Blaine, Minn. (Aug. 2, 2019) – The 2019 U.S. Open Club Championships are underway in Blaine! This year, the International Club Championships got a format shift. After several years of two pools of six teams that led straight into the semifinal round, things moved to a format with four pools of three that give the pools’ top seeds a crossover-for-seeding game, while everyone else heads into the pre-quarterfinals. The format makes things feel like they’re moving quickly, with pool play over pretty early in the day and bracket play underway before the end of day one.
In the men’s division, Pool C was the center of most of the excitement – not a huge surprise for those who checked the pools before the event started. Revolver v. Sub Zero was the first round’s most exciting game – a rematch of what was one of the most epic games in U.S. Open history when Sub Zero defeated Revolver on double-game point in the semifinals last year. Today’s game wasn’t quite that close, but it was still a good test for both teams in their first game of the weekend. Neither team played a flawless game, but Revolver’s defense did a little better job shutting down the opposing offense. They switched up their looks with regularity, and downfield, they did a good job of stifling Sub Zero’s movement, which resulted in several heads-up D’s from Revolver. Adam Rees got a couple on his own, and Revolver ended up with a 15-11 win. Another popular match up – Revolver v. Buzz Bullets – was up next. As two of the most successful teams on the world stage over the last decade or so, the interest is always high. As they did all day, the Buzz Bullets made it hard for their opponents to get the disc in their hands. True to form, they did a great job of working the disc with short passes in the early field before dropping perfect passes into open spaces in the end zone: touch throws, hammers, blades, you name it. The game was pretty well-played on both sides in the first half, before Revolver committed a few more errors in the second. And that stinginess with the disc meant the Buzz Bullets ended up with a 15-11 win of their own. There was nearly a perfect three-way tie in the pool when Sub Zero defeated Buzz in third round – the tiebreaker would have gone to an extra point played between the teams after the official conclusion of their second games – but Sub Zero’s win was by just two points. So the pool ended up with the Buzz Bullets on top, followed by Revolver and Sub Zero.
The remaining pools had fewer surprises. Sockeye kept their top overall spot, thanks to just pulling out a double-game point win over Machine. Machine had a chance to win on game point, but couldn’t punch in the goal. Sockeye picked up off the turn and quickly converted to take the game. Colombia’s Makawua was the pool’s third seed, and though they showed real moments of promise throughout the day, they couldn’t do enough to get a win.
Truck Stop arguably had the easiest road through pool play. Japan’s Nomadic Tribe and the Huntsville Freaks rounded out Pool B, and Truck Stop easily held their spot with 15-7 and 15-8 wins, respectively. Nomadic Tribe finished second.
In Pool D, after the defending National Champions got a win against Colombia’s Comunidad el Oso, they met up with Ring of Fire in the 4 v. 5 match up. PoNY is missing a couple big people (literally) this weekend. There is no Ben Jagt, Jeff Babbitt or Beau Kittredge for PoNY this weekend, but they are still a stacked team, with tons of firepower. But Ring of Fire played a really solid game. Henry Fisher was nearly unstoppable in the deep space, and the combination of guys like Matt Gouchoe-Hanas and Sol Yanuck giving and going around the front of the end zone for the D line put Ring in good spots to convert break chances. After being tied at 5-5, Ring went on a four-point run. PoNY got back one of those breaks, but couldn’t find enough time before the cap went on to make up the rest of the ground. Ring got the win 14-10, which put them in the pool’s top spot and in the seeding crossover round.
Sockeye and the Buzz Bullets met up first in the crossover game. The games only mattered for seeding in the quarterfinal round, and teams approached them a little differently. No one wanted to throw the game, but they also didn’t necessarily want to put a lot of unneeded effort into a game that wouldn’t make or break their run in the tournament. But for Sockeye and Buzz, it was a battle from start to finish. As they did in their first two games of the day, the Buzz Bullets impressed with their throwing skills, up and down the roster. They continued to find the spots around the field where only their teammates could make a play on the disc. But on the flip side, their defensive pressure didn’t do a lot to earn the disc either. Their zone sets leave a lot of room for throwers to work through and around, which Sockeye is more than capable of. After the teams traded early breaks, Sockeye got a big one to go up 10-9. Points were traded until Sockeye broke for the win, 16-14.
In the second crossover between Ring of Fire and Truck Stop, Truck Stop looked like a team that is going to be around on Sunday, and Ring of Fire didn’t exactly look like the same team they were against PoNY earlier in the day. Truck Stop jumped out 4-1 and continued to apply pressure. Both teams ran relatively open lines, but guys like Tyler Monroe and Max Cassell still managed to have great games for Truck Stop, while Jack Williams, Henry Fisher and Liam Searles-Bohs largely continued to run the offense for Ring. But after Ring went down big early, some of the urgency seeped out of the energy on the field and the sidelines. Truck Stop ran away to a 15-7 win and a meeting with Sub Zero tomorrow morning.
So speaking of Sub Zero…they played the match up of the round against Machine. The game was incredibly clean. Each team only had one turnover in the first half, with each turn resulting in a break. Machine mixed up their defensive looks, vacillating between person defense and a zoney look that had Walden Nelson and Tim Schoch rotating on the mark, with Ross Barker clogging up the middle. But even with someone like Nelson, long one of the best handler defenders in the men’s division, on the field, Machine couldn’t do much to contain Ryan Osgar. Osgar has pretty quietly become one of the biggest contributors around, and today was no exception. He was great all day, but when push came to shove in the tournament’s first elimination round, he was a complete standout. He racked up four goals and four assists in the game – with most of those assists ending up in the hands of Nick Simonelli. Simonelli had one of the best games of his career, as well. He tallied six goals and four assists in the pre-quarterfinal round alone. For Machine, Joe White was the unstoppable force. The Machine rookie waited for his spots and, when they were available, took them unapologetically. He owned the deep space and added some short, dishy assists to his stat line after he (oftentimes) ended up on the end zone’s doorstep. Tied at 11s, Codi Wood got up big in the end zone to knock away a would-be goal for Alex Evangelides. Sub Zero took the opportunity and ran with it, cashing in on a huge break chance. The teams continued to trade, with great play coming from all around the field, including a couple truly beautiful throws from Josh Klane (Sub Zero) and Pawel Janas and Kyle Rutledge (Machine). The game’s final goal was a break for Sub Zero. After a Machine drop that would have re-tied the game at 15 all, Sub Zero launched one to Charlie McCutcheon, and after a couple reset passes, Wood found Connor Anderson right inside the goal line for the 16-14 win and a spot in the quarterfinals against Truck Stop.
The remaining three pre-quarters went pretty easily to seed. Nomadic Tribe, Revolver and PoNY will join Sub Zero and the four pool winners in the quarterfinal round tomorrow morning.
Tune in to USA Ultimate’s YouTube page to watch PoNY take on the Buzz Bullets at 8:30 a.m. CT.