While Notre Dame and Clemson battled one field over, Virginia and Michigan State were embroiled in a dogfight of their own for the right to compete for $1000. Suffice to say that no one was looking past semis to the finals at the Tally Classic because each of the semifinal games were epic contests in and of themselves.
Michigan State had little trouble with any team over the course of the tournament, Burning Couch’s closest game, a 13-11 victory over Notre Dame, wasn’t as close as the score indicates. Meanwhile, Virginia had struggled mightily in the ACC bracket, going to double game point with Clemson once, before getting trounced by the Joint Chiefs in their second meeting and struggling out of the gate against Georgia-B, even going down two breaks to start.
However, the past was the past when the two highest seeds in the tournament met a round before they were expected to and Virginia gathered its wits together and prevailed, 13-11.
The game started a little strangely, both teams wanted to get started as soon as possible after their quarterfinals games were over but after playing the first point, were informed that the Championship bracket was taking a round off before resuming play. Virginia started with a 1-0 lead before play resumed.
Once it did resume, Virginia came out hot. All tournament Michigan State had been looking to the cutting of junior Christo Ferguson to initiate and finish its offense. Night Train matched up one of its better defenders, Jesse Macadangdang on Ferguson and it paid off. Macadangdang got a block in the air and Virginia earned a break to take a 2-0 lead.
However, Night Train wouldn’t hold on to that lead for long as Michigan State came storming back, throwing a score to Ferguson and breaking UVA on the next point after a huck to senior Tyler Conger went long. Suddenly, the score was tied at 2-2.
The teams would trade scores to 3-3 and Burning Couch would get another break after another huck to Conger went out the back of the endzone to take a 4-3 lead. The teams would trade scores to 5-4 in favor of MSU before a cutter miscommunicated with Conger and the disc was turned on an attempted dump pass. Michigan State took advantage and seized a 6-4 lead, needing only one more score to take half.
That score would not come as Virginia took a crucial stand, scoring its next O point and on the next point getting a block from sophomore Andrew Wilkes that led to a huck to a skying Alex Dagley who then found Macadangdang in the endzone to tie the game at 6-6.
Michigan State managed to pick up the pieces and hit senior captain Alex Edinger in the endzone to take halftime, 7-6, but the momentum damage had already been done. Virginia came storming out of the gates in the second half, throwing a poachy zone defense at Michigan State that stifled Burning Couch’s offense. After a turn near the endzone, Wilkes picked up the disc and hit Dagley high in the air and deep in the endzone to tie the game at 7-7. UVA defense wasn’t done yet though, a MSU overthrow led to Wilkes hitting Macadangdang for another break to take the lead 8-7. Dagley would catch one more score on another huck to take a 9-7 lead before Michigan State stopped the bleeding by scoring on its next possession.
Burning Couch wasn’t quite done yet, after a drop from a UVA cutter MSU punched the disc into the endzone for a tie at 9-9 and the teams would trade scores to 11-11. Then UVA’s captain would step up to the plate, Conger worked the disc down the field, putting on a throwing clinic, and then cleaned up some high stall count garbage in the endzone to take a 12-11 UVA lead.
On the final point of the game Night Train would get a block and, just like the other semifinal game put the final nail in the coffin by going captain to captain as Conger hit senior Matt King in the endzone for the game ending score and the UVA win, 13-11.
The difference in the game was Night Train’s adjustments on defense. The team put together a defense specifically for Burning Couch that showed in the second half, as UVA started with three straight breaks.
“They threw a really interesting zone-y, man-y D at us that really made us get out of our element and swing the disc the more and not hit any up fielders,” Edinger said.
“We had to switch up our defense,” Conger said. “They have Christo and him iso-under and his breaks afterwards are phenomenal. To stop that first throw was the key to that game, so we started throwing a poachier zone up front and trapping hard on the sidelines.”
Edinger was still satisfied with his team’s performance over the weekend.
“We fought real hard,” Edinger said, “I’m proud of our team for getting this far.”