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Pitt falls to North Carolina in men’s ultimate championship

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Zev Fishman Portrait Session Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Pitt faced North Carolina in the men’s final of the 2018 USA Ultimate College Championships in Milwaukee on Monday, but despite the team holding its own and keeping the competition close, En Sabah Nur was undone by turnovers, allowing Darkside to win 14-10 for its second championship. Darkside’s only other title since the program’s inception in 1993 came in 2015.

En Sabah Nur was not favored coming into the game, as it held the ninth seed and was matched up against the second seed. However, there was hope, as Pitt had knocked off top-seeded Carleton 15-11 in the semifinals and had previously beaten North Carolina in the regular season.

That 13-12 upset was sparked by a hot start from En Sabah Nur, which ran out to an early 4-1 lead. The team found it tougher to consistently get on the board this time around, though, as Darkside accumulated a 4-2 lead early and held Pitt at arm’s length for the remainder of the day.

Squandered opportunities piled up for Pitt early in the game, as the team amassed 10 turnovers in the first half, seven of which were unforced. While North Carolina had its own turnover struggles, they were less pronounced, as it had five unforced turnovers in the first frame and was able to take care of business on offense with more consistency than Pitt.

By halftime, North Carolina held an 8-5 lead over Pitt, and little would change in the second half. Although Pitt opened up the scoring in the second frame on a deep shot from Jonah Wisch to Noah Robinson, North Carolina quickly responded. The two teams exchanged blows again, bringing the score to 9-7. But Darkside then scored three in a row for a commanding 12-7 lead.

Hafeez Shams found Dillon Tranquillo as En Sabah Nur began to mount a response, and once again, Pitt would pull within two. But with the score at 12-10, there was little margin for error. Unfortunately, En Sabah Nur blinked, allowing Darkside to score twice in a row for the win, with the game-winning goal coming on a deep shot from Elijah Long to Colin Smith.

The loss brings Pitt’s season to a disappointing end, but the team’s presence in the final was heartening in and of itself, considering its status as a ninth seed. And in making nationals, En Sabah Nur — which won back-to-back ultimate championships in 2012 and 2013 — extended its streak of tournament appearances to 14, as the team has gone every year since 2005.