(Top team qualifies for the UPA College Championships)
What a weekend! Players were met with howling wind and driving rain Saturday morning; the clouds were terse and gray, disavowing any hope of sunlight, warmth, or an easily run tournament. Despite this, the weekend was full of excitment and surprises that made it more than worthwhile.
In the A pool, Madison-A made quick work out of their opponents and finished the day with an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. GOP fell well short of expectations after a strong Sectionals finish by dropping all of their pool play games, eliminating them for Sunday. Marquette played well in the brutal weather despite a few shirtless (and possibly brainless) athletes to take second in the A pool. Madison-B, despite their small roster size, managed to last out the long day to take third.
In pool B, Carleton walked through the competition as easily as Madison had. Before the tournament started, Tim Murray predicted that no team had a shot at upsetting Madison and Carleton's date with destiny, and after pool play results, things were certainly looking that way. Winona State played well against the two bottom seeds in the pool and secured a spot to prequarters. St. Thomas pulled a minor upset against Milwaukee, aided by the savvy handling of David "Becky" Bequette and consistent offensive movement from Brad Raggozino to take third in the pool.
The C pool featured a number of exciting upsets, including the most surprising team of the tournament. The St. Olaf Bezerkers came into this pool as the last seed, but shocked everyone by upsetting Iowa State and Iowa to take second in the pool. Coached by Sub Zero captain David Truesdale, this team was pushed to excel and adapted well to zone defenses. They used their throwers well to keep the disc moving and played a good position game. Minnesota started out looking sluggish against St. Olaf, but pulled out a win. They defeated Iowa fairly easily, but found themselves down 8-10 against Iowa State during the last round of pool play. Coach Charlie Reznikoff called a crucial timeout and pulled the team together. Minnesota came alive and stormed through the Iowa State defense, using Kyle Gill as a battering ram to take the next three points and win 11-10. Iowa State ran a short but very talented rotation throughout the weekend, lead by The Chad Larson Experience standouts Jon Staron and Mike Lun. One could almost consider these two the poor man's alternative to Goldstein and Rupp in the way they run their offense and breath life into the team morale. Their defeat of Iowa kept them alive for Sunday with a third place finish in the pool.
Pool D was a surprise from an outside perspective, but anyone who has watched Ben Nalezny play could have predicted this one from the start, especially when considering the weather conditions that favor the St. Cloud State offense. St. Cloud faced Luther in the first round of pool play, and while Luther is a talented team with innumerable athletes, they looked uncomfortable in the wet windy weather. Naz glided through Luther's zone D, throwing his patented break throws to talented young athletes and pulling a first round upset against the top seed in the pool. St. Cloud played a similar game against Whitewater and upset them as well, but curiously lost a last round game against Gustavus Adolphus. It didn't matter; Cloud had won their pool, and if there was an MVP trophy for this tournament, Naz would have been the unquestionable winner. Gustavus played hard all day Saturday, but lacked the depth to compete in the tournament's toughest pool, losing their first two games against Luther and Whitewater. Luther and Whitewater battled it out to determine the 2nd-3rd place finishers. I was more excited about this game than any other on Saturday, but the weather cut short what could have been a thrilling battle between two very evenly matched teams. Whitewater won 10-7 in a timecapped game with a brutal number of turnovers.
Luther faced up against Marquette in the first prequarters matchup and won quickly. Whitewater faced sectional rival Madison-B in their prequarters game, and while it was surprisingly close for most of the first half, Whitewater eked it out for the win. St. Olaf faced off against an exhausted St. Thomas squad late in the day and cruised to the quarterfinals. The final prequarterfinals game featured a battle scarred Iowa State versus a well rested Winona State. Staron and Lun looked like they had run a marathon to warm up for this game, but gutted out an extremely gutsy win against a surprised Winona State, 15-13.
Quarterfinal matchups at 9am initiated THE FINAL COUNTDOWN. If someone had been playing that amazing song over the PA system, I would have been a lot happier. Maybe next year.
Carleton faced up against Luther and were undoubtedly looking past them. They hadn't counted on the moxy of "Geo", a serious all-region candidate and big time player for Luther. Luther plays well against the top teams (they took Madison to double game point at Terminus, remember?), and they proved it here, keeping the score within a couple of points for most of the game. At halftime, they requested an observer due to a number of contentious calls, but the game settled down in the second half and Carleton ended up winning as expected.
