Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Missouri Loves Company 2015 - Colorado State Write Up

Colorado State finished the 2014-2015 college season 6th in the South Central region and 57th in the country. We wrapped up our regionals experience with a loss to Wash U in a rainy, Sunday morning game that saw us rally from 7-12 to tie it at 12s, only to lose 12-14. We graduated only two players from that squad with the majority of our team core playing club together over the summer and maturing their disc skills.

Our only fall tournament prior to MLC had been the Manhattan Project in Kansas. We went split squad, with our X squad eliminating our Y squad in quarters and CU-X in semis before falling in finals to the K-state alumni team for a 2nd place finish. Y went on to finishing 6th, losing in the 5th place game to a combined Kansas squad. 

We went into MLC as a one seed in pool H, which would leave us in a pre-quarters match up against the winner of power pool A. A pool that included both Colorado and Wisconsin. 

I'll elaborate at the bottom about my thoughts on the format, but it was a disappointing draw, knowing we'd face an elite program in pre-quarters if we managed to win our pool. We certainly wanted to play the best teams the tournament had to offer, but not in an early elimination game which would limit our ability both to place high in the tournament and to play the other top programs. Despite fielding an O-line made up of 6 first and second year players and junior captain Luke "Fitz" Doyle, we were confident we'd be able to hang with the established programs. 

Game 1 vs Air Force

We haven't played Air Force much since the 2010 split of D-I and D-III college teams removed them from our conference. When I was in college they were always a big, physical team in dominant shape, usually rounded out by a few skilled throwers. This year's edition of the team was no exception. 

The game was tight from start to finish. Air Force struggled with turns against our defense, but their athleticism and fitness forced a ton of turns as we struggled to get open against high pressure D. They bracketed our pull plays to disrupt our offense and stayed tight after transitioning. 

Their throwing ability wasn't deep across the team, but the newer guys were quite disciplined with their resets and they were able to keep the disc in the hands of their main throwers. 

We opened the game with a break on a nice huck to a diving Daniel "Chuck" Crump. We traded to 5-4 before breaking them again to take a 6-4 lead on a goal-line handblock from Matthew "Cookies" Bush, leading to a quick score. 

Air force's offense held and the next point they broke us to tie it at 6s. We swapped in our D line for an O point and dominated the field with a bevy of  break-mark throws, culminating in an easy score for half.

To start the second half Air Force again broke our O to tie the game at 7s. We traded to 10-9 before we finally punched in another break on a nice around break to make it 11-9.

Cap went on during the ensuing point and Air Force had the disappointing result of scoring the final point in a loss for an 11-10 final.

We didn't have a lot of time before our next game versus Indiana-Wesleyan but we committed to a more disciplined, focused offense after 27(!!!) turnovers in the Air Force game. Props to Air Force for finishing second in the pool and going 3-1 Sunday, falling on universe to Iowa for 18th place.

Hib 1-0

Game 2  vs Indiana Wesleyan

I hadn't previously heard of this team or school. Jake informed me they had one stud who played for Chicago Machine (updated!) and for the Indianapolis Alley Cats (Travis Carpenter, I believe). Normally, our game plan against teams with a specific stand-out player is to have 2015 all-region defender Cody Spicer match-up on them from start to finish with his incredible combination of length and quickness making their lives difficult. However, Cody hadn't practiced all fall due to lingering tendinitis in his knee from club season so our plan shifted to rotating different players onto Carpenter - the one common trait among them being a high-pressure, lanky mark. 

IWU started the game strong, breaking us early and taking a 4-2 lead. After our offense held to make it 3-4 we reeled off a quick three breaks to take a 6-4 lead. IWU wouldn't break us again and after an additional break in the second half we finished with a 13-9 victory heading into our bye. Freshmen Jake Marrapode had an absolutely monstrous sky to get the disc back for our O-line on a second half point. The region (and country) should be on notice: the kid can jump through the roof, has an absolute cannon forehand and played a key role on our O-line despite being hampered by a brace from a broken wrist suffered at club regionals. 

Props have to go out to Carpenter as he was involved in just about every score (either as a thrower or receiver) for his team. IWU was a good, young (?) team, and if they can develop players around him they'll be a very strong D-III team. 

Hib 2-0

Game 3  vs Harding

I won't elaborate much on this game. Harding was a fun, good-spirited team with some strong players, but they struggled against our pressure D and motion offense and we ended with a clean 13-0 victory.

