Nationals, Day 3: Quarters and Semis

Another early morning and another day of stiff wind to face – Thursday pool play Saturday quarter- and semi-finals saw us matching up against Chicago Machine and Raleigh Ring of Fire with seasons on the line.  We spent Friday evening reviewing our game plan for Machine and planning our strategy for Sockeye in case they advanced out of their quarters versus Ring, then got to bed early (no baseball tonight).

Quarterfinals vs. Chicago Machine (15-8)
We had already matched up against Chicago two days earlier and knew a few things to look out for on defense – but the real task for us was to keep up the intensity we had displayed on Friday versus Doublewide and continue to flow in the wind.  Machine, like Doublewide, elected to come out on defense and challenge our offense to work it upwind.  We did just that, with Cassidy Rasmussen getting the disc back with a point block after we dropped a pass and working in the score.  Our defense paid them back with the downwind break, and after two downwind trades we got our first upwinder with Mark Sherwood hitting Russell Wynne deep.  We sealed the pair as John Levy caught a tipped huck and swung it for the goal.  We would get another upwind/downwind pair to take half with a commanding 8-2 lead.  
   With Machine on offense upwind out of the half, we had a great chance to continue the breaks, but they held and again it was on our offense to do the same. They continued to come up strong, punching it in and allowing the defense to get the downwinder on the next point.  We had a short lull, trading to 12-6, at which point Machine fired back with an upwind break of their own.  The offense again held upwind on their next point, however, and the defense earned back the break before trading out for the last points, 15-8.  Despite the let-up in the second half, we were happy with the poise our offense displayed working upwind and the effectiveness of our d-line in getting those valuable breaks (we also again got into TMF trouble this game, with three more being received during this game and two in semis for marking/sideline infractions, something we need to be aware of both to keep our games spirited and to avoid yardage penalties…)  
Semifinals vs. Raleigh Ring of Fire (15-9)
The seeding suggested we would be meeting Sockeye in the semis, but as we finished our quarterfinals, Ring of Fire was on the verge of knocking them out of the bracket to set up another Pool B rematch.  Again, we started on offense working upwind and held, with Beau going deep to set up the short field goal.  Again, our defense got the next downwinder to take an early lead in breaks.  The d-line followed up with an upwind score off a huck from Ashlin Joye to Wynne, and then worked in the downwind point for a 4-0 lead.  Their offense scored and Ring threatened to break on the next possession before Mac and Bart combined for a block on a high hammer and Mac found Beau downwind for a full-field huck goal.  With the defense back out, Martin Cochran played heroically, with a layout d on an in-cut and a huge sky d deep – but unfortunately we couldn’t convert upwind and Ring scored to make it 5-2.  We scored downwind and then nabbed another upwind break, 7-2.
   Going into half and after the break, the story was our offense working it patiently against the wind as Ring worked to do the same against our defense. We missed the opportunity to grab the downwinder for half (there was an unfortunate injury at 7-3 which saw a Ring cutter go down with a knee injury after Kittredge caught his back leg on a bid), yet our offense was unfazed and took half 8-3.  Out of half, we had the downwind chance on D again but it took us until 10-5 to finally capitalize.  After a long defensive stand featuring layout blocks by Sam Kanner, Zach Travis and Pat Baylis, we finally punched in the vital goal.  After Ashlin Joye had an unfortunate drop on the next upwinder, Ring had a few chances to get back at us upwind, but Nick Schlag had a great layout point block to thwart them and keep our offense unbroken.  With a bunch of breaks in hand, we traded out to 15-9 for the bid to finals.  Great game from Ring, and a special shout-out to Dave Snoke for his play and spirit in both our matchups.  
One more game to play and another rematch in the cards – Doublewide taking down Ironside in the other semifinal.  We’ve taken it to them once, but they just proved how dangerous they are and no doubt they’ll be a different team come tomorrow afternoon – 2:30pm (eastern) –  be sure to watch

