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Long time coming: U.P. Hardwood is first Marquette-based team to win title since 1990 at International Frisbee Tournament tourney based in Copper Country

Marquette-based 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 Hancock’s Monte Carlo on Sunday at the Hancock Driving Park in Hancock. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Daver Karnosky)

HANCOCK — With defending champion Shottle Bop out of the mix before the semifinals, the best chance for a Copper Country team to win a Guts Frisbee title on its on home turf was Hancock-based Monte Carlo at the 66th annual International Frisbee Tournament at the Hancock Driving Park.

But it was Marquette-based U.P. Hardwood that was waiting for them in the championship match on Sunday.

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

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

For Nemetz, winning the IFT was something that he could barely comprehend.

Hancock-based Monte Carlo’s Tyler Turcotte, partially hidden at left center, reaches to make a catch during the first game of the 66th annual International Frisbee Tournament championship match against Marquette’s U.P. Hardwood on Sunday at the Hancock Driving Park in Hancock. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Daver Karnosky)

“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.”

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

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

Monte Carlo jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the first game of the finals, thanks to two great throws from 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 it 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 14-14.

From there, U.P. Hardwood settled down and improved its focus, and after Turcotte had a throw sail high, the visitors led 18-14. That four-point advantage proved to be too much in the end for the Monte 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 (for) 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 trailed 5-4 early in the second game. He fired a high throw that bounced off a Monte Carlo defender’s hand to even things 5-5. The game stayed close with Monte Carlo pushing ahead by a point, and then U.P. Hardwood getting that point back over and over again until the teams were tied 9-9.

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

Stone, who won tournament MVP honors, Steer and Kurt Lahtinen combined to help U.P. Hardwood turn its 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 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 some calming down and center themselves for he and his teammates 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.”

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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