May 29, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Analysis with 38 comments
An hour before the Pittsburgh v. Oregon semfinal, Tyler Degirolamo stood quietly at the USA Ultimate podium with a glum look on his face as the crowd cheered the announcement of Oregon’s Dylan Freechild as the 2013 Callahan winner.
It was a fleeting moment, a blip in a marathon day of ultimate. And Degirolamo didn’t have time to let it be more than a blip. He had work to do, facing off against Freechild just minutes later.
He saved his best performance for the biggest moments in his college career: he finished the semifinals with four goals, three assists, and a block, before heading to the finals against Central Florida and notching five assists, three goals, and a block.
It’s impossible to even consider another player for tournament MVP. Degirolamo was the only player to finish with at least 20 goals and 20 assists. His final stat line: 21 goals, 24 assists, 2 blocks, and 7 turnovers.
This was not just Degirolamo streaking deep towards the endzone for wide-open scores and easy assists. In a Beau Kittredge-esque style, he played an instrumental role in the team’s endzone offense, touching the disc almost every other throw, and beating the defense with strike cuts, break throws, and field awareness.
“We run a very handler heavy endzone set and there’s just no one that can guard Tyler in a 15 yard box, he’s too quick,” 2012 Callahan nominee Alex Thorne told Ultiworld. “If we can get Tyler back there, he doesn’t necessarily have the best throws on our team, but his around breaks are great and there’s no one that can stay with him in a little box like that.”
Degirolamo made remarkable plays, one right after the other. In the finals, he got an incredible chase-down D against Jeremy Langdon, skied a pack of players early for a big score, and continued to create separation downfield against the tall UCF defenders.
It was an awesome performance. Some even started to question how he didn’t win the Callahan.
“His level of work ethic is just incredible,” said Pitt coach Nick Kaczmarek. “The most amazing thing about how he came out in this tournament and why he was able to do what we did…You know, we talked about the real Callahan award. The real demonstration of the four things that the Callahan award is about is this National Championship. If you can win this Championship, and Ty could do it, he’s demonstrating leadership, he’s demonstrating sportsmanship, and all those things. He has all those great qualities and he works hard on all of them.”
“Its not just Ty that does it,” he continued. “He inspires everyone else to be great and he lets them in on that. And that makes them want to be great.”
Degirolamo, despite looking upset after failing to receive the prestigious Callahan award, said it didn’t bother him. “I wasn’t really concerned with that,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’d rather have a championship.”
And a Championship he got, thanks in large part to his performance.
I asked Kaczmarek if Degirolamo should have won the Callahan.
“I don’t know anything about how the process of the award works,” he said. “It was going to mean something to him.”
“I told him the real Callahan award is right here,” he continued, gesturing to the field where Pitt had just clinched their second straight title. “He cares about this more.” Kaczmarek declined to comment further.
For Degirolamo, he leaves his fifth year with Pitt with two championships and two years dominating at the pinnacle of the sport.
“[It’s] the definition of bittersweet,” he said. “Its great to go out on top, but there’s no other experience like this. I’ve been on many teams; ultimate is something special. College ultimate especially. I feel like I’m playing with my brothers. It’s going to be sad not to come back next year.”