June 3, 2005
By Craig Remillard
Special To CSTV.com
The open division finals at the UPA College Championships pitted two fearsome teams against each other. At least five men on Colorado's lineup - Colin Gottlieb, Adam Simon, Ackley, Beau Kittredge, and Jolian Dahl - would all be the singlular star on 95 percent of the teams in the country, and their supporting cast featured some of the best backup players around (Justin Salvia and Jason Buckingham). Brown was the first team this tournament to match every spot: Ziperstein against Ackley's speed and hops; Colin and Neale Mahoney against Beau Kittredge and Jolian Dahl's speed and height; Dan MacArthur combated Gottlieb's speed, and Will Arnold was the perfect defense for Simon's all-around game. It promised to be a tight contest and, as this fan's eye view makes clear, neither team wanted to disappoint:
Early in the match, Brown pulls upwind to Colorado, which works the disc down the field with a horizontal stack. Brown is laying out every throw, and Colin Mahoney gets a goal-line D on the left side of the Brown endzone on a disc meant for Colorado's Kittredge, His brother Neale, however, bobbles a catch a few seconds later. Ackley out-jukes Ziperstein on the goal line for the first point. Ziperstein evens things up by beating Adrian Keyes to a 55 yard Paul Vandenberg throw. That has been Brown's opening play every game this weekend, and it has never failed. Adam Simon and Jay Buckingham work it downfield to Kittredge for another score next point.
Brown is feeling the pressure as Mamabird clamps down the defense. At one point, Gottlieb of Mamabird hucks to Ackley, who is covered close by Ziperstein. The crowd goes silent; this is a test of the match-up between this year's and last year's Callahan MVP winners. Zip gets a hand up to barely tip the disc before it reaches Ackley's hands. But Justin Salvia gets a big layout D, and again it's Kittredge scoring, this time outrunning Colin Mahoney to the back of the endzone. Brown's offense again battles through the suffocating marks of Colorado for a close strike from Zip to Reid Hopkins. Mamabird looks to take it to half, but the next point is rife with turnovers. Ziperstein has another outstanding block, coming from the help side and jumping for a huck way in front of teammate Mahoney and Colorado's Beau, who both have about 6 inches height on him. The man has ups. It's not to be, though, as Adam Simon pulls an underthrown huck meant for Colin Mahoney from the air, and finds Kittredge in the transition from 5 yards out for half, 8-5.
Colorado is playing well, although they are throwing into a ton of Brown defenders. Some are great plays, but some are just bad decisions. Colorado has been having trouble with its offense all weekend, and it appears to be carrying over. At several points in this half, they had opportunities to blow the game open but didn't convert. Brown, for its part, is clearly nervous. They have had their own set of turnovers, especially the D line, which hasn't yet found the endzone despite forcing several takebacks (and having several more drop in their laps). "We're getting the disc - now we need to convert," Wicks says in a calm voice. He exudes confidence in his players, hoping they will take a deep breath and take over this game.
Brown does, in fact, seem a step slow in the second half, walking back to the line with heads down. Colorado tries to vary the look by throwing a zone defense, and it works for a while. Brown seems afraid to try the hammers that they've used all season to bust zones. Josh Ziperstein is playing on both Brown's offense and defense lines, almost every point, but it's not showing as he connects with Lynn for another one. The D line finally gets its break, with Will Arnold pulling down a trashy throw. After a timeout, Dan MacArthur makes a smart throw, floating it into the endzone in the vicinity of the tallest thing around, teammate Colin Mahoney, who pulls it in for the score. On the next point Paul Vandenberg floats a breakside upwinder to space for Alex Bowman. Brown is within one, 10-11.
Colorado stops the bleeding the next point, as Simon hits Kittredge with an inside-out forehand. Kittredge was his usual unstoppable self all game, scoring 7 points and adding 2 assists and a handful of defensive blocks. However, Colin Mahoney, who covered Beau most of the time, was more effective than anyone in the tournament at not backing down, getting several skies and a few D's on the big man from Colorado. The soft cap is on, game to 15. Brown's Reid Hopkins jams a backhand to Alex Bowman just inches past a Mamabird defender the next point. The next point, Colin Gottlieb, usually a big-game monster for Colorado, makes an uncharacteristic late game error by overthrowing Kittredge. Ziperstein wafts a 50 yard slicing flick down the left side to Will Arnold, and the game is tied at 13's.
Colorado's offense finally keeps it away from Brown's D for a point, Ackley toeing in a sideline pass to save possession. Chants of "Martin! Martin!" come from the Mamabird fans in the Crescent Valley High School stadium stands, reminding the Colorado boys of their fallen comrade Martin Cochrane, who suffered bruised ribs and punctured lung on Friday while attempting a greatest. Adam Simon and Beau Kittredge give and go to score, 14's. Brown gets the disc going upwind into a slight breeze, and Dan MacArthur takes off. Alex Bowman doesn't even pause, pushing a backhand 70 yards past his mark and Colorado defender Adam Simon. Brown wins, 15-14!
Colorado, for its part, sits somberly on the sideline after shaking hands. Gottlieb offers some perspective though. "I love these guys," he says, referring to his teammates on Colorado. "It's not about this, this game - it's just the color of the ribbon on the medals we get. It was an amazing season, and that look you see in a teammate's eyes when the game is on - I saw that look a few times this year. That's what's important."
In the end of game Brown huddle, Nathan Wicks offers some advice. "The next 20 minutes are going to be the best 20 minutes of your life," he says with a hint of truth. The game looked a little hopeless early in the second half, so what turned it around? Wicks offers his take on it: "We were staying close and we felt we had more legs. They were playing their main guys a lot, and we were more rested when it mattered. Then we made the plays, like Neale's block at the end. Maybe because we wanted it more, because we hadn't tasted it yet." Senior Will Arnold agrees. "They couldn't run with us all game. It was like when I played football when I was in fifth grade, I would just keep coming at the bigger linemen, and eventually they didn't want to face me anymore. We just kept rushing them all game, and felt the flow at the end."
That line of desire may be a fine gray one, but Brown crossed it to earn its first championship since 2000. The program rebuilt around this year's seniors after its last winning class graduated, and this was truly their year to shine. Colorado, for its part, expects to be back next year in force: Mamabird is only losing four players, and has a healthy young base of freshmen and sophomores on which to build. They will battle again to be in Columbus, Ohio next year. Until then, Brownian Motion holds the title of defending UPA Champions.