The big game in the Saturday's first round saw UMass take down UNCW in Pool D
May 23, 2015 by Simon Pollock, Preston Thompson, Alex Rummelhart and Patrick Stegemoeller in Coverage with 0 comments
Massachusetts 15 – 9 Wilmington 9
Yesterday UMass had the best point differential in the pool after trouncing Cornell and UC Santa Barbara, but there were still some questions remaining about how they would perform against the top teams in their pool. This morning those questions were answered.
On the back of a monster 7 point game from Jeff Babbitt and an incredibly consistent all-around performance from their Dline offense, Massachusetts Zoodisc upset the pool’s top team UNC Wilmington. After struggling through much of the regular season, some began to doubt Massachusetts’s credentials as a real title contender. After the shellacking they put on Wilmington this morning, a run to the semis or finals does not seem so far-fetched for the team from Amherst.
With a moderate mind blowing across the field to start the game, Wilmington came out in a poachy look designed to take away easy deep shots and force UMass to make a lot of throws. They got a turnover on the first point when Babbitt couldn’t squeeze the disc into a tight window in the endzone, and a Charlie Lian huck gave Wilmington the break and a 1-0 lead.
After their loss yesterday to Colorado it appeared that Wilmington had come out refocused, and after breaking on the first point, it seemed that they were ready to come out and make a statement. With a raucous sideline cheering them on, the Wilmington Dline charged down the field hunting for another break. In the face of that pressure, UMass’s Ben Sadok calmly launched a backhand bomb to Conor Kline who skied his defender for the hold.
From that point on, UMass owned almost every aspect of the game. They would break on the next point when Babbitt demolished his defender on an upline cut to get the game back on serve, and a few points later would break again on a Babbitt score as he boxed out Jack Williams in the endzone to give UMass the 6-4 lead.
The Babbitt/Williams matchup was key throughout the game. Williams is Wilmington’s top target, and Babbitt was able to shut him down in the deep space over and over again. UNCW’s handlers kept putting up shots to Williams, and Babbitt was almost always there to gobble them up. It was a truly fantastic two way performance from Babbitt, who is quickly establishing himself as one of the best players in the entire country.
Yesterday when Wilmington was broken they responded with a confident hold, usually on a picture perfect Xavier Maxstadt huck. Today they came out after breaks still taking shots, but just not connecting on them. After UMass broke to take the game to 6-4, Maxstadt threw three turnovers on the next point which gave UMass enough opportunities to get another break, taking the game to 7-4.
It was more of the same in the second half, as Babbitt and UMass looked unstoppable on offense, while Wilmington labored to put in holds. UMass expanded their lead in the second half by converting efficiently off of Wilmington huck turns. All season Wilmington has been able to get the disc back after their deep shots miss the target, but today they were not able to stop the UMass Dline offense.
The game ended on a spectacular sequence from Babbitt, as he hand blocked his mark then sprinted downfield and reeled in a tipped huck for the bookends and the win. It was a statement win for UMass, who now have to be considered a real threat to make semifinals and beyond. For Wilmington, they will need to regroup in their last game against UCSB and focus on getting through a prequarters game — a game that, going into the weekend, they must have thought they could avoid.
UCSB 15 – 10 Cornell
UCSB got a win in their first trip back to Nationals since 2010, and it came at the expense of the winless Cornell Buds. Santa Barbara built their lead in the first half, led by a terrific Hunter Corbett performance on both sides of the disc. After just missing out on taking down Colorado yesterday morning and then getting blown out by UMass in the afternoon, Black Tide is still unlikely to make the pre-quarters bracket despite their win this morning. They will need to beat a Wilmington team that is also fighting for its survival in the third round game at 12:30 this afternoon.
This was Cornell’s best chance at getting a win in pool play, but they were sloppy with the disc early and couldn’t put on the kind of defensive pressure needed to get back in the game in the second half. Joe Thompson was a bright spot for the Buds, as he notched all four of their first half assists.
Georgia 15 – 12 Auburn
The first round of the day for Georgia and Auburn had a shaky beginning. Both teams had seven turnovers in the first half. UGA struggled to put in breaks early. The first break came with a big flick huck from Ryan Landry that gave Auburn a 4-3 lead. The Auburn D-line O looked better than yesterday, as they put it another break chance. The underdogs would hold their two break lead until 7-6, when UGA would break twice to take half. Big time throws from Sam Little were a welcomed improvement after their Rocky start yesterday, and his defense on Auburn’s various playmakers made life difficult for their opponent.
The second half showed the true potential of Georgia, with a near perfect second half. Every opportunity that Auburn gave them was easily handled by their D-line offense. The player of the second half was Georgia’s Erickson — but not the Callahan nominee — instead, his little brother. Riley Erickson rattled of two goals and one assist while being an “every other” sort of contributor in nearly every second half point. A final front of the stack cut from Nathan Haskell was too much for Auburn to handle, finalizing the score at 15-12.
Pittsburgh 15 – 12 Wisconsin
Wisconsin was content to play loose and wild, as they gave Pitt a scare early. Shaky offense from the Hodags didn’t seem to matter for their O-line planned zone defenses that are becoming more and more common. On defense, Wisconsin flat marked the Pittsburgh O, forcing them out of hucks and into under cuts. A few layout D’s from the Hodag defense kept it close as Pitt took half on serve.
The Wisconsin offense lived on deep cuts, and any point where they needed to throw it more than 5 times was a struggle. The handler movement from Wisconsin was still inconsistent, leading to multiple chances for Pitt to score on every point. Earles rattled off three break flicks in the second half to widen the margin, and a close scare became a comfortable win.
Oregon 15 – 7 Illinois
Bright and early this morning, Oregon Ego took the field in a must-win game against Illinois. Yesterday was an uncharacteristically bad day for Ego, who were outplayed by both Florida State and Maryland. Illinois stole a win with their height over Maryland, and then eventually buckled under pressure from the North Carolina defense later in the game.
With both teams looking to secure a place in the bracket, Oregon took off running and lit up the Illinois offense. In-cuts were contested and pressure built up on Illinois handlers to the point where a few easy drops put them in a deep early game hole. Mario Bundy was sensational on defense for Oregon with a few early blocks and interceptions, with help from Dylan Freechild, Adam Rees, Chris Strub, and Colton Clark after the turn.
Where Illinois’ size yesterday made them a tough opponent for Maryland, their lack of depth and speed left them sightless in the dust cloud behind Oregon’s road-runner offense.
Illinois will fight to stay alive next round against a very talented Florida State team. Oregon will take on North Carolina, the current pool leader, after the UNC faces Maryland at 10:30.