Nationals, Day Two: Power Pools

As Hurricane Sandy made its way up the eastern seaboard, the wind steadily grew over the second day of club nationals.  The impact of the wind on nationals-level club teams isn’t as great as you might think – good throwers can adjust and deliver sharp throws even in the worst conditions – but it does change the overall flow of the game and the pattern of breaks as teams fight for upwind breaks.  Both Johnny Bravo and Doublewide have great throwers and like to look deep, which the wind can disrupt somewhat – but we also saw a little of Doublewide’s four-man cup on Thursday and knew to expect it in the afternoon.
Game 1, Johnny Bravo (15-11)
Our morning matchup was against Boulder’s Johnny Bravo.  The wind was strong enough even early that this was an upwind-downwind game from the start.  The first break came for our defense at 2-1, with Mac Taylor finding Zach Travis deep upwind, who, after a quick dump and swing, caught the around break for the goal.  We secured the break with the next downwind point off a Martin Cochran deep D.  However, Bravo took advantage of a Revolver turn to try and force it upwind, and after making a fortuitous grab after Josh “Iceman” Wiseman tipped up a huck, they had earned back the upwinder themselves.  They quickly grabbed the second break to bring the game back on serve.  We fought to 7-6, at which point we put in a strong D-line to try and grab the break into half.  The effort paid off, with a hard Sam Kanner mark forcing a first-throw turn and a quick strike on the short field for half, 8-6.
   We were happy with the half – it was a tight game and we had grabbed a break – but we knew that one wasn’t enough, as an upwind-downwind pair was all JB needed to take charge.  Out of half, they threatened to just that as they held on O and then broke upwind to even the score at 8-8.  Our offense was unfazed, though, and held the upwind point, allowing our defense to immediately earn the break back.  We traded downwind to 11-10, along the way earning TMFs for our hard marks and our sideline (four total – 2 marking, cursing and rushing the field…) before sealing the game with a final break pair at 12-10 on the back of Martin Cochran, who had two great blocks and the goal for the first break and a Bart Watson layout upline for the downwinder.  With this late cushion, we were able to close it out 15-11.
Game 2, Doublewide (15-3)
Our final game was against Doublewide, who was also 2-0 in the pool – we had both secured bracket spots but the quarters matchups and, more importantly, the mental edge going into the final 8, were still on the line. This game was streamed live and we had friends, family and fans watching (which is always exciting) – and you can watch it all in replay (first half / second half).  We were fired up for this game, and we knew after our previous nationals matchups, DW would be as well.  Texas elected to start on offense upwind – perhaps gambling on their offense to hold giving them an early downwind opportunity, or perhaps hoping the wind in the second half would be even worse. The game started in the best way possible for us – DW dropped the pull in the wind and we had the disc on the goal line.  However, both teams were sloppy – it took us 3 or 4 turns before we could finally punch in the break.   Now, with the single break in our pocket, we came out with an offense-oriented defensive line, and it paid off as Cassidy Rasmussen hit Beau Kittredge with a long hammer and we worked it in for a second break.  We worked in the downwinder and then another patient upwind/downwind pair and were suddenly on a 5-0 lead.  Doublewide answered back with their first offensive goal on a deep look downwind, but our offense survived a Rasmussen drop in the endzone to hold.  Our d-line forced another long point out of the DW offense, who finally scored on a deep shot to Kiran Thomas with two defenders closing.  Our offense held again, and our defense got another upwinder off of great handler defense by Taylor Cascino.  Half at 8-2 was beyond our expectations, but we knew we had to continue to press in the second half.
  We were coming out on offense upwind, but although the wind was still blowing strong, our offense worked it well and held, giving our defense the chance to convert downwind again.  On the next upwinder, Russell Wynne got an incredible around layout point block, and we kept rolling – more blocks and scores both ways, as Doublewide started to let it go.  They scored one more downwind O, but we never let up on route to a 15-3 win.

Saturday marks the start of elimination games, and with seasons on the line the level of play just continues to rise.  We had a great showing today, but we can’t take pleasure in it yet.  On to quarters vs. Machine…

