Recap: 2011 College Open D-I Regionals (Ohio Valley)

Posted: May 4, 2011 01:01 PM

Open Division

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Ohio Valley
Regionals Recap
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Disclaimer:  The authors of this review are both Pitt Ultimate affiliates, and as such have a much higher familiarity with Pitt than with Penn State, which is reflected in the names used in the recap.  Apologies to Penn State, who proved they have many players who are extremely capable, and I hope to hear more from them in the future.
At 12:30 on Sunday in Manheim, PA, every ultimate Frisbee team on site was wrapping up games while captains and coaches figured out where they would be heading in the next round.  The eliminated teams and those enjoying forfeit victories flocked to Field 1 for the first ever Ohio Valley Regional Final.  Penn State SPANK was corralling their bags and loose ends as they made the short trek from the adjacent field to begin preparations for regional finals.  After dispatching an exhausted Ohio State team that came back from a seven-point halftime deficit to upset the two-seed Ohio University, PSU was hoping to ride the momentum of a 15-8 victory to upset their long-time sectional rival.  Pittsburgh was staying hydrated and appeared loose and unconcerned after what from an outside perspective would appear to be a surprisingly trying first five games.  There had been much chatter about Dickinson College’s 15-12 narrow defeat at the hands of the heavy favorites on Saturday.  Philadelphia Southpaw standout Jake Rainwater made life difficult for En Sabah Nur and the O-line seemed to not be quite awake, conceding multiple breaks before the D-line could get Pittsburgh back on top.  Millersville then, in semi-finals with all-region nominee Dave Keshel out with a low-grade LCL tear, tightened the screws on Pitt in the second half to go down swinging, 15-10.  By comparison, Penn State had survived its own first round near-upset in a universe point victory over Kenyon to win the remainder of their games by an average of over 7 points.  The possibility of an upset was very present in the minds of the spectators and players.  After winning their semi-finals, Pitt had gone as far into the regional tournament as they had ever gone before, and for Penn State it was their first regional final appearance since their two-year UPA ban ended in 2008.  At 12:55 the teams were making last second adjustments following the captains’ meeting with the observers.  In an inversion of last year’s 15-4 sectional final, Penn State would be in their sublimated blues receiving from Pitt, who in their whites were pulling slightly downhill and downwind.  It was overcast but warm, and the winds had dropped from their 20 mph+ the previous day to a negligible 5 mph.  Hands were up, cameras were pointed, and the regional final was underway.
Right out of the gate Penn State’s team inexperience in high-pressure games was apparent as they committed an unforced error leading to a quick break for Pitt to start the game off 1-0.  The butterflies showed for both teams on the next point as Penn State and Pitt traded unforced turnovers.  PSU began to settle more into their offensive style after the turnover.  PSU would run a theoretical “vertical stack,” with players clearing quickly and efficiently to cut from the middle, but never being stagnant enough for a line of stacked players to appear.  Penn State relied on competent handler movement to get a high percentage upfield throw to the break side, where they would work it back to the open side with good team skill, speed, and vision.  Throughout the game, Penn State never proved to be able to get open and continue downfield through all their players, and never seemed to show a weak link.  However, the Pitt defense contained PSU’s movement for several swings until State took a break look upfield that fell between two cutters.  Pitt picked up and scored quickly again to go up 2-0.  PSU received and patiently worked it up the force side as cutters got open on 10-30 yard in-cuts to get back to within one, 2-1 Pitt.  From that point on Penn State looked more focused, but would be playing catch-up for the remainder of the game.  Pitt’s offense took the field and scored within 20 seconds to extend the lead to 3-1 and the teams started to settle down into a more offensively unrushed game.  Penn State would score on an open forehand huck, while Pitt would string a few away passes together before Alex Thorne threw a quick low backhand break to keep the differential at 2.  The light breeze picked up as Penn State received into a light 10mph wind.  Though small, the difference may have been appreciable as Penn State put up a break backhand huck that led to the first of the big banner plays that Pitt would make to separate themselves from their opponents.  The disc floated just a second too long, allowing Eddie Peters to undercut the PSU cutter as the disc settled down to about eight feet in altitude.  Peters jumped at about 45 degrees, tucked his legs up and back, and landed softly and athletically with disc in hand.  Pitt would swing and hit open under cuts until Jason Kunsa saw Jay Huerbin cutting away with a step on his defender.  The State defender did well to catch up and got a hand to the disc to mack it forward, but Huerbin got his arms around it to trap it against his chest to give Pitt an energetic break.  PSU looked unfazed upon receiving, but a throw to an in-cut popped up in the air near the sideline.  The PSU cutter was able to jump up to catch the disc, but couldn’t land before his momentum took him out of bounds.  The teams traded D’s before a completed huck turned into a flip for the goal, 6-2 Pitt.  PSU came out crisp again and made it look easy on offense, using their all around team speed to find the space when it opened up, taking it down the force side again to close back to within three.  When an attempted greatest by Tyler DeGirolamo fell to the grass in PSU’s endzone, Penn State looked to be picking up momentum on the sideline.  A huck to Brian Nevison, who came very close to two impressive layout Ds by this point, hung in the air too long.  Nevison was outsized by Chris Brenenborg, who caught his D and after a few throws Pitt would convert to keep the differential at 4, 7-3.  The teams would then exchange efficient huck completions to serve out the half with Pitt up, 8-4.  

