Friday, August 31, 2012
A week after kicking off our 2012 domestic campaign at the Emerald City Classic, we again had the opportunity of hosting the NexGen Tour in a San Francisco showcase at Kezar Stadium. We had all been looking forward to this game – there aren't many chances in ultimate to play in front of a large home crowd, and we had really enjoyed the experience last summer. NexGen puts on a crowd-pleasing show, and the whole tour is doing great things for the sport, increasing involvement and making it more exciting and fan-friendly.
It would be a fun night, no doubt – but we also knew the college stars would bring a strong game, too. Their roster is filled with elite players at the college and club level, and after 11 games and nearly a month of traveling they had developed the cohesion that turns a group of players into a team and earned wins over top-level competition (e.g. Doublewide, Ironside) in the process. On our side, injuries and travel meant that we were missing many important players, including Mac Taylor, Russell Wynne, Joel Schlachet, Eric Greenwood, Sam Kanner, and Tom James (who unfortunately tweaked his hamstring in the warmup). Our goal for the game was to raise our intensity and focus as we ramped back up from our worlds break.
RSD commenter “joaqman” was spot-on with his “bold prediction – it will be colder than anyone expects” - SF lived up to its reputation of being cold and foggy even in late August, and there was a moderate swirly breeze at field level.
The wind made for some early turnovers, with our O line working it to the goal line before a floaty dump gave NexGen the disc – which they promptly gave back with a drop. Both o-lines held for the first few points, with NexGen looking particularly sharp deep while we successfully worked it up on shorter throws. At 3-2, a backfield drop gave our defense its first taste of the disc, but we were unable to convert and the all-stars scored on another deep shot with two open receivers. Our offense tried to answer back with deep shots, but NexGen did a great job of poaching off our stack cutters and helping deep and we did a very poor job of seeing these poaches, which led to throws into double or triple coverage and a number of turns. NexGen continued to punish deep on turns, and they broke twice to 5-3. We got a break back off of a deep turnover, then traded to 7-6, after a long Revolver defensive stand with lots of good defense and numerous opportunities to score but unfortunately no joy – our defensive line really suffered from our missing handler corps. Another poach deep d and huck gave the visitors the break into half, 8-6.
Coming out of half, we knew we had work to do on defense to be prepared for their deep shots, work their handlers and convert when we had the disc. We started well, quickly converting a dump turnover and a risky hammer look into two breaks thanks to better down-field defense taking away options and excellent cutting by Pat Baylis and Beau Kittredge. At 8-8, we earned another turnover, but a great layout point block in the backfield by Philip Haas gave NexGen a quick escape and brought our offensive line back out. Coming out of halftime strong, we thought we were back in the game – but the college all-stars were unfazed and responded in turn, earning three straight breaks back on us. We had several uncharacteristic turns – again, missing deep help, not seeing poachers – but NexGen also played great defense and had a very effective deep game on the turn, with throwers putting up shots that normally we wouldn't expect to see thrown and athletic receivers coming down with them. We traded for two sets but were broken again to end the game, 15-10 NexGen.
It's always disappointing to lose in a showcase match, especially with friends and fans watching, but this was a good reminder of the value of practice and of how much work we need to be putting in to be successful in the club series. It's always nice to have room for improvement... see you at Labor Day!
Posted by Zachary Travis