Nationals, Day One

Our national title defense started late on Wednesday night as the team gathered in the beach condo, taking the last opportunity to watch film, massage legs and relax before the games begin. A first round game against an east coast opponent can be tough, but most of the team had been preparing for the time difference and got to sleep early on Wednesday night.  We showed up to the fields a little late because of traffic but squeezed in a focused warmup before the national anthem signaled the start of the festivities.
 In an exciting development, we also welcomed back Bart Watson (“the White”) from his mid-west/mid-season intermission.
Game 1 vs. Ring of Fire, 15-10
Our first game was against the three seed in our pool, Raleigh’s Ring of Fire.  It was cloudy and cool on the polo fields, and already there was a good breeze that would stay for the entire day.  We received to start the game and Ring came out with a zone transition look for the first few points.  There were a few quick drops in the first two points as both teams adjusted to the wind, but for the most part the offenses dominated the first half of the game and we traded to 7-6.  Highlights included Cassidy Rasmussen sending a great deep throw to Ashlin Joye for a quick score.  We had our one last chance to break for half, and after a D on a floating swing, our defensive offensive finally struck, with Bart made a nice second effort grab before hitting Beau up line.  We were happy with the half but we knew we were still in a tight game, and needed to come back out after the break with even more intensity.
    Coming out of half on D again, we forced another turn before putting up a floating up-wind hospital pass that got a lucky tip out of a big pack into Mac Taylor’s hand, setting up a quick flip for the goal.  Our defense started to roll, with good handler defense getting a third break.  We suffered an unfortunate injury at 11-8 when Joel Schlachet bid for a dropping around throw and re-hurt his knee.  Our offense got the disc back and maintained their un-broken game while the defense earned two more late to get the win, 15-10.
Game 2 vs. Madison Club, 15-7
We had a bone to pick with Madison Club after going to universe point at Labor Day.  After watching their game against Machine, Dutchy gave us the rundown for the game – keep the cutters contained and make the handlers swing horizontally to earn yards.  After our offense punched in the first point, our defense started where they had left off against Ring with two early breaks thanks to D’s by Mac and Sam Kanner, and some good throws by new addition Bart Watson.  Madison got an upwind break back at 4-3, the first break given up by our offense, and with the field mostly upwind/downwind the break hung in the balance for a few points as our defense tried to earn back the downwind score while our offense did a great job working it upwind.  Finally at 6-4 Adam “Chicken” Simon earned the break back with great handler pressure and grabbed a tipped, floaty dump for the Callahan goal.  The break seemed to give us a handle on the game and after another turn and a great trailing edge save by Taylor Cascino going deep, we broke again to take half 8-4.
    Madison’s offense converted out of the break as the wind picked up (and it even rained for a brief period) but the rest of the second half was all our defense – we earned 5 breaks on the backs of great downfield defense and short-field handler turns.  We kept the intensity up to win 15-7.
Game 3 vs. Chicago Machine, 15-8
Our last game of the day was against the two seed, and because of Ring’s victory over Machine in the previous round we hadn’t yet secured the top spot in our pool.  We came out a little low on energy for our first offensive point and Machine broke immediately with some unexpected hammers over the stack.  The slap to the face woke us up and our defense earned the break back on its first point, with Bart knocking down a floaty IO.  Still, Machine traded with us until 5-4 – highlights included Robbie nabbing a jump ball over two Chicago defenders, and Beau laying out deep to toe the back line.  However, we turned the defense back up and generated three short-field turnovers and three breaks to take half, 8-4.  From here, Machine seemed to lose a little energy and we never looked back – three more breaks in the second half gave us the 15-8 victory.

    This was a great day for us – three solid wins, consistent intensity, sharp offense and grinding, effective defense.  We watched a few of the other games before heading home to ice, eat and watch SF in Game 2 of the World Series.  Power pools tomorrow pit us against Johnny Bravo and Doublewide – follow us on twitter for score updates or catch the live stream of our game against Texas!


Southwest Open Regionals

After our first tournament victory of our 2012 season (as Revolver), our title defense continued in Ripon, CA at Southwest Regionals.  We’d put in a couple of solid practice weekends and had made some adjustments on both sides of the disc – now it was time to execute in a tournament setting.  Last year we had some incredible, season-defining games at NW Regionals, especially in our semifinal matchup versus Sockeye, but the regional redraw means that we’ll be matching up with a new set of teams in place of the Fish, Furious George, and Rhino.  We hadn’t seen the Condors, Sprawl, or Streetgang this year, and with some interesting Sectionals results from SoCal, we weren’t sure what to expect, but there are always tight games to be had when bids to nationals are on the line.
    Going into the tournament, we were still missing several players to injury and unavoidable commitments.  Fortunately, we made it through the weekend without losing anyone else…

Game 1, Sprawl (13-5)
Sprawl won the SoCal section and were the two seed in our pool, so we expected this to be the game of the day.  Our main goals were to stop quick deep looks on defense and to maintain focus throughout the game, avoiding any lull that might come after a break or two.  We executed very well on these two goals, preventing Sprawl from scoring quickly and grinding out turns, earning several breaks en route to half, 8-2.  Avoiding a let-up, we continued to earn breaks and won 13-5.

