Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
UNC crowned regional champs
Atlantic Coast College Open Regionals
North Carolina’s Adam Carr (center) catches the game-winning point against N.C. State during Sunday’s championship game of the Atlantic Coast College Open Regionals at the Smith River Sports Complex. (Bulletin photo by David Reynolds)
Monday, May 7, 2012
By DAVID REYNOLDS - Bulletin Sports Editor
The University of North Carolina made it look easy during Sunday’s championship bracket of the Atlantic Coast College Open Regionals at the Smith River Sports Complex.
Darkside — the nickname UNC’s Ultimate Frisbee club team goes by — knocked off Towson 15-9 in the quarterfinals, breezed past Georgetown 15-4 in the semis and throttled rival N.C. State 15-8 in the championship game.
It was just how fourth-year coach Mike DeNardis drew it up.
“We have 25 guys that play, so we just smother teams as soon as they get tired in the Sunday bracket,” DeNardis said. “Using that top to bottom makes us stronger, especially when we win games with a good margin of victory.”
The Wolfpack put up a fight for the first few points, even grabbing a 4-3 lead, but it was only a matter of time before their top players succumbed to fatigue.
North Carolina revved up its defense en route to rattling off 12 of the next 16 points, and UNC clinched a spot in the national championship tournament for the first time in six years.
Not bad for a squad that didn’t even qualify for regionals a season ago.
“It feels amazing,” said senior Max Shepherd, one of UNC’s three captains. “I really do think it’s the culture. The tone, the work ethic, everything’s changed. I think we see how it’s done now in a way. We can’t rely on two or three players. We’ve got to develop everybody and have everyone be able to step it up.”
While North Carolina was making quick work of the competition in its three games, the exact opposite was going on elsewhere in the bracket.
Georgetown shocked traditional regional power UNC-Wilmington 12-11 in one quarterfinal, and N.C. State earned its spot in the title game by winning three straight games by two points or less.
The Wolfpack edged Virginia Tech 14-13 on Saturday afternoon, got past Virginia 15-13 Sunday morning and then rallied from a five-point deficit to stun Maryland 15-14 in the semifinals.
Those long games for N.C. State helped out UNC in the final, as did a quarterfinal round full of upsets. Of the four teams that finished unbeaten in pool play Saturday (UNC, U.Va., UNC-W and South Carolina), only North Carolina won its quarterfinal matchup.
UNC-W and UNC had split two games during a sectional qualifying tournament on April 22, but North Carolina avoided Wilmington altogether this weekend thanks to Georgetown’s upset.
“I didn’t care who we had to play,” UNC captain and second-year graduate student Justin Moore said. “We knew we were going to bring it anyway.”
North Carolina also lost to South Carolina at that sectional tournament, but that was due in large part to losing senior captain and top player Thomas Sayre-McCord to a torn ACL midway through the game. DeNardis said more than half of his team’s offensive scores went through the four-year player, and North Carolina was lost offensively without him — initially, at least.
In addition to losing to USC, UNC fell to UNC-W in its next game and were in danger of missing regionals altogether.
But North Carolina rebounded to beat Clemson and UNC-W to grab second place in the sectional tournament, and UNC keep that momentum rolling this weekend.
“Obviously it was the biggest loss possible,” Shepherd said of McCord’s injury. “But for the most part, since we had so many role players that were able to step it up, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I mean, it was a big deal, but it didn’t cause us to lose regionals.”
Sayre-McCord helped coach from the sidelines this weekend, and he joked in UNC’s post-game huddle that instead of him carrying the team to nationals, the team carried him.
“It would have been terrible to watch and think I could have done something to change things, but they took care of business,” Sayre-McCord said. “It was the best defense we played all year ... There was no one on the team who wasn’t playing a huge role for us.”
UNC’s players dumped a Gatorade cooler full of water over DeNardis after Adam Carr scored the final point to clinch the win, and they even doused Sayre-McCord with a second cooler of water and ice after initial celebration subsided.
“It’s been a long time coming,” DeNardis said. “We stayed focused, and this crop of guys, they came in and worked really, really hard to reestablish ourselves, and that’s what we did.”
On the women’s side of the draw, Virginia defeated North Carolina 15-11 to take the regional title. Both U.Va. and UNC will make the women’s national championship tournament, as will Delaware, who won Sunday’s third-place game over UNC-W. The women’s tournament had three bids to the college championships at stake, while the men’s side had only one.