USAU Club Championships – Day 4

Last year the finals were at 2:30p which left a lot of time early in the day to think about the upcoming game against Chain Lightning. We had tried to tune out by watching a movie and lounging around, but the excitement kept burning through, even if it wasn’t explicitly mentioned.  This year we had less idle time because of the earlier start, but nobody avoided talking about the finals, and things clearly felt looser, closer to a normal morning at Nationals. Instead of arriving early like last year for an almost hour and a half warm-up we would only start jogging 50 minutes before game-time, five minutes extra than we had warmed up for the rest of this tournament to allow for team introductions. Leading up to the first pull, Ironside sounded very energized, while we conveyed a calmer demeanor, which is exactly what we wanted.

Game 8 – Bracket play, finals – 11:45a vs Ironside (Boston, MA)
We’ll leave it to the Open division reporter, Jonathan Neely, to narrate the full game, but here are some choice details:  Ironside broke our O-line three times, but our D-line converted at a high rate, looking almost as efficient as the O-line after the turn. As for the game-winning upwind hammer, Eric Halverson says he wasn’t thinking goal when he threw it, but simply saw Tyler Grant wide open and let it fly. Grant, with plenty of time, checked the goal line and carefully leapt for the catch to get his feet across.

Deserving Bart Watson won the Peter Farricker Spirit Award to keep it in-house after Robbie Cahill won last year. Ironside earned the team spirit award that we had been honored with in 2009. Congratulations to both well-deserved spirit award winners.

It was a truly great season, for which we owe many many thanks:  To everyone that has proudly worn the Revolver jersey, helping to build the team into what it is today, especially the founders Nick Handler, Chris McManus, and Marc Weinberger, and Chuck Kindred for spiritual coordination.  To the 2010 captains, Mike Payne, Alex “ Dutchy” Ghesquiere, Robbie Cahill, and Bart Watson, for all their endeavors in planning, executing, and leading.  To Patagonia and George Plomarity, for keeping us clothed, comfortable, and stylish.  To all our friends, family, and fans across the world for their years of support and motivation.

We all look forward to 2011.

USAU Club Championships – Day 3

So begin the elimination games. If you can make it this far in the season, all you need is a three-game winning streak! Unfortunately, that’s tough when seven other top-caliber teams attempt the same.

Game 6 – Bracket play, quarterfinals – 9:30a vs Truck Stop (Washington, DC)
Though #22 Brian Stout stuck to the sideline, shirtless and arm in a sling, any thoughts of a lucky break (no offense, Brian) were put quickly to rest by their big blond receiver #99 George Hughes-Strange, who set about dominating the lanes and skies en route to a 7-5 lead for Truck.  Wake up, Revolver–it’s Saturday morning in Sarasota!
We finally got back on track with an outstanding D by Jon Levy on a backside huck that he played perfectly by quickly turning for a high-angled layout at the exact moment to prevent the sure goal. A 10-2 run to end the game yielded a 15-9 victory that felt difficult, despite the differential.

Since we had the later semifinal, everyone headed for the parking lot and drove five minutes to the nearest Chili’s restaurant, where the air conditioning felt wonderful, the cold water refreshing, and the appetizers delicious. We hydrated a lot, didn’t eat too much, watched college football on the HD TVs, and joked with the waitresses and each other.

Game 7 – Bracket play, semifinals – 2:15p vs Doublewide (Austin, TX)
Since we had already dispatched the Ultimate equivalents of the Giants’ NLDS (Atlanta Braves & Chain Lightning) and NLCS (Philadelphia Phillies & Southpaw) opponents, we knew that if we could win our semifinal matchup against Texas that San Francisco would at least win the World Series! Everyone was talking about how dialed #10 Brodie Smith had been for Doublewide, especially since being re-paired with his old Florida running mate #20 Kurt Gibson.  Indeed, they both played well this game making many deep and shorter connections–including a stellar laser hammer from Gibson to Smith late in the game–but clearly sometimes forcing tough stuff because of their extreme trust in each other. We assigned Taylor Cascino and Eric Halverson to put their best flat marks against Smith, since he seemed so determined to huck, and they did well to make his throws rushed and angled into tough spaces instead of easier, straight, leading passes. Halverson tallied a foot block on one of his backhand attempts and Cascino notched a layout comeback block on one of his forays downfield in which Gibson was determined to get the disc to him. We were down early 5-3 but clawed back for a 15-13 victory that won’t rank among our prettiest, but exhibited a ton of athleticism and grit by both teams.

We were excited to be back in the finals, but not really nervous with our tough skin. We had played in the championship game of our last six tournaments, dating back to Cal States, and only lost one of those games. But that lone finals loss, at ECC, came at the mercy of our next adversary, who only lost one game all season (quarterfinals of Worlds, to Sockeye). Yet everyone knows that the final game of Nationals is an altogether different beast.