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PHOTO CREDIT: William Brotman

The play began to look a little less contained coming out of half, as Pitt turfed an open side throw given PSU another chance at a break.  Again, Pitt’s playmakers stepped up as a big huck hung too long, allowing Tyler DeGirolamo enough time to poach off his man and do what he does best, going over the top of the three players under the disc to get the skying D.  For the second time in the point, Pitt would make a decisive play on a 50/50 ball to give their team momentum.  Isaac Saul’s huck was short for Andrej Ababovic, who came back and ripped the disc down put of the hands of a better-positioned Penn State defender on a simultaneous catch for the goal, 9-4 Pitt.  PSU seemed to be feeling the situational pressure and put the disc on the ground, where Pitt would find it and transition to a quick break that changed the tenor of the game.  There is a huge difference between a 9-5 margin and a 10-4 margin, and with the game seeming to be in hand Pitt’s coaches took DeGirolamo out of the game to prevent any possible injury to a cramping hamstring. Penn State would convert on offense after a bricked pull, and then take advantage of DeGirolamo’s absence by converting their first break of the game.  Pitt responded on the next point as a Julian Hausman huck bladed over Alex Thorne’s head to Degirolamo’s O-line replacement Geoff Zettel, making the score 11-6 Pittsburgh.  The teams traded unforced turns after another bricked pull and State again converted on an open huck look.  On the following point, Thorne’s quick forehand to Hausman got caught by the wind and turned into a hospital pass.  Hausman got fouled attempting to pull the disc in, and although he seemed to jump too early and not have a play on the disc, the call was upheld and Pitt retained possession.  Thorne threw another low backhand break to give Pitt a 12-6 lead late in the game.  Pitt briefly attempted a junk defense, but Penn State shredded it and capitalized on the ensuing transition confusion to cut the score to 12-7.  Pitt appeared to lose some focus late, as Isaac Saul hit Alex Thorne after a long point that saw both teams throw unadvised turnovers.  PSU worked the open side on the ensuing point against Pitt’s substitute D-line players, bring the score to 13-8.  The teams traded uneventful O-line points to bring the game to 14-9 Pitt, with Penn State pulling.  Pittsburgh’s O-line players moved the disc quickly, completing seven passes in about 15 seconds before Ababovic hit Saul on the break side, sending Pitt through to Nationals and ending Penn State’s successful season.
The storyline of the game in the end was that Pitt got big players from their top players in decisive moments.  Even though Penn State had a very high amount of all-around skill on their roster, they didn’t have the starpower.  To quote Jay Huerbin after finals, “I feel like Penn State is one big playmaker away from making nationals.”  Meanwhile, Pitt is making their seventh straight appearance at nationals and constitutes a legitimate title contender.

  • Ohio State broke seed by the highest margin, coming in as the 8 seed and finishing tied for third with Millersville.  Ohio dropped seed by the highest margin, coming in as the 2 seed but finishing tied for 7th with Shippensburg after consecutive losses to Ohio State and Cincinnati.
  • The UPA ban put Penn State a few developmental steps behind, but with this year’s 2nd place OV regional finish to follow their 4th place finish in ME Regionals last year, SPANK is on its way back to national relevance.
  • Pittsburgh has qualified for Regionals the last seven years and in all of those years they have made nationals, with this year being the first time they broke with tradition and won a regional final, a well-known pattern that was busted.  Pitt will be looking to bust a lesser-known pattern in Boulder this year, having lost to Carleton 15-12 in pre-quarterfinals in 2008, 16-14 in quarterfinals in 2009, and 15-9 in semifinals in 2010.
  • Millersville seemed to come out of oblivion this year to grab third place in the region behind the play of seniors Matt Esser, Dave Keshel, and Dave Kelley.  They’re rightfully pleased with a successful season, but will be facing a rebuilding challenge in the coming years.
  • As coach of Pittsburgh-B, I didn’t get to see any of the other games besides ours and finals.  From my limited exposure, however, I want to take the time to recognize the best players our team was up against.  Though our game wasn’t much of a contest after the first five points, Ohio players Mitch Cihon and Kevin Hanzel were the best players we found ourselves up against.  The team seemed to respond to the mood set by Hanzel at all points, and the ease of motion by he and Cihon displayed the abilities both players have.  For a further review of players deserving mention at the tournament, see the Ohio Valley All Region post started on RSD by Pitt’s Eddie Peters.


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PHOTO CREDIT: William Brotman

Final Standings:

1 - Pittsburgh
2 - Penn State
3T - Ohio State
3T - Millersville
5 - Cincinnati
6 - Kenyon
7T - Shippensburg
7T - Ohio
9 - Dickinson
10 - Case Western Reserve
11T - Carnegie Mellon
11T - Drexel
13 - Edinboro
14T- Pittsburgh-B
14T - Toledo


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