Nationals, Day 2

The new Nationals format gets the elimination started early with bracket play (pre-quarters & quarters) on Friday.  Our first matchup was Vancouver Furious George (incidentally our 2013 prequarters opponents as well), and there was a light wind as we warmed up on the turf stadium field.  We started off the game well: our offense looked very crisp and composed, and our defense generated several breaks, including one off a big layout under block by Russell Wynne on Brendan Wong (shown here).  We took half 8-4 on a hanging huck that floated over a pack of players from both teams for an easy clap catch break.  The second half had several more notable plays:

  • Simon Higgins getting up (and over Ashlin Joye) to get the disc back on offense and immediately hucking it to Chris Kosednar
  • Pat Baylis throwing a 60 yard backhand to an unmarked Ryo Kawaoka off a fast break
  • Lucas Dallmann catching a callahan poaching on the dump

Final score: 15-9

After relaxing during the bye (and watching the end of the other first round games, which featured several tight matches and lots of surprises), our final game of the day was in quarters against GOAT.  After trading the first two points, we struck first with two breaks, including one off a greatest from Cassidy Rasmussen to Zach Travis.  We failed to build off this early momentum, though, and gave it right back to GOAT in the form of three straight breaks of their own.  Credit goes to GOAT for some incredible defense here, especially by Remy Ojo – our offense took some good deep looks and their defenders made big plays to stop them.  After this early flurry of activity, both teams started to settle on offense – theirs ending up primarily in the hands of Mark Lloyd who also had a terrific game and who was especially potent going deep in this first half.

At 7-7, we put out a “universe” line to try and get the break back going into half, and they nearly had it – after a turnover, Cassidy Rasmussen threw an IO flick goal to Joel Schlachet, only to have it called back as a contested stall, and an unfortunate drop a few throws later gave GOAT the chance to convert their offensive point for the lead at half.  In the second half the game was just as tight. Some defensive changes – notably Beau Kittredge on Mark Lloyd – started to swing things in our favor, and our defense came up with the requisite two breaks to take the late lead, 11-10.  In these tight late game situations, we have a lot of trust in our offense, but unfortunately this time it didn’t fall our way – an IO flick from Ashlin Joye to Beau Kittredge popped up and out of bounds, and GOAT broke soon after to go up 12-11.  Despite our strongest efforts on double game point at 12-12, the Canadians worked it down the field, finally hitting a short scoober for the goal that ended our 2014 season.

2014 Nationals, Day 1

Back in Frisco, Texas for another shot at the USAU Triple Crown!
The morning started off cold and wet at the fields as we warmed up to face New York’s PoNY in a rematch from pool play last year. Our focuses: flat marks to stop hucks, and getting our defensive intensity up to the nationals level. PoNY came out a little cold in the first few points, with early throwaways leading to two quick breaks and a Ryo/Martin combo deep block setting us up for a third. We took half 8-5 after a few points of trading, and picked up where we left off out of the second half with two or three more breaks – rookie Greg Cohen supplying a number of goals & assists. Our offense was looking smooth as the breeze started to pick up, although an errant swing gave PoNY a late break to bring it to 13-9 before we finished out the 15-10 win.

Our next game was against newcomer Prairie Fire out of Kansas City, fresh off their upset of Doublewide. We knew that they had a bunch of athletic younger players and good deep throwers and knew we would have to battle in the air. The game started sloppily, with several quick turns by their offense followed by immediate turnovers by our defensive line. They eventually converted and then quickly capitalized on a turfed Revolver throw to take an early break. The wind continued to rise throughout the first half, making the game upwind/downwind, and true to expectations they came down with a number of floating hucks over our defenders. Despite our best efforts on the mark and tight dump defense (and several attempts to mix o-line players into the defense), their athleticism and well-placed hucks stymied our defense in the first half – after getting our one break back early in the game, we could only trade out to 7-7. On this last point of the half, a strong defensive line earned several turns and finally the break to go up 8-7. From then on, our defense started to roll, getting several more goals out of half as their offense started to tire and our defense offense started to get into sync. After a tense and tight first half, we ended up with another 15-10 victory.

After relaxing in the shade during our third round bye, we faced Doublewide with first place in the pool still up for grabs. Despite the importance of the game, it had a somewhat low-key (low-intensity?) feel (e.g. at one point a Doublewide player threw it between the legs of his mark). At this point the wind was moderately strong and still upwind/downwind, leading to some line-calling experimentation from coach Mike Payne. Our first break featured our offense playing on D going upwind, forcing three turnovers and eventually punching in the break. The D-line responded with the downwinder (although it took us two chances…) to take half 8-6. As sometimes happens, we fell into something of a lull here – our defense didn’t play with much intensity, and it seemed like we would be content to (or perhaps expected to) trade out to 15. Of course, Doublewide wasn’t interested, and broke upwind & downwind to tie it at 10. The soft cap went on shortly after, and it fell to our O-line to stand strong and unblinking, scoring two more downwind points (Robbie Cahill with a deep d to stop a break on the first; Joel Schlachet streaking to his favorite cone for the second) to secure the 13-12 victory. The observers in this game (and across the whole tournament) were liberal with the new Technical Misconduct Fouls (profanity, rushing the field, etc) – Chris ‘Bris’ Kosednar picked up three by himself and we were moved back to the reverse brick on one point as a result.
Bracket play starts tomorrow with more 2013 rematches – Furious George in prequarters and a potential matchup against SubZero (or GOAT) waiting for the winner.

