We know this is what you all want to hear about anyways, so here it is. The recap, from our eyes of the N.C. State and Florida game-to-go at UPA Atlantic Coast Regionals. Hopefully we’ll have some photos of the action up later tonight Recaps for the rest of the day are coming in due time. Thanks for reading.
A beautiful spring day in Charlotte, N.C. If one didn’t know any better, he/she would say that it was even peaceful. However, in this location, at this time, things were anything but peaceful. The Ramblewood Soccer Complex, a location that will most likely live on in infamy, as it was the location in which the might Florida Gators, the team that was expected … no, supposed to win Nationals, met their match, the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
We suppose that we should have seen this coming. Not necessarily the NCSU victory or the fact that UF will be at home when action starts in Columbus in a few weeks, just that it was possible that, if anyone could, the Atlantic Coast, as a whole, could bring down Florida from the mountain that it had stood upon for the vast majority of the preseason.
It began as one should expect. A huck went up to Florida senior captain Brodie Smith and he brought it down with the reckless abandon that has caused him to simultaneously become the most hated, most respected and most feared individual player in all of Ultimate.
With the score 1-0 and the Gators appearing to be in their typical fashion, one could have expected NC State to fold. They were the No. 5 seed of the weekend. In fact, it was just two seasons ago that they were prohibited in competing in the UPA Series because of roster snafus. They had just gone to universe point with rival UNC-W. They had to be exhausted. If there was ever a team to fold against Florida, this team probably had as many reasons as any.
However, graduate student Thomas Ward, among others, would not let that be. He skied right back over a Florida player for the Wolfpack’s first score. The teams traded scores back and forth to be tied at 2-2 before Ward helped drag out the first break of the game, the Wolfpack had its first lead at 3-2.
The Gators answered with a quick score but once again, Ward was there. He found open space and caught his third score of the game. At this point, Ward had as many scores as the entire Gator team.
NC State would gather another break and take a two point lead before Smith would lead his team on a three point run that was instrumental in Florida taking a 8-6 lead into halftime.
The Wolfpack had a halftime that was just a little bit different than most team’s who find themselves down by two to the No. 1 team in the nation. Graduate student and captain Evan Bowres told us that instead his team was confident. Instead of talking about what went wrong and what they had to fix, the boys from Raleigh focused on one thing and one thing only.
“We said it at halftime,” Bowres said. “It’s going to be so sweet to go to Nationals.”
On that note the Wolfpack came out of half and immediately put up a score to close the lead to 8-7. Florida only managed to score two more points before the Wolfpack had put up three more and tied the game at 10 scores apiece. In that run was the play that turned the tide for the Wolfpack. While a break here or a break there is great for team morale, NCSU and sophomore Chris Kelley managed to pull something off that Bowres admits that he’s never seen before.
In hopes of stemming the tide of Wolfpack momentum headed towards them the Gators turned to their captain and lead player. Smith streaked downfield and one of his handlers sent a disc his way. Smith and Kelley found themselves waiting underneath it. While Kelley stood ready underneath the disc, Smith took a few steps off preparing to come in once he could reach the prized object. A funny thing happened though. Instead of Smith coming down with the disc like he and so many others are used to happening, the plastic circle tipped off of Kelley’s fingertips and floated harmlessly to the ground.
“Chris Kelley is probably, I think, the first person I’ve ever seen sky Brodie,” Bowres said.
From there it seemed that the pack of players that make up the Wolfpack team just had too much energy for the Gators. Though Florida would take the lead from the 10-10 tie at 11-10, it was clear that NC State was not going anywhere, anytime soon. NCSU tied the game at eleven scores each and quickly broke Florida and took the lead, 12-11.
When the softcap came on, with the score 12-11 and NC State pulling, it was clear that the Wolfpack held the upper hand. That did not mean that the Gators were going anywhere though. Florida scored quickly and tied the game at 12. However, NC State showed that it had the guts to be in the game by hucking the disc downfield and taking the lead, 13-12, putting itself in a position to win the game on its next score.
Florida needed its next score. Anything less would not suffice. However, who else but Thomas Ward would get a layout point block within twenty yards of Florida’s endzone less than five throws after NC State’s pull. A final hammer to Ken Porter gave NC State 14 scores, a win over the No. 1 team in the nation and a bid to UPA Nationals. Meanwhile, it sent Florida home.
“Nobody really talked about us coming into this weekend, which is fine with us, we don’t really care,” Bowres said. “We just come and play and we love to play and now we’re going to Nationals. It’s just awesome.”