Game 2, PHTB (13-3)
Our second game was against PHTB, the Cal college-club team that we played at Sectionals.  They had gained a strong handler with the return of Gary Dixon (fresh off a European championship!) but we were able to convert effectively on defense – final score, 13-3.  We were playing a little sloppy, though (with our offense even getting broken out of half), so we ran through some half-field drills afterwards to bring the intensity back up in preparation for our next game.

Game 3, Streetgang (13-8)
Another strong team from SoCal that likes to send it deep, and another good test for us.  We started well, with a few early breaks to take half at 8-4.  However, we did hit a bit of a lull in the second half and traded for a while.  It’s hard to maintain defensive intensity over a full game, especially with a few breaks in our pocket, but it’s something we’ll have to do to close out games.

Game 4, Gridlock (13-3)
After a bye, our last pool play game was against LA’s Gridlock.  We cleaned it up a little and won 13-3 – the last few points played with a tight rotation while most of the team gawked at the car on fire in the nearby parking lot (highlights included Ryo Kawaoka selflessly dashing out to rescue his car a helpless child from the flames).

Winning the pool set us up for semis versus Condors in the morning.  The team split up to shower and get Mongolian BBQ/watch Looper/hit the hotel pool.

Semis, Condors (15-12)
Finally we were in elimination games for the bids to Nationals.  Boost Mobile had beaten the Condors 13-7 on Saturday, but we knew that if we gave them any breathing room they’d hang with us all the way – they’re a team that keeps getting back up after a punch and keeps fighting.  We traded the first few points but got a break to go up by two early.  However, one is never enough – after they converted their next chance, a nice look from Devon Anderson to Josh Wiseman sailed too far, and after Santa Barbara worked it up the field, they had earned the break back.  We got another before half to go up 8-6, but excellent handler pressure by the Condors earned them two back out of the half to take the lead at 9-8 and put us under the gun.
   We knew our defense had to convert, but we continued to get beat on deep throws over our defender’s shoulders.  Fortunately, our offense was solid, and Mac Taylor sparked our defense at 10-10 with a layout catch D deep as we started to earn back our breaks and added on more.  Our late surge gave us the 15-12 victory, with Johnny Hester throwing a slicing IO forehand which Beau Kittredge grabbed through his defender for the final score, but it was a little too tight too late in the game for us to feel very comfortable. The Condors gave us a great game, though, and we were proud to have ground out a good win under pressure.

Finals, Boost Mobile (15-10)
The final was a rematch of our sectional finals against Boost Mobile.  Although we had matched up well on them in that game, they had been missing a few big players and of course the stakes hadn’t been as high.  Boost had been having a great weekend so far, handling their SoCal opponents (LA Renegade, Condors, Sprawl) with aplomb.  There wasn’t anything new tactically for us this game, aside from a few called matchups to get individual defenders fired up – the same plan as all weekend, and the same goals as in the Condors game – not to let up or let them hang with us.  The game started similarly to the semifinal – after a few trades, we got the first break, only to give it right back.  This time, however, Boost took two back for our one, and we found ourselves down a break pulling at 7-7.  Putting out our must-break line, we got the D and the break to bring it back on serve, 8-7.
    With (hopefully) one more half of ultimate to play, our D finally started to get on a roll.  Early in the half the defense endured a long, multi-turnover point: a deep layout block by Zach Travis gave us the disc with a full field ahead of us, but James Pollard got a hand on the first dump and Boost had the disc right on the line.  Our coverage was tight and forced Boost to swing it back and forth several times before trying to stab it in on the open side, but Nick Chapman got a vital diving block to prevent the goal.  After still more turnovers from both teams, Mac Taylor finally hit Beau racing deep past his marker for the break.  The long break got our defense fired up and tired out their offense, and we were able to earn a few more late breaks to win the region, 15-10.

Most of the team hung around to celebrate and watch Boost (who had cleverly kept a few players in reserve during the finals) put on a great game versus the Condors for the second bid.  Congrats to the (all-Bay Area) regional champions in the Women’s and Mixed divisions, Fury and Polar Bears, and to the other Bay Area teams representing at Nationals – Boost Mobile, Nightlock, Mischief, Blackbird, and American BBQ – see you in Sarasota!