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
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!