After a couple of exhausting days always on the move or photographing I figured it was time to take a break and hang out with some fine folks in the USA Ultimate community.
The last two days had some incredible Ultimate and some “ok” Ultimate. Inspired by Johnny and his friends I decided to spend much of my time on Friday following Furious George with a break to watch whatever game came my way.
Arriving early in the morning teams were greeted to a strong wind that clearly separated the handlers from the cutters. The importance of huckers was never more apparent than when two of the biggest names in Ultimate met at 0930: Furious George and Revolver.
Many thought that Revolver would roll over Furious in the morning game and I would have been inclined to believe them had I not seen Furious play on Thursday. What little I saw inspired me to dedicate much time to watching and learning from them. There’s a stack play that they run that I will be trying soon (along with a few other plays that other teams run).
While the game started out close right up until half, when Revolver broke to go up 8-7, it wasn’t until the second half that both teams had runs of 3 breaks and Revolver managed to break at the end to finish the game 15-13 to hand Furious their first loss of the day. Japanese pickup Matsuno was key on several plays by either throwing for the point or scoring it himself over any number of defenders that Revolver wanted to put in his way. He also took a hand to the face and was out for a few points before coming back in and promptly scoring. As a Revolver handle said: “he has cojones”.
In between recharging batteries Furious lost to Southpaw to push them into a crossover game with Ring of Fire. Speaking with members of Furious they felt that they’d had a lapse of concentration and were looking to drive through Ring. Unfortunately for them it was to be the third loss of their day.
Coming out of the gate Furious offense wasn’t clicking while Ring’s defense was flying and snagging everything coming their way. There were drops, tips on short plays, and trouble at every turn. Ring’s D-line played wonderful O and had no troubles running the score up to half. The Monkey looked down and out going into the second half and things didn’t go well. Simply inconsistent from the get go and trying to counter Ring’s energy with massive plays didn’t work well and before long Ring was sitting at game point (14) and Furious at 9.
The Monkey made a bit of a comeback but it was too little too late and Furious lost 15-12 and were relegated to the bottom 8. For a team that’s developing young talent and improving with every tournament a return to the top 16 next year is in the cards. The old guard played many points but the D line was composed of new faces.
In the evening I spent some time with Observers and Staff at a post dinner dinner at the Daiquiri Deck. We chatted about the sport and where it’s going as well as their views on the game. For the most part what we as players need to understand is that Observers are players and many are or were great players. They fill a necessary role at the highest levels to try and provide an impartial view on the game when requested as well ensuring that SOTG is not lost. Players are encouraged to discuss and resolve issues with Observers but any misunderstandings can be resolved amicably by Observers.
After a late night out it was time for an early morning on a day of great match ups.
The most important morning matchup would be that between Traffic and Capitals. In 2007 Traffic and Lotus played in the CUC finals to decide which team would represent Canada at World Countries; Traffic won. Since then they haven’t had many chances to meet and the morning game would set the standard for next year.
The Capitals have matured quite a bit in the last year and in the last few weeks. Considering their loss to Bent at Regionals and not being able to challenge Brute Squad for first out of the Region their strength was a bit of an unknown quantity.
Traffic was also a bit of an unknown considering they came from the strong NW (Riot and Fury ahead of them) and without real tests such as those found at UUCC. I think that the unknown quality of teams is one of the best parts about the Championships. Teams find it within themselves to perform better than they ever have and on any given day any team can take out the “best”.
I believe that Traffic and Capitals are amongst the best, the cream of the crop, but that inconsistencies have held them back in recent years. As I’ll cover in a future post it is a bit fortunate that they met in this tournament and while it’s unfortunate that it was in quarters it’s important for the future.
Enough of this tangent.
If you watched our Twitter feed then you got a pretty good idea of what happened in the game. Here’s what I thought would happen, one of two things:
1) Traffic would get a few breaks and get in the Capitals heads; or…
2) Capitals would dominate.
What happened? The Capitals dominated from the get go. They controlled the game, won their match ups in the air and on the ground. Traffic has fantastic talent on their team but it’s still raw. There are inconsistencies where the ladies simply could not connect on the goal line (three or four by my count) and while that could have closed the gap the chemistry is still lacking, at this time.
