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Another UP Champion: UP Hardwood takes 66th Annual International Frisbee Tournament title

U.P. Hardwood’s Hogan Nemetz prepares to throw a disc during the first game of the 66th Annual International Frisbee Tournament championship match against Monte Carlo Sunday at the Hancock Driving Park in Hancock. (Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — With the defending champions, Shottle Bop out of the mix before the semifinals, this weekend appeared to be the best chance that Monte Carlo has had to win a Guts Frisbee title on their home turf. However, the Marquette-based U.P. Hardwood was waiting for them in the championship game of the 66th Annual International Frisbee Tournament Sunday at the Hancock Driving Park.

When the rain finally let up and the semifinals and the finals could be played, it was U.P. Hardwood who emerged victorious with a two-set victory over Monte Carlo, 21-19, 21-16.

U.P. Hardwood, who became the first Marquette-area team to win the IFT since 1990, brought a team of eight players to the IFT, including Hogan Nemetz, Connor Steer, Trevor Bartonia, Luke Lahtinen, Kurt Lahtinen, Jake Soucy, Derek Stone, and Brandon Kaski.

For Nemetz, winning the IFT was something that he could not believe in the end.

“Unbelievable,” he said simply. “I haven’t felt this feeling, maybe ever, in my entire life. This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt. It’s amazing, unbelievable.”

Monte Carlo’s Tyler Turcotte reaches out to make a catch during the first game of the 66th Annual International Frisbee Tournament championship match against U.P. Hardwood Sunday at the Hancock Driving Park in Hancock. (Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette)

While they did not have to go through Shottle Bop to do it, U.P. Hardwood knew facing Monte Carlo, which featured Tyler Turcotte, Tyler Brunet, former tournament MVP Rudy Tikkanen, Tony Hella, and Hans Stimac, would not be an easy task, even though they needed extra points to defeat the Boomtown Saints, 25-23, in their semifinal match just prior to the finals.

“We love playing them, so we were happy when we saw them beat the Boomtown Saints,” said Nemetz. “They’re great competition, as always, and we knew we were going to be in for a good one. We knew we were playing them, so it was a lot of fun.”

Monte Carlo jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the first game thanks to two great throws from Hans Stimac. Nemetz got U.P. Hardwood going with a hard throw that Turcotte dropped and within minutes, the Marquette squad held a 6-3 lead. Nemetz helped chip in on that five-point run with two more strong throws that eluded Monte defenders.

Monte Carlo was not going away without a fight, however, as they stormed back to even things at 6-6, 8-8, 9-9, and 10-10 before Stone and Nemetz lifted U.P. Hardwood to a 13-10 advantage. Stimac and Hella both had key throws as Monte Carlo again evened things at 14-14.

From there, U.P. Hardwood settled down and improved their focus, and after Turcotte had a throw sail too high, they led 18-14. That four-point advantage proved to be too much in the end for Monte Carlo to overcome. At 20-19 in favor of U.P. Hardwood, Nemetz fired a throw through a gap in the defense to seal the win.

“It’s so important (to get that first win),” he said. “I mean, the first game is the most important game. It sets the tone for how you’re going to come out the rest.

“If you get the first one, it makes it that much easier to get the second one, because you know what you have to do.”

As easy as Nemetz made that sound, U.P. Hardwood found themselves trailing 5-4 early in the second game. Nemetz fired a high throw that bounced off a Monte Carlo defender’s hand to even things at 5-5. The game stayed close with Monte Carlo pushing ahead by one point, and then U.P. Hardwood getting that point back over and over again until the teams were tied at 9-9.

Hella and Stimac combined to push Monte Carlo ahead 12-9, and U.P. Hardwood collected themselves together to try to regain their focus. A throw from Nemetz got them back on the board at 12-10 before the two teams switched sides of the field.

Kurt Lahtinen, Stone, who won the tournament MVP honors, and Steer combined to help U.P. Hardwood turn that now two-point deficit into a two-point lead, 15-13. From there, U.P. Hardwood continued to put pressure on Monte Carlo to answer every catch, and the longer the game went, the harder that became for the locals. U.P. Hardwood led 20-15 when Tikkanen found a gap to cut the lead down to four, 20-16. Nemetz fired a hard throw, but it was caught by the Monte Carlo defense. Turcotte, looking to shave another point off the lead, tried his luck to the left side of the U.P. Hardwood defense, but his throw missed the target, giving the Marquette-area squad the final point needed to seal the title.

Nemetz said it took a lot of deep breathing for his team to hold steady in the biggest moments late in the game.

“Deep breaths, a lot of deep breaths, and really just staying with your fundamentals, thinking about your shot and nothing else, and what you got to do,” he said. “We’ve done throwing a shot so many thousands of times that you just think back to that and repeat it.”

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