2014 US Open Recap, Friday – Sunday

Friday’s lineup was Vancouver Furious George, hometown favorites Sub Zero, and Boston Ironside.  All of these teams were looking strong – Sub Zero went 3-0, Ironside took Bravo to 15-13, Furious George beat Sockeye and took Ironside to 15-13 – of course with 8 of the top teams in the world the US Open stands out as a tournament where you can never take a game off.  Having lost on Thursday versus Johnny Bravo, our bracket spot was on the line, and our final game against Ironside would be our first live-streamed game of the season.

After a 6:45 wakeup (minus breakfast) and an early team meeting, the team headed to the fields to warm up for our first Independence Day matchup.  Coach Payne (unintentionally) grabbed an early mental edge on the Canadians by playing the national anthem on our boombox during the warmup, causing them to stop their drill and stand respectfully while we continued to get ready.  We converted an early break and had a 7-5 lead and possession on defense to take half only for Alex Evangelides to overthrow Sam Kanner going deep.  Furious marched in the goal and proceeded to break us back twice and take it themselves, 8-7, capped by one of their players jumping out of a huge cluster under a hanging throw to grab the break.  Fortunately, our defense came back to life, getting two breaks out of half to regain the momentum and the lead.  A few more breaks over the second half sealed the 15-12 victor.

Our second game was against Minneapolis Sub Zero, with a small crowd of local fans watching.  The wind had started to pick up and by the second half there was definitely an upwind-downwind feel to the game.  Generally we focus on the first few defensive points of a game as an opportunity to make an opponent’s offense work extremely hard, even if we don’t score, so as to tire them out physically and throw them off mentally for the remainder of the game.  However, we didn’t do this very successfully until bracket play, and our first few points against Sub Zero weren’t very notable as we traded to 5-5.  Our offense did do a good job of clamping down after a few turns to prevent Sub Zero breaks – Joel Schlachet in particular has quite a knack for getting the disc back after offensive turns.  Finally our defense broke through to make it 7-5, with Alex Evangelides making a huge layout bid for the turn, starting a 9-2 Revolver run.  Our handler defense did an excellent job shutting down Sub Zero’s reset looks and forcing difficult throws as the wind picked up, and our defensive offense started to clean up both in the downfield cutters and in our dump sets.  Special recognition goes to rookie Greg Cohen for his excellent defense in this game (and throughout the tournament!).

Our final game was against Ironside, and by this point the wind was a big factor – not strong enough to really disrupt the game, but definitely making upwind breaks very valuable.  Our defensive lines came out strong early and forced turns, but the D’s offense stagnated somewhat in the wind and in the face of Ironside’s offensive line.  Still, we got the first break of the game upwind midway through the first half, as Zach Travis cleaning up an upwind shot from Nathan White intended for Ashlin Joye.  We came tantalizingly close to sealing the downwind break on the next point – Lucas Dallman made a great reaction play on his mark, half hand-block and half layout, only to knock it right back into the thrower’s hands; then, a late-stall desperation shot floated over two Revolver defenders and was caught for the upwind score.  Our offense was unable to respond in turn, and for the next 15 points the two offensive lines duked it out as neither defense was able to get a break upwind.  Both teams were looking very sharp – Danny Clark and George Stubbs in particular for Ironside – and it went all the way to 14-13 Boston before either blinked.  An overthrown huck gave Boston’s defense the disc with a chance to win it and, after a timeout, they hit a great throw upwind to John Stubbs for the walk-off break. web search history  This really was a well-played game from an offensive point of view, and it hinged on only one or two plays that didn’t go our way.  Although we knew our defense still would have to play much better to widen this gap in our favor, we couldn’t feel too bad about our performance!  That evening, most of the team headed to the Minneapolis F.C. Stadium (where the bracket games would be played) to watch the NASL team play against the Mexican U-21 team (a thriller that headed straight to PKs after a fight and three red cards in the second half), participate in the opening ceremonies at half-time, and enjoy the beautiful July 4th weather.

Our final pool play game on Saturday morning was against the UK’s Clapham Ultimate. It was again pretty windy and upwind-downwind, and we got several early breaks due to miscues and drops by the Brits.  Like the Colombians, it seemed like it took them a while to settle down and get into their rhythm, but being out of sync for even a few points can leave a team chasing for the rest of the game.  After calming their nerves with a timeout, Clapham played much better through the rest of the game but the lead we had built up was too much to overcome.  We added on a few more upwind breaks in the second half to win 15-10, with defensive stalwart Sam Kanner discovering along the way that playing on the O-line is a little harder than it looks.

We took the afternoon off, looking forward to our semifinal (and happy to be playing in the early game for a change).  After watching most of the Argentina vs. Belgium quarterfinal over lunch at Wild Bill’s Saloon, the team headed back to the hotel to rest and cool down.

