So the hometown teams have a chance to sweep, and Johnny Walker, the only returning champion from 2015, has a chance to defend their title. But Surly does have a good track record when it comes to winning gold medals at the Masters Championships.
Finals Schedule:
10:45 a.m. – Grand Masters Final: Denver Johnny Walker v. Minneapolis Surly
11:30 a.m. – Women’s Final: Denver Molly Grey v. San Francisco Salty
12:15 p.m. – Men’s Final: Denver Johnny Encore v. Minneapolis Surly
Play also continues tomorrow in the placement brackets, with games deciding final spots all the way from third to 16th getting underway before the finals begin.
Check out all the results from the weekend on the Masters Championships event page and on the USA Ultimate mobile app.

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