Nationals, Day 4: Finals

Sunday was just as windy as it had been all week, and after a morning throwing session on the beach we lounged around the house watching the streaming mixed and women’s finals.  Last year playing in the first final was much like any other tournament day – an early morning, heading straight to the polo grounds and hitting the field.  With the open final in the third slot, we could sleep in but had a few hours of trying to stay mentally focused and calm – morning cartoons are great for this…

Finals vs. Doublewide 
Be sure to check out the full game footage (first half / second half) courtesy of USAU
    Doublewide again started on defense, making our offense go upwind for the first point.  A few teams had tried this on us, and so far it hadn’t come off, with our O line working it against the wind successfully and our defense out of half converting the same downwinder against the opposition.  However, it finally paid off for Austin in the finals – after a few seconds of tentative cutting, they got a big in-cut layout block on our first throw and punched it in from the goal line.  The offense quickly found its rhythm and Jordan Jeffery made a huge grab over Tim Gehret for the downwind score.  On D, Mac Taylor converted a Doublewide deep throwaway into an upwind break with an impressive huck of his own to a streaking Mark Sherwood, and we had the break back.  We got the disc and the chance to seal the pair on the next point, but were unable to convert, and DW got the break back on their next chance to make it 2-3.  At 4-3, Doublewide got an upwinder of their own and again both teams had shots to get the downwinder – our offense held twice upwind, one coming from Johnny Hester who found Robbie Cahill with a beautiful backhand huck, but so did Doublewide’s.  The wind made for lots of jump balls and throws into big packs, and DW’s receivers did a great job hustling and coming down with a lot of them, and at 7-5 they got the second break to take half.
    We knew we had a hole to climb out of in the second half, but we’d been in similar situations before and only needed a pair of breaks to be right back in it.  Coming out on defense going downwind, we converted right off the bat with Sam Kanner finding Martin Cochran who toed the front corner for the break.  However, DW struck first upwind with a break to take a 10-6 lead.  Our offense held strong and converted twice more upwind until our defense was able to earn it back to make it 11-9 after Mark Sherwood made a great play to snatch a DW huck.  On the next defensive point, Mac Taylor made a great layout D on the goal line and Robbie Cahill snatched up a low throw for the upwind break.  After several great blocks and lots of turnovers, we punch in the downwinder to tie it up, 11-11.
    Four more points to go, and we knew that one upwind break would likely decide it.  Adam Simon got us started by pinning DW on the front cone with a great pull. Our defenders quickly smothered it, but a desperation huck found its way into the hands of a hustling receiver and, after a few quick throws Austin had escaped with the goal to make it 12-11.  Doublewide’s zone produced a footblock and a quick strike deep for the crucial upwinder, and a drop on the next point gave them the second.    Although the momentum seemed to be on our side at 11-11, windy games can change quickly, and the last few points seemed to go by in a flash as Doublewide pounced on our turns. At 14-11, they again converted upwind to win, 15-11.

Congrats to Doublewide on the victory – they played an amazing game top to bottom and showed an incredible amount of will.  This was a tough loss for us, particularly as it marked the end of Alex “Dutchy” Ghesquiere’s tenure as coach and we had hoped to send him out in style.  Still, it was an incredible season, from training in April to Worlds in Japan to Twain Harte, Kezar, Seattle, Santa Cruz, and finally Sarasota, and it’s hard to ask for much more beyond the well-deserved rest we enjoyed last week.  We look forward to seeing everyone in the Pro Flight next season…