Semis and finals were a great opportunity for us to avenge our pool play losses, starting with Boston Ironside.  After our shootout the day before, we knew that our defense had to apply more pressure and stop Boston’s quick deep shots with much better marks, the goal being to make their handlers work and throw lots of short passes.  Downfield we knew this meant we had some leeway deep but had to play much stronger underneath  Our early defensive intensity paid off with breaks, several coming off of Ironside miscues or errors, and we took half 8-5.  The second half was sloppier and we spurned several more short-field opportunities for upwind breaks which should have put the game out of reach.  Instead, Ironside broke late to make it 12-10 and force our offense to go upwind.  Fortunately, our offense held firm (and got a little lucky, with Joel Schlachet in the right place to snag the disc after a huge Boston layout block) through to 14-11, and our defense put the finishing touch on the win, 15-12.

Finals was against Johnny Bravo, and the story was much the same – stop the deep game, which had been so devastating in our previous matchup, with much better marks and instead force their handlers to work harder than ever before to get resets and swings while shutting down in-cuts from downfield.  Although Bravo got the first break to go up 3-1, our first few defensive points were just what we wanted – lots of turns and lots of running for Bravo’s offense – and although we didn’t score our first two points, we broke back on the third and got two more to take half 8-6.  Although our offense gave up a break in the second half after a turfed throw, they stood up strong under the pressure and held out through soft cap to win 14-12, the final goal coming on a huck from Cassidy Rasmussen to rookie Simon Higgins.

On that note, I’ll end the recap by recognizing our rookie class, who all played phenomenally well: Greg Cohen, who earned tough blocks in both the semis and finals and who played gritty defense all weekend long; Alex Evangelides, who brought the great play we saw last year on Sub Zero and had a great layout block deep in the finals; Simon Higgins, who has already earned his place in our tight-knit offense and who scored the tournament-winning goal; Eli Kerns, who played the entire weekend with only one eye; and Chris Kosednar, who we are fortunate to have plying his crafty trade on our side for a change…

See you in Italy!

2014 US Open Recap, Thursday

The US Open is nominally the start of the USA Ultimate club season – but this year’s contest, coming at the tail end of the AUDL/MLU pro seasons and only a few weeks before the World Club Championships, saw teams much nearer to peak form than you might expect.  For many of them, Revolver included, it would be their only competition before the trip to Lecco, Italy, an opportunity to both lay down markers for Worlds and determine what needs to be fixed in the scant few practices remaining.

After several tough triple-header weekends (two practices/one pro game, for most of the team), Revolver was fortunate to be mostly healthy going into the Open.  One significant loss for the offense was Devon Anderson, going down in practice the weekend before our departure.   John Levy would also be absent.

One of the great things about the US Open is the international teams that attend, and we were excited to play Columbia’s Evolution in our first game on Thursday.  Lucas Dallman opened up the game with a nice layout grab going away, but for the most part the first half was a little sloppy from both sides.  The Colombians made a few unforced errors and we were able to capitalize to take a strong lead early, but after a timeout they were able to refocus and from then on played very well.  Their excellent break-mark hucks and speedy cutters did a number on our defense, and we traded out the second half.  After the game, we got together for a joint huddle and were surprised with coffee candies and bracelets, and we wished them good luck in the tournament and in the World Cup quarterfinals versus Brazil.

Our next game was against Johnny Bravo, and we knew it was a big one.  They’ve picked up a lot of big names this year on top of their already impressive squad, some of whom weren’t yet playing (Brodie Smith, Nick Lance,…).  After trading to 5-5, we started to fall apart – our defense just wasn’t playing with intensity, and we continued to get beat deep over and over on all kinds of hucks – open side, break, blades – that our marks were failing to take away.  Bravo even pulled off a nice greatest for a goal.  Meanwhile, our offense had some uncharacteristic mistakes and overthrown hucks that gave Bravo chances that they then put away mercilessly (despite some great offensive D by Joel Schlachet and others).  Our defense, when we got the disc, was struggling to move it.  All in all, it was not a very impressive performance on our part, and the gap continued to grow as we slumped to a 15-8 defeat.

Now, that reads pretty negatively, but our post-game huddle was surprisingly positive – we knew that the main issue, defensive intensity, was just a lack of focus and grit on our part.  We weren’t happy about it, but we knew from practice that we could reach a much higher level, and the challenge we faced was to get there.  Our offense also had kinks to work out, but nothing that was unexpected for an early season game.  It’s never fun to lose, especially by so much, but the more important thing was to use the loss to fuel our development over the next few days.

Our final game of Thursday was against Sockeye, and we set out to end the day on the right note.  We also knew winning this game would be very important for earning a bid to the semis.  Our defense stepped it up, getting some early Ds and earning two first-half breaks – although we were beat more than once by an unexpected pinpoint deep hammer from Sockeye!  As the game went on, though, we couldn’t punch in any more, and Sockeye was able to earn the two breaks back right in the nick of time to force overtime and then double game point at 15-15.  Now, we don’t always huck it to Beau on DGP… but we did this time, for the hard-fought 16-15 win.

Friday and bracket play are coming soon…