Minnesota faced off against Whitewater in a very evenly matched battle of talented but inexperienced teams. Minnesota had the edge for most of the game, utilizing Eddie's big hammers and Pat's awe inspiring athleticism to beat Whitewater's zone D. Whitewater gained a couple of breaks late in the game to make it extra close, but a couple of big league skies from Kyle Gill put this one away in Minnesota's favor. Coach Reznikoff made a number of new friends in this game, which was nice to see.
St. Olaf and St. Cloud faced off in a battle to see who Jesus loves more. This one was tight the whole way, but Naz's throws gave St. Cloud the edge and a spot in the semis.
In the last quarterfinals game, Iowa State put forth a valiant effort against the Hodags, but found it tough to compete against the boys in blue after an arduous weekend with short numbers. Madison wins.
At this point, our fields were shut down by the UI rec fields department, so we moved the two semifinals games to a park in a residential neighborhood. Cars lined the streets, as the fans started to pour in for a highly anticipated finals matchup. I parked my car illegally and got a ticket from the Iowa City park board, but those bastards will never see a cent of my hard earned RC money.
Minnesota was thirsting for CUT blood after their monumental upset of Carleton in the 2005 sectionals finals. That was the last time these two teams had met, and Minnesota was ready for another win. Unfortunately, the super strong wind put Minnesota at a monumental disadvantage, forcing Kyle to stick near the disc and keeping the overthrown deep looks well over Pat's head. CUT wins 15-7.
I was observing the CUT-MN game, so I didn't get to see anything that happened in the other semifinal, but it sounds like Wisconsin beat St. Cloud fairly easily.
The finals was just as exciting as people had hoped. What a game! Close the whole way, both teams very evenly matched, and it really could have gone either way. I can't wait to see how the video recording turned out. Everyone on the globe who cares about the results knows them already, so I'll just recap my impressions of both teams.
CUT looked very good, and it's a damn shame they won't be at the College Championships. Easily a quarterfinals team. They're short, but very strong with the disc. They break the mark well, they throw upwind well, and their offense is very well structured and well suited to the team's strengths. Rupp and Goldstein are the best tandem in college ultimate and nearly unstoppable on offense. If this team gets one or two fast tall guys next year, watch out!
Ben Hahn, as people have noted, played an incredible game. This guy is super clutch. He toed the line for a layout score upwind and played big on D all game. Every time Goldstein and Rupp were looking downfield, it was to Hahn.
Leon Schneider did a great job of filling in as a handler and a cutter and did a lot of little things to keep the offense moving.
Carleton has a freshman named CK (Chris Kodesnar, I think?) who is going to be someone to watch in a couple of years.
What can you say about Madison? What a team! Dan Heijman and Tom Burkly have done an exceptional job of removing the ego from these guys and getting the load of talent on their roster to play out specific roles. Despite their overabundance of skilled throwers, stupendous athletes, and cagey defenders, this team is more than the sum of their parts. Dan H. did a remarkable job of closing off Chris Rupp's break throws with a solid mark all weekend and came up with a pivotal layout D when Carleton was marching the disc upwind. Dan is good.
It seemed as though every time Madison needed to make a big catch upwind, Rodrigo Valdivia (Madison's Callahan nominee) was open, willing and able to do the job. "Gigo" played a steady hand the whole game, keeping his cool and playing an instrumental part in virtually every upwind Madison score; he also played great defense against Goldstein on the other side of the disc. Gigo definitely wins my MVP award for the finals and should receive serious consideration from Callahan voters.
Dan Miller came through with a big D on a jump disc in the air. I think his feet were above the heads of everyone else in the cluster. I think that may have been his only D because no one on CUT could get open on him. Sometimes the best Ds are the ones you don't see!
Drew Mahowald came through with a couple of big plays as well. This guy is quite an athlete.
Shane Hohenstein played great as well, making some key upwind throws, playing tough defense all game, and capping the game with the upwind score to win it.
Tom Burkly, Nate Hurst, Rebholtz, and Muffin all threw very well against the big gusts of wind. If things turn sour in Columbus, these guys and their throws will keep the cogs turning.
Ted T is fast fast fast. He was one of the only guys this weekend who was able to chase down the downwind lasers people were putting up.
All in all, a great weekend despite the conditions, and thanks to the efforts of Colin Yoder, Elijah Edwards, Josh Bald, and the rest of the Iowa folks, things went very well.
Good luck in Columbus, Hodags!