Game 4  vs Minnesota-Duluth

This was the game we had circled in pool play as our make-or-break game. Ultiworld and other ultimate speculators had predicted Duluth would win our pool and make some noise in bracket play. We figured it would be a tight game and after the quick Harding game, the team was fired up to win the pool and finish Saturday a perfect 4-0. 

They had a couple of standouts on their team including the North Central freshmen of the year Marty Adams. We started the game on defense and opened up with a nice break. They held the next point and then immediately broke back putting the game back on serve. We traded to 3s, then the our dynamic marks took over. We rolled to half scoring four breaks in a row with multiple hand-blocks from freshmen James Bryce, taking a 7-3 lead halftime lead and receiving in the second half.

We punched in the first second-half O point in with crisp movement; all 7 members of the line getting at least one touch and that seemed to be the final straw for Duluth. With the exception of a nice run through callahan they would not score again. We finished out the game with our old blood/young blood line (5 first years and 2 fifth years), and a 13-4 finish. 

Duluth was a good team and played well. I think the fatigue of their travels coupled with some tough games against Air Force and IWU didn't leave them with a lot left in the tank for our game. 

I trotted over to tourney central, after the high-five line, just in time to see Wisconsin beat Colorado on universe point, and solidify them as our pre-quarters match-up Sunday morning. 

Hib 4-0

Game 5  vs Wisconsin (pre-quarters)

We arrived at the fields with a beautiful, chilly Sunday morning awaiting us. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the wind was very slight.

We were confident, even against a very good Wisconsin team, that we would compete, and knew that this was our chance to make some early season noise and secure our "up-and-coming team" status heading into the spring.

Wisconsin had steamrolled their power pool 13-3, 13-4 and 13-1 before the final game against CU to win the pool. Their warm-up was very heavily focused on their handler swings and rotations which I knew we be critical, as we specifically run disruption aimed at containing handler movement as much as possible. 

The game started out on serve, with both offensive lines having a few early miscues before settling on serve for a 3-3 score. I've been coaching and playing a long time, and generally in games like this (where the teams are still settling in and gauging each other), trades early are pretty common, before the better team pulls away. The wind had picked up a bit, not enough to change the complexion of the game, but it certainly made the upwind endzone tougher to huck towards.

On the ensuing offensive possession we bombed a down-wind huck short and Wisconsin got a power position up-wind huck on a quick transition which led to a break for them. The next offensive possession with us going upwind was brutal. There were 4-5 turns for both teams with us getting close to the upwind endzone several times only to have Wisconsin's D clamp down with excellent marking (two red-zone handblocks). They ended up finally taking the point and putting us into  a two break hole. 

We swapped in the primary D line for the next O point and freshmen Hudson Martin caught  a nice lay-out score on a deep. Wisconsin's O held on the next possession, then again broke us upwind to take a 4-7 lead (we played this game to 15). The offense answered punching in the upwinder on a nice 40 yard huck from last year's all-freshmen team standout Jake Servaty to last year's all-freshmen snub Jack Hinchsliff.

The defense took the opportunity provided with big man Sten Larson getting a run through D then catching the score for bookends 7-6 Wisconsin. 

We stacked a D line to go for the tie, but lost contain on a Hodag huck and Wisconsin punched in an easy, downwind score to take half 8-6. 

In the second half, Wisconsin look more comfortable against our disruption D. They aired out some crisp down-wind hucks through our poaches and we traded to 11-9 with Fitz making a crazy grab over 3 Hodags for the final offensive point.

With cap approaching and the ease Wisconsin was scoring I wanted to throw something different at their downwind O to try and get a transition freebie. We threw together a zone D (our one and only zone point of the tournament) to throw them slightly off their game and were rewarded with an uncharacteristic drop near mid-field on a low swing pass. The D punched in the break to make it 10-11 with 15 minutes to cap.

They scored their next O and broke us on a huge layout catch-D as cap sounded making it 10-13. We decided to play out the final point anyway, with the primary D line receiving the pull. After our pull-play huck score came back on a travel, the Hodags again broke us, for a 14-10 final. 

Congratulations to Wisconsin for a good game and for a smooth tournament victory as they went on to beat Minnesota 13-9, Missouri 13-6 and CUT 13-9 for an 8-0 weekend. 

The loss was disappointing but we were happy with our performance and enjoyed playing against a very good Wisconsin team.Thanks for the shout-out from Hodag Captain Craig Cox: "They were a huge surprise to us, we did not expect to have to play hard against them. The best thing they have going for them is their junky handler defense because it crushed our inexperienced players. A little more confidence and practice and the team could make some noise this year for sure."

