Tuesday, May 3, 2016

2016 South Central Men's Regionals - Colorado State

South central college regionals made its triumphant return to the Kenneth Polo Club on the Kansas/Missouri border for 2016. 2013 had been a drenched affair at the same location which had resulted in some round delays and a truncated format. This year, a huge storm was rolling in late in the week every team was keeping a close eye on the weather reports as the weekend approached.

CSU Hibida left Colorado early early Friday morning just ahead of the storm which was dumping snow on the Rockies and made it to Overland Park without much more than a bit of sogginess. We found a park with some open space and worked the kinks out of our legs and our throws before the storm caught up and started dumping rain. 

We journeyed back to our hotel fully expecting the tournament to be delayed and around 10:30pm the organizers sent out the email that the round times would be pushed back 90 minutes to a 10am start. I knew that in 2013 the field managers at this site had been very particular about keeping the fields intact, but when we arrived at Saturday morning it was only slightly overcast and the fields were quite dry. The rest of the weekend was gorgeous with only a slight wind kicking up later in the day on both days. 

We had brought a large squad of 27 knowing we had several guys who had been nursing some lingering injuries and expecting to have opportunities to rotate our full squad through games in the double elimination bracket. 


Much like last year the Ozark conference championship tournament had been a mish-mash of unexpected results and with Missouri finishing second and Arkansas finishing fourth (the two teams ranked above us) it gave us the overall four seed heading in to regionals. 

Our first game of bracket play pitted us against Texas A&M B, the thirteen seed overall. They had a standout tall lefty handler and a lot of good effort and potential behind him, but overall it was a mismatched game. We took half 8-3 with a pretty even line rotation and went deeper into our full roster in the second half. They completed some nice deep shots but overall struggled with consistency and we finished the game 15-9. 

I have to give them props as they were just brimming with potential and it speaks well to the program they have over at A&M to have their young guys performing at a regional level (They have a functional C team as well, A&M isn't going anywhere anytime soon.). 

Game two was the 4/5 match up between us and Kansas who had beaten Houston in their first round game. We've played Kansas quite a few times in the past 13 years and it has always been a very competitive and hotly contested game. Both teams requested observers and I would venture to say this was probably the showcase game of that specific round, as either team had a good chance to win and it was the closest seeding match-up that early on. 

We battled back and forth early, trading breaks, neither team gaining a clear advantage. As the game progressed, the wind picked up making it slightly upwind/downwind, but not enough to turn the game into a punt and play D situation. 

We finally decided to pull out the ace-in-the-sleeve and threw our 1-3-3, a zone we'd been practicing all year with new assistant coach Christian Johansen, but had used very sparingly prior to regionals. Kansas responded with a very patient and methodical attack, oftentimes throwing 40+ passes in a point and working slowly down the field. Despite their general patience, end-zone and transition jitters got to them and we forced turnovers consistently. We built this into an 11-8 lead with soft cap sounding.

During one of our O points in the second half however, sophomore standout Jake Servaty (our top thrower) went down with a bad ankle injury; just a bad step and a loud pop, which would later be determined to be a torn ligament by the training staff. Without Jake our upwind offense struggled and Kansas rallied back. After scoring to make it 11-9 we lost another standout player when Dylan Johnson took a bad knock to the head which bruised his jaw and gave him a severe concussion. We had to move one field over as he couldn't be moved initially and the game continued with cap approaching. 

Kansas played with a ton of energy and intensity as the game came to a close and their contingent of family, friends and alumni on their sideline was equally loud. They broke us twice more to tie the game at 11s with hard cap sounding. We would receive the final point, but it would be into the wind. 

Our pull-play on universe called for Jake Marrapode (FOTY candidate), to be isolated in space early. Jake had been nursing a strained hamstring since just after Vegas (back in March) and he had sat out Huck Finn and Conferences hoping to be 100% for regionals. He went deep right off the pull, blowing by his guy, but stopped after 15 yards and called injury. The look on his face was enough to know he was done for the weekend, re-injuring his hamstring. We subbed and began working the disc up the field in the stiff breeze.

