While sectionals might not offer the marquee matchups of a tournament like ECC or Labor Day, more reps together is always a good thing, and this year it did feature our first game of the season against a local rival in Boost Mobile. On Saturday, we won our three pool-play games against Sky Club, PHTB (Cal) and Bromuda Triangle (Chico, Sonoma and Humboldt), with scrimmaging and drills in between. For our semifinals matchup on Sunday morning we met Bromuda Triangle again before finally facing off against Boost in the finals. We did a good job of bringing up our level of play for this game after having lost a little intensity in earlier rounds, and our defense clamped down early. Mark Sherwood set the tone with a layout D in the end zone on our first defensive point, and we earned four breaks en route to half at 8-4. After trading for a few points out of half, Cassidy Rasmussen made a nice layout grab on a dying huck for the O-line score at 10-6. Our defense came back to life and earned a few more breaks and the 15-7 win – our first championship since Japan! After a few more weeks of training and practices, we’ll be hoping for another at Regionals in Ripon, CA.
After a tough ECC and a stinging loss to NexGen, we had a short two weeks to kick-start our season and prepare for the last major tournament before the club series – the 2012 Labor Day Ultimate Championships in sunny Santa Cruz. Some of our players drove down on Friday evening, but a sizeable contingent got up at the crack of dawn to make it from SF to the fields in time for our 8am round on Saturday. Before jumping into the writeup, we’d like to thank the Rasmussens, Darryl Nounnan and Mr. Lahey for hosting us all and providing food and beds – we really appreciate all your support and hospitality!
Our pool had us playing two 2011 Semifinalists (Chain, DW) and a quarters team (Southpaw), ECC finalists Rhino, and a young and athletic Madison Club – all great games. Mark Sherwood was out of town for the weekend, and we had several injuries from earlier in the season and a few new ones during the tournament, taking out Russell Wynne, Devon Anderson, and Joel Schlachet for some/all of our games – but Mac Taylor was back in action after his knee injury.
Round 1: Philly Southpaw, 15-12
Although we always try and combat the early-round doldrums, after an early morning and a long drive for a lot of the team, we weren’t so successful – and Southpaw was ready to play. After some early trading, we earned our first break of the tournament, which was a good start, but Philly came back with two of their own to take half and steal the serve, 8-7. Their deep offense was flowing well in the first half, and we struggled to take away their first option. In the second half, though, we started to do a better job on their primary cutters, forcing Southpaw to try and hit their second and third looks or dump and the pressure paid off with four breaks and a 15-12 win. A slow start, but we were looking up – we would have to continue to improve as we went right into our NGN-filmed game against Chain.
Round 2: Chain Lightning, 15-11
We’re usually a little more fired up when there’s a crowd (or an online audience), but once again we started out soft, with our defense unable to force turns and our offense looking harried by Chain’s athletic defenders like Andrew Hollingsworth, who got a nice layout D upline leading to a quick break. We were also still showing some of the vestiges of our NexGen loss – throwing into double coverages deep and giving away some uncharacteristic handler/first-throw turnovers. Atlanta went up 5-2 and were threatening to run away with it – but our offense settled down and gave our D line the opportunity to get in a groove – and as we did, the momentum started to shift back our way. A deep D by Zach Travis (with some help from the early glare) and a nice grab by Pat Baylis led to a break and more followed as we took back serve. On the last point before half, Beau Kittredge and Sam Kanner both hustled to track down a deep shot, with Beau pulling away at the end to snag the break, 8-6. We got two more breaks in the second half to go up 13-9, and traded out to the 15-11 win.
Round 3: Doublewide, 11-15
Our last game of the day was against Texas’ Doublewide. Although missing Brodie Smith and Kurt Gibson to injury, Doublewide was looking good and had picked up Tim Gehret, Cole Sullivan and Kieran Thomas to add to their already impressive roster. Their offense worked us deep this game, with Kieran in particular consistently getting open for deep shots from Doublewide’s strong throwers. On defense, we were not as successful as we had been against Chain Lightning and never got into a good rhythm. They took half on top of a few breaks and went on to win with a few more in the second half. Although we got a late break and threatened more on game point for Doublewide, they were able to punch it in and win 15-11. This game was a good reminder of how much more work we needed to put in athletically to get to where we want to be for Nationals.
After the loss, we headed to the Rasmussen’s for food, knockout and hot tubbing (thanks again!) before retiring early for another 8am round.
Round 4: Rhino, 15-8
We finally managed to come out strong early – our defense forced a bunch of poor throws from the Rhino handlers and our defensive offense was firing on all cylinders, with Mac Taylor throwing several great deep hucks for quick breaks. The first half was all Revolver as our defense was methodical in converting turns and our offense was sharp, and we took half 8-2. The second half was something of a let-off, however, as we traded out to a 15-8 win – a great result against a good team, but with no more breaks (despite Sam Kanner’s exhortations) we felt a little stymied.
Round 5: Madison Club, 16-15
Our last game put us up against an unfamiliar opponent – Madison Club, featuring (what seemed like) a lot of younger Wisconsin-area players led by Hector Valdivia. Although the last seed in our pool, Madison gave us a great game – some early experimentation on defense proved unwise, but we went up two breaks early before settling in to trade through half until roughly 12-10. This kind of lead is very uneasy, however, as you can quickly get complacent – and one or two mistakes can give your opponent the opportunity to sieze the momentum and the lead. Of course, this is exactly what happened – a deep turnover on a decent look gave Madison the disc and they answered with a successful huck and their first break and we started to feel the pressure, and a great Madison layout D on a Robbie Cahill hitch in the endzone and the ensuing quick break really turned it up. Madison managed to go up a break on us, but we’ve shown surprising resiliency in these late-game battles (perhaps because of how often we find ourselves in them) and our defense earned it back to set up double game point at 15-15 with our O line receiving. We cooly marched it down for the 16-15 win.
Semis: Sockeye, 15-16
After a long bye and lunch in downtown Santa Cruz, we returned to the fields to play our semis matchup against Sockeye. Although they had some turnover from last season and a number of new faces, Sockeye was looking very practiced and full of energy. We traded breaks early in the first half, with Sockeye hitting open shots deep while we worked it well under and ground out a long defensive point. Highlights I can remember include Jordan Jeffery with several great deep throws on offense. Out of half, Sockeye started to pull away with a few breaks, including one on an athletic deep sky by BJ Sefton (?), but we managed to claw them back late and force double game point at 15-15, this time coming down on D. A quick throw gave Matt Rehder the disc, who put up a break-mark backhand huck, catching our cutter defender off his man and sealing the victory for Sockeye. After the fight to get to double game, this was a pretty quick way to end it, and we were all disappointed to lose and to get knocked out before reaching the final.
All in all, while the tournament didn’t end the way we wanted, we made some important improvements over the weekend and again got to see where we need to continue to grow. It also has taught us where we are in respect to the rest of the field for this club season – squarely in the middle, vying with a group of skilled and athletic teams. We know this will make for a very exciting and hopefully fulfilling season…