By: Noah Robiner
Blaine, Minn. (Aug. 4, 2017) – The U.S. Open always brings with it plenty of questions for the men’s division. What teams will live up to or let down on their hype, how will rosters shifts affect performance, will the international teams make a splash? After day one of competition, we have a handful of answers but plenty of lingering questions. Teams completed three rounds of pool play today with two more left to go tomorrow. Some fates are sealed with the championship bracket locked in while others still hope to fight for a spot.
Weather in Minnesota was sunny and balmy but with a decent cross/downwind that throwers had to adjust to, particularly in early rounds. In the first round especially, few teams were linking together turnover-free holds. The tournament is several weeks later this year than in the past which should make for crisper offenses and smarter defenses. After shaking off blustery conditions, top teams took on their true form.
Pool A saw a notable upset towards the top and some decent parity towards the bottom with Sockeye edging out a win over Revolver and hometown heroes Sub Zero climbing out of their last-seed woes. The first seed, Revolver, had a relatively easy morning. They played a bit down to a travel-gutted Ring of Fire and contained CUSB’s tenacious offense. They then settled into a long bye to get ready for their last match-up of the day with Sockeye. Sockeye, on the other hand, had a harder time finding their footing. CUSB took half against them in the first round, making some nice connections downwind and working to contain Sockeye’s patented give-go offense, bolstered by Dylan Freechild who is fresh off a World Games win. In the second half, Sockeye hit the gas pedal and managed to roll through a 10-4 run to win 15-12.
Sockeye then took on an energetic High Five, going up a break in the second half and generating another second half 7-1 run. The two teams had very different mornings which showed in their match-up in the afternoon. Revolver went up a break to take half, but Sockeye stayed in it, trading holds and a break or two until the teams were tied at 15 before the soft cap went on. Sockeye’s took charge, displaying their grit and connecting on back-to-back hucks to seal the game 17-15. With the win, Sockeye proved that this Revolver squad, the one some are calling one of the best teams ever assembled, isn’t invincible.
The parity in the second half of the bracket, with Sub Zero beating Ring, Ring beating High Five, and High Five beating Sub is mostly due again to the travel delays that hampered Ring in the early rounds which allowed for a loss to Sub before they got a full-rostered win over High Five.
Pool B had less of a storyline than Pool A with almost every game going to seed, and quite decidedly so. Only three of the wins were won by two points, with every other game being decided by a solid three or more point differential.
Defending national champions, Ironside, didn’t quite live up to last year’s success. They beat Patrol and Clapham but fell to Truck Stop with a remarkable hold-break-break run after being tied at 12s.
The only upset in the division came from the third seed in the pool. Denver Johnny Bravo pulled off a 15-13 win over Truck Stop in their first game. Bravo, led by recent World Games gold medalist and Callahan Award winner Jimmy Mickle, broke to take half 8-7 and again to win 15-13. The game was pretty clean on paper with only a handful of breaks, but this was the first round of the day with swirling winds jamming up offenses across the tournament. Bravo’s win was important, but a face-off with Ironside, who beat them in the semifinals at last year’s National Championships, should see if it was deserved. Bravo will meet Ironside in the second round tomorrow morning.
Tune into all the great coverage from Minnesota, including all the live streams on the USA Ultimate Facebook page, streams from Ultiworld, and the upcoming games on ESPN3 and ESPN2.