Some good handler defense from KU led to a tight throwing window on a line cut and a turnover. Kansas immediately picked up the disc and put up a nice backhand huck for the score and the win.

It was a very deflating finish for the team, both losing the game and losing three core guys for what looked like to be the rest of the weekend. We rallied up in our post-game circle and prepped for our next game against Oklahoma.

Taking a step back from the timeline here, I want to make it clear that none of the injuries (including the concussion) had anything to do with play from KU. It was just a series of unfortunate events. We've always had some chippiness in our games with Kansas, but aside from a few heated conversations on calls this was a clean game.

KU's clear-cut standouts were #4 Jason Finkelstein and #11 Trent Kuhl, as those two guys were the catalysts for both their offense and defense. Both are very excellent players and certainly deserving of some all-region love.

Our final game Saturday was against the Oklahoma Apes of Wrath. We had beaten them pretty handily at President's Day early in the season, but we knew better than to overlook any team at this tournament as they specifically had put some nice runs of points together in their first round game against Texas A&M.

We struck early jumping out to a lead and again feeling comfortable rotating deep into our roster. They struggled against our high-pressure defense and threw a lot of unforced turnovers.

Their core players were clearly big man Kai Marshall and Sam "Suds" Ward, but with our resident sophomore big man David Miller, and sophomore Jack Hinchsliff  matching up well on Kai and Suds they struggled to generate offense.

After restructuring lines to compensate for our injury losses, younger guys really stepped up for this game and we wrapped the game up tidily, 15-8.


Sunday morning we arrived at the fields early for a good warm-up in preparation for our game against Wash U. The year before at regionals we had played Wash U the first game Sunday morning as well and they had come away from a 14-12 victory that ended our season.

Halfway through our warmup, Jake Servaty came to the field with his ankle taped up like a mummy and told me he was cleating up for Sunday. He had spoken with his doctor and his dad and determined there wasn't any further damage that would be done if he played on his injury (torn ligament) from the previous day. The kid's got some crazy heart.

The game started off very well with us going up two breaks early behind some excellent marking and tight downfield defense. Wash U however isn't the kind of team that implodes on themselves and they battled back, getting their breaks back with a good zone look and actually coming back over the top of us to take half 8-6.

We started the second half with a few points on serve then Wash U broke us again to take an 11-8 lead. We again turned to our 1-3-3 as a curveball and promptly rattled off six in a row to take a 14-11 lead.

They scored one final goal, but a nice put from Servaty to Jack would be the fifteenth and final point.

I'll again take a step back here. Wash U is one of our absolute favorite teams to play and I think we've played them every year at least once for the past five years. They're competitive, spirited; they don't ever let calls from either team become a defining part of the game. I will gladly play them every year forever, win or lose.

Our next game was against Texas, who had lost to A&M in the semi-finals of the first place bracket in the previous round. Texas is a team I have a lot of respect for as they consistently churn out elite-level talent and are the kind of program that has ups and downs certainly, but always operates at a very competitive level.

This game would be tight from start to finish with a slight upwind/downwind edge to the field.

We traded O points for the entirety of the first half. Both teams forced turns but both O lines played tenacious defense on the turn, consistently getting the disc back: 7-8 Texas at half.

At 9-10 they finally got a break after a poor throw near our upwind endzone making the game 9-11. We broke their zone patiently on the next up-wind point and and they did the same making it 10-12. We again worked the upwind with a big sky from David Miller for the score to make it 11-12. We stacked a D line and forced a turn, finally converting the break to tie it up at 12-12 and get back on serve.

We continued trading up to 14s, again with both teams forcing turns, but being unable to punch in the upwind breaks.

They scored their O point to make it 14-15 hard to 16. We received the pull and began working the disc. A slight air-bounce on a backhand dump pushed the disc just out of senior, Luke Doyle's, reach and we turned it 10 yards out from our own endzone. Texas took a timeout and set up their offense. The defenders fought valiantly, forcing 10+ throws, but Texas stayed patient and finally found an open receiver in the endzone for the score, 14-16.

