As we’ve already made abundantly clear on this blog, we were supremely impressed with the level of play during AC Regionals, both in terms of sportsmanship, talent and excitement. However, we didn’t want our opinion to be the only thing that lead to that conclusion. Here’s a Q&A that we recently had with El Diablo’s Mike Nash. Nash, from everything that we’ve heard and seen, is a really nice and really knowledgeable guy when it comes to Ultimate. We figured that his experience would be something that would interest everyone.
Monup: What was the best offensive team that you saw this weekend? What made it so successful?
Nash: Virginia. They utilized Robert Runner to break the mark and initiate the offense. They also looked very familiar with each other and rarely cut each other off. They hucked the disc well and only to smart matchups. They rarely turned it over.
Our take: We couldn’t agree more with Nash here. We can’t emphasize enough how crisp and clean Virginia’s offense was. Night Train was proof all weekend that, while “Huck and Hope” can be exciting to watch, a precision offense in Ultimate is nearly unstoppable.
Monup: What was the strongest team defensively? Why were they so successful?
Nash: Georgia. They utilized several different defensive looks (transition zone, man, traps, etc.) and had the quality of personnel to pull it off. They have several outstanding individual defenders and several very tall marks. They also displayed the best defensive offense of any team I saw, which led to them securing breaks against top teams.
Our take: Georgia may have the highest average talent level of any team that competed in Regionals. We’d be hard pressed to give FOTY in the AC to anyone other than Caleb Edwards. It was quite clear that no other freshman in the AC had as much of an impact as Edwards did and we think that speaks to Jojah’s ability to throw any defensive look anytime they want. That being said, we would disagree with Nash and say that UVA’s defensive offense was better than the Bulldogs, not by a lot but we still think it was.
Monup: What do you think hurt Florida the most, strategically, this weekend?
Nash: Reliance on Brodie and not making adjustments. When Brodie went down due to heat sickness, the team looked emotionally spent. Not only do they rely on his abilities with the disc and in the air, they also rely on his ability to lead.
Also, once word got out to force them backhand, and not let their main cutters go deep, their offense stagnated. I did not see them make the appropriate adjustments.
Our take: We can’t really speak to this as we feel we don’t have the strategic expertise to comment on what went wrong for the Gators this weekend. That being said, there is no doubt that every player for the UF team looked exhausted merely walking over to the field prior to the game-to-go. Emotionally spent is probably the best description that we could think of and, truthfully, Nash thought of it first.
Monup: Out of the teams going to Nationals, who do you think is most likely to make it to the finals? Why?
Nash: Virginia. They have the best player (Runner) and the best offense. However, they do not sub very deeply so we’ll have to wait and see what the Nationals format looks like. Georgia is too streaky and NC State lacks the firepower of the other two teams.
Our take: We would have to agree with Nash here. It appears that UVA is really hitting its stride as a team as we saw them at Southerns and, though they looked good, they certainly did not look this good. We might would favor Georgia if they had been able to maintain the level of play they were at this weekend all season but there’s no doubt that they haven’t done that. Nash’s take on NC State lines up exactly with ours as well. That being said, we really enjoyed watching the Wolfpack play and would be excited to see them carry on.
Monup: Did you see any teams doing anything especially new or interesting strategy-wise this year?
Nash: Not particularly on offense. Most teams run a version of a spread – either horizontal stack or split stack. On defense UNC-W and UGA ran some effective zones – both with (what appeared to be) two deep wings, two people in the cup and three man-like defenders in the middle. UGA transitioned out of this but UNC-W would stay with it the whole point.
Our take: We entirely defer to Nash’s knowledge and experience on this question.
Monup: What team that didn’t go to Nationals (aside from Florida) do you think has the highest potential over the next few years?
Nash: I really liked what I saw out of Tennessee but I’m not sure how many of their players are leaving.
I would also say the same thing for UNC-W.
Our take: We would add UNC to this list as well. Darkside had a lot of its veteran core on the sideline for a lot of the season this year. While this doesn’t do much to alleviate the woes of those that did sit on the sideline, that will contribute to some success for UNC in the future. Watch out for Lucas Darden in the next two seasons, he will only get better and that is scary news for the rest of the Atlantic Coast Region.
Monup: What did you see this weekend that made you excited about the direction that Ultimate is heading?
Nash: All games on Sunday were observed by UPA certified observers, in both divisions. This kept games moving quickly with more spirit than I recall in years past.
Our take: We must agree with Nash’s point here. The observers contributed greatly to the quality of play and we think they made a huge difference all around.
Monup: Was there anything you saw that disappointed you?
Nash: I was disappointed that Brodie and Chris Gibson seemed to be suffering from heat sickness. I would have liked to see their best effort in Sunday’s games. The way that the rest of the Florida team crumbled was also a big disappointing.
I also was upset that CofC (College of Charleston) did not pull off the upset against Tennessee to earn their first Regional win. (But that is my hometown bias.)
Our take: The lack of Florida was disappointing as we did not have an opportunity to really see the whole Gator squad on display. Aside from that, there really wasn’t much to complain about this weekend.
Well, as long as Nash is saying it, we were disappointed to not see South Carolina in the field as we’ve heard that they are not only the best players in the Region but are charming and devastatingly good looking as well.
A big thanks to Mike Nash for answering our questions. Superlatives and All-Region team will be out tomorrow.