April 25, 2014 by Charlie Enders in Preview with 3 comments
For years now, the Great Lakes regional champion has been thought of as a foregone conclusion. The parity just wasn’t there – North Park was on a different level than the rest. And while North Park is still the favorite to procure the Great Lakes’ sole bid, the rest of the pack has undoubtedly caught up to the Lost Boys talent-wise. You heard it here first – this bid is entirely up for grabs.
Year in and year out, the North Park Lost Boys are the favorites to win the Great Lakes. Consistency isn’t easy, but the steady hand of coach Cameron Hodgkinson helps the Lost Boys peak at the right time every season.
“Throughout this whole year, including sectionals, our mindset was we don’t want to be playing our best ultimate till Regionals and Nationals,” said Hodgkinson. “I believe we haven’t played our best ultimate yet. With a number of big runs at Conference (two 6-0 runs against Knox and an 11-0 run against Calvin after being down 9-4) we realize we can take over games and not let a team have a chance, but in order for that to happen we need to come out faster.”
North Park attended DIII Easterns this season, but posted a disappointing 3-4 record and an 8th place finish. “Easterns was disappointing, but at the same time, we realized we could have won any of the games we played, and it was our own mistakes that cost us. After Easterns, our defense realized how much intensity they needed to bring point in and point out, which is one of the reasons we did so well at the invite,” he said.
The team has begun to understand their early flaws on the offensive side of the disc as well. They have a tendency to be overaggressive with hucks into coverage and play better when they work with shorter, higher percentage looks.
On offense, North Park runs through main handler Tom Williams, while Danny Miller and Tanner Mayo are the main cutting looks. Miller is a graduate student who has stepped in and provided North Park with an immediate boost on O and D, as Hodgkinson calls him “probably our best all around defender”.
Yet North Park, like most top teams, is deep.
“I think the pressure and intensity of win or go home will work in our favor and keep us from getting behind like we did at conference,” said Hodgkinson. “Both Knox and IWU are tough teams, but the question is how deep are they? We play 16-17 guys, which in years past has been the downfall of other teams in our region as their legs run out on Sunday. With this being IWUs first regionals and Knox making the championship game last year, I believe Knox is our biggest competition, but IWU is still very formidable.”
Knox has been a constant thorn in North Park’s side for the last two seasons, consistently playing them in tight, meaningful games. Much of this team’s rise to prominence can be credited to sophomore Harper Garvey. Garvey commands the offense with his silky smooth throws, and also brings a weathered ultimate mind to Knox, having played with Minnesota club Sub Zero the past two years.
This isn’t a one-man show, however. There are plenty of talented players on the Knox roster, says Garvey.
“The freshmen have helped fill roles but some of the sophomores and juniors have really stepped it up after playing over the summer,” he said. “We have developed a more balanced attack this year than in past years, and our offense has been pretty high powered while we’ve tried to develop a gritty team oriented defensive identity.”
Rodrigo Arcibar, Joey Knutson, and Mikko Jimenez have stepped up and become (as Garvey puts it) “goal scoring machines”. Frank Bolton and James Sheppard have also provided reliable handling. “While we do have a core of solid dudes, we have subbed relatively deep so far this season and a lot of people got a lot of playing time at sectionals as we had a bit of a shorter than expected squad. But it was all good. We played well and had fun,” added Garvey.
Garvey is going to be Garvey, and is going to throw hucks and breaks. But Knox’s potential to upset North Park is going to depend a lot on how these other top players play this weekend.
Garvey’s summed up his team’s mindset as “We’ve focused a lot on the idea of eating, as in hungry dogs must eat. We are the dogs, and we are hungry. And we gotta eat.”
Only in their second year as a program, over half of Huck Dynasty’s 16 players rostered are rookies.
Thus, Wesleyan, perhaps more than any other team in the country, relies on one player to make things happen – Callahan nominee Travis Carpenter. Carpenter gained elite experience by playing with the AUDL’s Indianapolis Alleycats, and finished with the third most D’s in the league.
“I try to run most of our offense through me. Whether that means using throw-and-go as a handler, or cutting in the middle of the stack to be an option every other throw,” said Carpenter.
Wesleyan is an extreme version of Knox. While Garvey is often relied upon to make the big play, Carpenter is always relied upon. He plays almost every point of every game at every tournament.
Clearly there has to be players for Carpenter to throw to and throw to him. Andrew Warren and Nik “Swerve” Evans have both stepped up this year to help Wesleyan qualify for their first ever regionals. This is the first time the team has participated in the series.
Asked to describe how Huck Dynasty like to play, Carpenter preaches defense.
“We have 3 different zone defenses we can use as well as an effective man to man where we use myself and Swerve to generate D’s on players that other teams depend on,” he said. “With having a small roster, zone defense has been our savior this year. We have worked on it and nearly perfected it and create more D’s through zone than any other team I have been on.”
I can say from first hand experience that Wesleyan is extremely adept at running their diamond-ish zone. While many of their players aren’t extremely experienced with the disc in their hands, in the zone each knows exactly what their responsibilities are, and they stay disciplined. In wind, it’s one of the most frustrating zones I’ve played against.
Carpenter says his team is gunning for the Regional favorites. “North Park is a deep and respectable team,” he said. “So in the end, my sights are set on getting to that championship game, and expecting to see North Park standing in front of us ready to duke it out.”
Perhaps the biggest question mark in the region, Wheaton’s results aren’t extremely impressive save for one – a 13-3 win over North Park at the Chicago Invite. While it’s unknown whether or not North Park played open lines, it’s an anomaly that cannot go unmentioned. Unless Wheaton steps up their level significantly, they shouldn’t find themselves any further than semifinals.