Wisconsin arrived in North Carolina after a week of “College R&R” in Myrtle Beach, SC. History has shown that playing in a tournament the closing week of spring break can be difficult (See: 2008 Centex Performance). But, expectations were high after getting to practice outdoors for the first time in many months in SC. The first game matched the Hodags against Georgia, the last seed in the pool. The first 2 points could not have gone much worse; the offense and defense combined for 6 dropped goals. But, trading until 3-3, the Hodags finally found their hands and began a huge 6-0 run that included a nasty O2 layout d by freshman Nick Zemen, a hand block and two goals by Brion Heart, and two goals and an assist from Cullen. Wiseman made his presence felt in his first tournament of the season with a d and two close attempts at others. The D continued to push through the end of the game and the O continued to make it look easy as the Hodags finished the game off 15-5.
Michigan was up next and fired up after pulling a huge upset over Colorado in round 1. Michigan started hot with two breaks and a Callahan to take a 3-1 lead, but the Hodags began playing zone and made a quick comeback on several D’s and goals by Jerry. Dayu worked in with the offense and dominated immediately, throwing or catching 5 first half goals. Down 8-6 after half, Michigan capitalized on a couple of turns to come back and tie the game at 9’s and then take a 10-9 lead. The game was windy, and turns were more abundant than the previous game, so once the Offense scored to make it 10’s, the Hodags tried zone again. Success was had as Alter and Jerry got D’s on the next two points and Wiseman threw a huge upwind backhand to Coolidge for the first break and Bergen threw to Jerry for the second. Up 12-10, the hodags never looked back as the O continued to convert upwind on two more goals by Brian.
The wind was heavier than it had been all day – upwind and downwind – for the game against Colorado, the top seed in the pool. It wasn’t pretty as both teams played it safe by throwing big downwind hucks and making the D try to break upwind if the hucks fell incomplete. The strategy was successful as the teams traded all half. WIsco 8, Mamabird 7. Both teams got close on break opportunities in the first half but failed to convert on goal line chances. The second half was a different story. Seeming to adjust to the brutal wind, the Hodags came out firing on upwind break opportunities. After a Colorado turn, Wisco quickly gained yards on small unders until B-Hart boomed to a laying out Wiseman for the first upwind break of the game. They then quickly broke downwind to take a 10-7 lead. In the next 3 points, both teams got upwind goal line opportunities but failed to capitalize. 11-9. Colorado began working it under downwind and capitalized on the Wisco d that was playing to stop the big downwind hucks, but Wisconsin continued to play the field position game and huck it downwind and make the D work upwind. With the softcap nearing, Colorado began to make a run. On a point with several turns by each team, Mamabird finally converted upwind and then broke downwind to tie the game up at 11. Trading until 13’s with many turns by each team and tension high, Colorado converted downwind to force universe point. Bergen then threw another full field downwind backhand that wasn’t converted, giving Colorado the disc upwind to win. Wisconsin’s defense fell apart, giving up several O2’s and a big flick down the sideline that was caught for the Colorado goal and win. This loss put Wisconsin at 2-1 for the day, but the upset of Colorado by Michigan forced a three way tie that gave us the 2 seed in the pool. So, instead of playing Carleton in the crossover game of pool winners, the Hodags played Cornell.
Starting hot and opening up lines, the hodags cruised to a 5-0 start and 15-4 victory. TUNA Simon-Wombat played through the huge cuts on his gills to score two goals, Ben Rainman threw 3 big hucks for goals and caught another, and Wiseman threw a couple more backhand booms in the win.
On Sunday, the day started with Florida, who Wisconsin defeated earlier in the season but who had also gone undefeated on Saturday to win their pool. Florida plays a huck-happy game and has players who are big in the air, but the Hodags felt well matched with their athletic cutters. Wisconsin came out on D and broke to start as 11th grade JV football star Jerome McManus burned deep and then continued for the short assist. The teams then traded on intense points that included many overturned calls from Florida and TMF’s given to both teams. Then, at 4-3, Wisconsin broke again on a big huck that was tipped in the air and caught in the endzone by Brian Hart to go up 5-3. Florida then broke twice in the next three points on miscommunications and ill-advised hucks from the offense to take a 6-5 lead before Hart made another huge play, skying 2 Florida defenders for a goal. Hart, a skinny, shaggy haired, unsuspecting sophomore, dominated all weekend and will probably not be recognized until he wins the Callahan in 2014. The teams then traded until half on big hucks on both sides. 8-7 Florida. The defense couldn’t convert on turns in the second half and the offense had a couple costly drops and began to throw more ill-advised hucks that Florida converted into breaks. Despite some awesome d’s by Ben Feldman and Colin Camp, the defense failed to break and Florida went on to win 15-12. Florida went on the take first place in the tournament with wins over Carleton and Pitt, surprising many and showing that they will again be a force this year despite losing some key players from their National Champion team last year.
Forced into the 5th place bracket, Harvard was up next. Let by Callahan front-runner George Stubbs, Harvard beat the Hodags at Florida Warm-Up in a defeat that left the Wisconsin players ready for revenge. In a big upwind-downwind game, Stubbs again showed his ability with several full field flicks upwind that were caught for goals. Zone was thrown by both teams to no avail. No breaks were scored until Harvard broke for 7-5 and then wisco broke right back to tie it at 7’s on solid offense and a goal by 5th year Hodag and first year O-Cutter Cullen, a dominant and scary defender who anchored the D line the last two seasons. Stacking the D line for half, the hodags were again disappointed after a huge huck from Stubbs that was completed for an 8-7 Harvard halftime lead. Early in the second half, the Wisconsin worked it upwind and Alter caught a huck and continued to Jerry, who caught the goal right in front of his awesome dancing grandma. But, the hodags failed to complete the downwind break on the next point, and then Harvard broke again and never looked back as they finished the game on D with 4 breaks to win 15-11.
Disappointed, but wanting to finish the weekend strong, the Hodags geared up to play against Oregon for the first time all season. Both teams started slow on D, neither team broke until Feldman threw a high stall count break to Coolidge to take half 8-6. Eric Alexander scored 5 times in the first half on hucks from Brian and Pat, and Dan worked to reach his forehand huck quota as the O-Line dominated the first half. Oregon came climbing back in the second half to tie it at 9’s. But, Wisconsin scored on O and responded with a break on a Coolidge D and Jerry assist to Alter and then on another break on a flick boom from rookie Scott Boooehmee. After another Ego break, the Hodags finally finished off Oregon with a break to win 15-12. Although their 7th place finish on the weekend didn’t fulfill expectations, parts of it certainly showed a glimpse of the potential that this team has. Having held a lead in all games, and in the second half of all games except the Florida game, the Hodags are ready to get outside and begin their outdoor practice season. Next up: Huck Finn in St. Louis, MO.