The entire team, family, and friends took over our favorite Italian restaurant in Sarasota for our traditional Saturday night meal. After thanking everyone for coming out this year and dismantling a wonderful meal, we rejoined the Giants to keep our minds off the next day. At our team meeting that night we reviewed defensive assignments and offensive and defensive strategy points, then split into separate O and D squads for a final talk. In the offensive group, sitting around the pool, we focused on playing a sensible, patient, possession-oriented game to keep the pressure off our defense. In the defensive group back inside, we pointed to the energy needed tomorrow and noted that the outcome of the game would ultimately rest on D-line shoulders. If
we could grab three breaks we trusted the offense to carry the day.

USAU Club Championships – Day 2

Everyone was excited about today’s opponents: a perennial Northwest Regional power and the team that we haven’t met since they handed us a defeat in the finals a year ago.

Game 4 – Power pool play, pool F – 9:30a vs Furious George (Vancouver, BC)
The recent addition of #10 Masahiro Matsuno–on loan from the Buzz Bullets, the team we defeated in semifinals at Worlds this summer in our tightest game of the tournament–brought a completely new dynamic to our game plan. We weren’t sure how in sync the Furious O-line would be after putting him into the rotation after losing a couple of offensive players on Thursday. While both teams prepared for the game we laughed at the similarity between warm-up routines for the two best athletes on the field, Matsuno and our own Beau Kittredge, namely that they don’t really appear to be warming up at all and just going through the motions. Somehow they’re still the fastest guys on the field when the first pull goes up.
#8 Morgan Hibbert was limited by an arm cast but still made several athletic plays, though we kept his giant backhand mostly under wraps. #25 Oscar Pottinger’s forehand did some damage, as usual. A dangerous sideline collision between Matsuno and Mac Taylor worried everyone for a minute, but both men later returned to the field. The lead shifted hands throughout the game but we separated with a late upwind break to win 15-12.

Game 5 – Power pool play, pool F – 12:15p vs Chain Lightning (Atlanta, GA)
Honestly, we had been waiting for this game for an entire year. In the pregame huddle we were reminded of what one Chain player that had been in the audience had said to a group of us as we walked off the championship field in Prague, with our gold medals hanging around our necks: “You know, you guys are lucky. You really dodged a bullet.” Bulletin board material doesn’t get much better than that. Amazing the level of determination and will that our team can unleash when we’re in top form, a level on full display as we roared to a 12-6 lead and a final of 15-6, including several strings of breaks against the talented Chain O-line.

We felt fast and fresh at the end of the day. The team scattered for the afternoon, some to the movies, some to the beach, and some staying around to watch the play-in game that would determine our quarterfinal opponent: Truck Stop defeated PoNY 15-13.

USAU Club Championships – Day 1

The first morning–dew swathed across the short grass, thin fog dissipating in the rising sun–always stirs an excited anticipation. Only one member of Revolver had never experienced Sarasota, but even precocious rookie Russell Wynne had been battle-tested during our undefeated run at Worlds earlier this summer in Prague. Our other five rookies have all been here before with Jam, the Condors, or other squads, in the case of multi-divisional champion Sam Kanner.

Game 1 – Pool play, pool B – 9:30a vs Southpaw (Philadelphia, PA)
San Francisco versus Philadelphia–mirroring the NLCS, which SF won in 6 games! In a rematch of a close victory at Labor Day (in a game that we trailed at halftime), we minimized the impact of #12 Joel Wooten’s deep game by forcing him underneath and then blanketing the other younger, less-experienced downfield targets. The Philly throwers’ frustrations manifested in their facial expressions as they held the disc for long periods of time, rarely able to string together quick consecutive throws. Our O-line went unbroken and we closed out the game 15-7 in time to kibitz the second half of the game next door as Madcow delivered the first upset of the tournament against Johnny Bravo, making things immediately more interesting in Pool B.

Game 2 – Pool play, pool B – 12:15p vs Madcow (Columbus, OH)
We saw their youth, athleticism, and fearlessness on display only an hour before but Madcow was unable to fluster us in our first-ever matchup. Their couple of big guns could loft deep shots, but they weren’t consistently precise enough to prevent our defensive corps from collecting underneath and engulfing most of their errant hucks, including a couple of nice Ds by Martin Cochran. We never let off the gas and won 15-7.

Game 3 – Pool play, pool B – 3:30p vs Johnny Bravo (Boulder, CO)
Our most recent loss this season came at the hands of Bravo at Labor Day as dusk fell on a Saturday that saw our trifecta of ex-Bravos all injured (Martin Cochran with a broken hand, Beau Kittredge with bruised ribs and shoulder, and Mac Taylor with a black eye that swelled shut).  We had been looking forward to a rematch for a while. They appeared exhausted compared to how fresh we felt. We stepped around a pool of vomit on their sideline and helped them stretch out a few on-field cramps–their earlier unexpectedly tough games combined with an unusually hot and muggy day had clearly exacted a toll. Still, they fought and clawed like always, including great play on both sides of the ball from #16 Ryan Farrell despite early cramping. Our stout O-line only allowed one break all day en route to a 15-10 win.

Checking the day’s results found a couple of surprises, but we were not at all surprised to see Furious George advance from the bottom seed of their pool into the power pools. We would soon meet them and Chain Lightning in power pools, buoyed by the Giants’ 9-0 explosion in Game 2 that night, a game that also served as a welcome distraction from all things Ultimate.