Any loss is a disappointment, but the guys didn't dwell on this one. It was a solid, hard fought game and it was good to end our season in one of our more complete games of the entire year. We had our final tear-filled team circle, shared many hugs with the players that were graduating and moved across the complex to watch our ladies' team narrowly lose in the third place game to Colorado College 12-15.

Great season Hib! 

All-Region Picks

First Team

1) Dalton Smith - Texas A&M (this is a no-brainer)

2) Mark Rauls - Colorado (biggest impact player for Bird when we played them this year)

3) Dillon Larberg - Texas (the offensive catalyst for TUFF)

4) Joel Clutton - Texas (clutch player both downfield and behind the disc for TUFF)

5) Cody Spicer - CSU  (Cody was 2nd team all-region last year based purely on his defensive ability. He is an absolute lock-down defender and takes any match-up. Any team we played I'm sure can have their best player attest to the challenges they have against him. Cody has only played three years, the first at tiny South Dakota School of Mines, but this year his offensive game finally caught up to his defensive game. His incredible quickness for his size (6'2 with a 4.28 shuttle), makes him a nightmare match-up to guard from behind the disc. The only teams not talking about him are teams that haven't played us. I don't often hype my own players too heavily because I realize that everyone thinks their guy is the guy, but this should be a 100% lock, he is that good.)

6) Texas A&M ______________ - I don't know the team well enough and didn't play them but clearly were the class of the tournament along with CU so they deserve another first team all-region nod here.

7) Arkansas #1______________- Again, I don't know the team well and we didn't play them, but the fourth place finisher I'm sure has someone worthy of this spot. 

Second Team

1) Jason Finkelstein - Kansas (made their offense go, an every-other kind of guy)
2) Trent Kuhl - Kansas (both an all-around stellar player and a standout personality on the team)
3) Pawel Janas - Colorado (probably better than this, but slowed down a bit this season by injury it seemed)
4) Arkansas _________ - (again I believe a team finishing 4th has at least two players worthy of all-region, I just don't know this team)
5) Jake Servaty - CSU (He's only a sophomore but he is easily our best thrower and a huge part of our team. He keeps his teammates accountable, he works his butt off on the field and he's comfortable downfield or behind the disc. The whole team held their breath when he got hurt Saturday at regionals and the team was incredulous when he toughed it out and played Sunday on a torn ligament in his ankle, STILL drawing some of the toughest match-ups and making all of the tough throws for us. Again, much like Spicer, if you watch CSU for any amount of time you will see what I mean about Jake. If we had finished higher than 5th I'd push for him on 1st team, but he's got plenty of years left for that.)
6) Kai Marshall - Oklahoma (In a vacuum, I know this guy is as good as anyone in the region, but I judge somewhat based on team result and Oklahoma struggled. I could easily be persuaded to change this pick to the next player on CU)
7) Jay Froude - Missouri (Again, I know he is absolutely one of the best players in the region, in a vacuum. If these awards are supposed to be the best individual players, he's probably first team. But just like Kai Marshall, I think you have to factor in team result.) 


Jake Marrapode - CSU 

Again, I tend to be the guy that tries to look at thing as objectively as possible, but Jake (Pode) is head and shoulders above the other candidates mentioned that I've personally seen play. If he hadn't been slowed down by a hamstring injury and missed Huck Finn, Conferences and Sunday of regionals I think this would almost be a consensus pick.

He is a complete player. He's got a wider array of hucks/break throws/gadget throws than any other guy on our team. He's a physical phenom. He's been starting O line since day 1. Watch his highlights from our President's day video (shaggy blond kid floating above everyone else's shoulders and throwing huge forehand hucks.)

Again, I know everyone loves their player and whatnot and I am certainly somewhat biased, but Pode absolutely is in the FOTY conversation.

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