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.

World Ultimate Club Championships – Day 6

The early bus never came to our hotel, so we waited for 20-30 minutes and called cabs, but the first scheduled bus arrived before the cabs. After depositing us at the Vrsovice complex for a transfer we discovered that our connection to Strahov had departed just before we got there. We waited 20 more minutes before they could get another bus in to take the crew to Strahov. The team was upset and frustrated that we wouldn’t arrive until 15-20 minutes before our scheduled start, but we knew that somewhere along this week our carefully laid plans would go awry; we just assumed that it would manifest on the playing field, not en route to semifinals. So we let the captains deal with it and tried to remain loose and focused.

Our game was pushed back to 9:00, though the adjacent Chain Lightning-Sockeye semifinal began on time at 8:30. A small crowd filled the shady seats in the stadium as we warmed up and set to work, all distractions behind us and the energy of a Worlds semifinal before us.

Game 10 – Bracket play, semifinals – 8:30 vs Bunka Shutter Buzz Bullets (Japan)
Buzz brought a small roster of about 15 players, so they all play a lot of points, and we hoped to tire them out quickly this game by using our legs to keep moving through, in, and around their battle-tested 2-3-2 junk defense and their man defense. Turns out they weren’t that tired, somehow, in their 6th straight tournament day, so credit goes to their coach, fitness regimen, and post-game acupuncture sessions. They also focus on switching sides of the field fast with low around throws, so we forced backhand, contained the around, and didn’t overprotect the inside- out pump fakes. Except for their super-athlete #10 Masahiro Matsuno, who we assigned to our fastest players #12 Nick Chapman and #14 Mark Sherwood, we fronted everyone downfield; this strategy effectively limited their underneath cuts too, as their cutters shut down until Masa could collect the disc and serve as the middleman between the handlers and the remaining cutters.

#37 Jonathan Hester earned a streaking layout block on an upline dump pass to set an early tone and set off a short cluster of defensive breaks. Revolver took half 9-5 also behind strong play by #1 Brian Garcia, who connected often for goals and assists this game. We could have stretched the lead even further but Masa, who was busy playing almost every point, made several spectacular blocks where he seemingly flew through the air. Buzz could only muster one break in the second half, though, and we took the game 17-14 on a bomb from Garcia to #6 Josh Wiseman.

The blue Revolver jersey went to #10 Masahiro Matsuno for his leading role. This was one of the most high-quality and highly spirited contests in which Revolver has ever been involved.  The level of mutual respect was clearly evident, with opponents congratulating each other after great plays, quickly resolved calls, smiles, and high fives–all while playing a tight and hotly contested match at top speed. It’s a shame only one of us could advance to the finals and unfortunately the emotional loss went to the Japanese.

More R&R, including a team dinner with family and friends, until the finals tomorrow afternoon against our old rivals from Seattle in an all-American affair played out on the pitches of Prague.