Hib 4-1

Game 6  vs Wash U

We quickly moved from our pre-quarters field across the complex for the quarters of the 9th place bracket against Wash-U who had eliminated us at regionals the year before.

The team came out on fire taking half 8-3 and wrapping up the game quickly 15-5. We had opened the lines up a bit after a tight Wisconsin game and the young guys proved their worth, consistently running our offensive sets well and playing smothering defense en route to a good, solid win.

We then had a bye (?!?) before our next game against the winner of Iowa State/Notre Dame.

Hib 5-1

Game 7 vs Iowa State

Iowa State was an interesting game. I hadn't thought we looked fatigued at all during the Wash-U game, but our marks specifically were extremely poor for the duration of this game. Perhaps the weekend and our mid-bracket bye had finally caught up with us.

We run a defense predicated on containing the outside throws and our marks just couldn't make the appropriate shifts to stop the Iowa State around looks.

We ran much looser lines than earlier in the day, (as did Iowa State), but each team was only able to break the other team once, leaving us on serve at 10-10. We stacked a D-line, intent on finally taking the lead and some lock-down man-defense led to a high-stall huck from Iowa State which we converted to take a break.

We broke the next point as well to take a 12-10 lead, then finished the game on trading out with Iowa State scoring the final point making it 13-12, with hard-cap having already sounded, game over.

During the second half the Illinois captains informed us that they beat Purdue on the other side of the bracket but would be forfeiting the ninth place game, citing a long drive.

Hib 6-1 - Final Placement: 9th

Final Tournament Thoughts

I've coached at MLC for 7 of the past 8 years. The tournament directors and organizers do a wonderful job and the tournament is consistently one of the best-run tournaments our team attends. Even in past years with inclement weather, the organizers have done well with alternate schedules and field sites.

My only complaint (aside from weather in year's past) has been the format. Large tournament formats are very difficult, I understand this. I also understand that to attract elite programs to a tournament like this there has to be an incentive like power pools.

However, there are always teams that end up in a pretty crummy situation come bracket time, and the four round Sunday (especially with the bye thrown in this year for placement brackets) is brutal for teams (like ours) that have a long travel time.

People saw that Missouri made semis and immediately they're the surprise of the tournament. All the credit to them for doing well in their power pool, but the format gave them a very favorable quarters draw.

 I'm in no way trying to disparage any of the teams involved, and Wisconsin clearly was the top team at the tournament, but I believe places 2-10 came down to the dart-board of pre-quarters match-ups: either who was lucky enough to get one of the weak power pool teams, or unlucky enough to get one of the strong non-power pool teams.

I think Northwestern was a much bigger surprise of the tournament. They max scored their entire non-power pool, 13-2, 13-6, 13-2 and 13-6. They stomped an Illinois team 13-6 in pre-quarters who had beaten CUT and Minnesota in pool play. Their quarters match-up? Colorado: a super tight game and 12-13 loss to the team that won nationals a couple years ago. Their final game was a 13-8 dismantling of Texas.

Where does this leave us?

7-1 Iowa finishes 17th - their one loss on universe.
1-6 Notre Dame finishes 16th.
6-1 Northwestern who finished tied for 5th (their one loss by one to Colorado).
6-1 Colorado State team who finished 9th (their one loss in a tight game with Wisconsin).
A 10th place Illinois who had a strong Saturday only to face one of the top teams at the tournament in pre-quarters.

I understand the logic behind why Wash-U, Luther, Notre Dame were in power pools. This isn't mean to be a hindsight gripe, nor am I bashing these teams that didn't do well. It made sense within the format to place the teams where they were. The TDs did a reasonable job of placing teams based on the available information.

I just think given the nature of the fall and the unpredictability of which lesser-known teams will be decent is reason enough to discuss changing the format to something not so heavily favored towards the power pools. Perhaps dropping the last place finisher from the power pool out of the championship bracket or having them face the one-seed from the opposite power pool in pre-quarters.

I personally am in favor of changing the format of the tournament to two separate 20 team tournaments (tier 1 and tier 2), but that kind of change opens up a bevy of new problems.

I'm not criticizing the TDs for where they placed any team in the format, there is no way to know how these kind of things will shake out and I do think it's just a coincidence (not a home-team conspiracy theory) that Missouri ended up where they did. I'd just love to open up discussion for some potential changes in future formats, and if I'm in the minority on this issue, then I'll happily shut my trap.

Regardless, it was an excellent weekend. I was very happy with the organization of the tournament, the weather and our team's results. I enjoyed our games and felt like we gained a lot of very useful experience.

Nice job Hib!

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