The strong finish by the Capitals was important as their next game was against Seattle’s Riot, one of the best teams in the World.
Traffic went on to finish 5th.
First, though, I had to go and see GLUM vs Boneyard. I hadn’t had a chance to see GLUM yet (I’d visited friends on Boneyard and DoG on Thursday) and I thought it would be nice to see how they’re game had finished.
Surprisingly the game was still going! Being a semi there was no time cap to their game (only a point cap). When I reached them the game GLUM had tied it up at 14s after being down 10-14. It was one of the most exciting games of the tournament and it got even more exciting when GLUM after trading points GLUM broke to go up 16-15. Boneyard scored on possession to make it 16s and send it into the most exciting moment in sports anywhere (regardless of what you may see on ESPN 8…The Ocho): Universe point!
GLUM received the disc and after a couple of passes they turned it; was it nerves, sweat, or the speed? I don’t know but it was heartbreaking. Boneyard moved the disc around and couldn’t punch it into the endzone; GLUM wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Ultimately Brett threw a blade (tolerated only because it was caught) for a heavily pressured point. 17-16 Boneyard goes to the Masters Final.
GLUM went on to get 3rd…and maintain seed :)
After the Masters semi it was time for a division I hadn’t covered that well (even though it’s what we mostly play in league): Mixed. The semi final game I was most interested in was Chad Larson eXperience (CLX) vs Polar Bears. CLX had played three games on Friday as they’d ended up on the raw end of a three way tie after their power pool games.
It’s also interesting to note that the Mixed semis involved Polar Bears, Drag’N’Thurst, D5, and CLX, teams that were all in the same power pool. Polar Bears had defeated CLX in the power pool and I was told that it was uncharacteristic play and that they’d be ready for the semi.
True to their word CLX came out strong and it looked like that they’d be able to move through the semi easily. Polar Bears are a strong team with good huckers but CLX had the answer against it early on. However, the Bears (da Bears) had an incredible number of hucks for points after creating turns. Their defensive line almost always hucked immediately upon a turn and they always had one or two strikers covering the CLX handlers that would get burned deep. It was something that CLX simply could not answer. Da Bears move onto the Mixed Finals.
One of the best parts of the Mixed semi was the spirit on the sidelines. CLX and Polar Bears were always complimenting each other and working through the issues amicably; it’s not to say they didn’t contest or play hard but they both looked as if they were having fun.
Onto the Masters Finals! But first a quick recap of Open. Sockeye had a great morning where they beat Chain Lightning but lost to Ironside in the semis. In the other semi Revolver defeated Doublewide (great top four finish for them) to set up a great Open finals between the top seed and the World Champions: Ironside vs Revolver.
What’s next? Masters Finals?! Actually, there’s something I’m probably forgetting…oh yes, Capitals vs Seattle Riot. Canada’s best team at the tournament against one of the best teams in the World. Capitals didn’t have a great World’s and this game was about whether Capitals could keep their composure as they had against Traffic.
As I was covering the Mixed semi I didn’t get to the game until Capitals were leading 13-12. At that point Riot tied it on a break 13-13. The ladies were focused on the sideline and they knew all they had to do was hold serve. They did just that and went one better. After going up 14-13 they created the turn, called a timeout, and then punched it in. 15-13 and the Capitals head to the Women’s finals.
More importantly, the Capitals have shown their maturity and composure and if they can keep that focus they will win tomorrow. Their handling line was phenomenal and controlled the disc better than any team at the tournament. Expect big things because The Capitals expect big things.
Now, onto the Masters Finals. Chatting with Tony Leonardo before the game he told me that Surly was deep in that of their huge roster (27 or 29 players) all but two were on the list to play in big games. Boneyard was reinvigorated after a low finish and low seeding and had brought energy to the big game; was it enough after their GLUM game though?
Both teams came out strong and on the first point Boneyard was given a TMF after one of their players ran into the point scorer after the point was scored. It was an interesting call and a Boneyard player apologized to the Surly players on the sideline; very professional.
While Boneyard was able to hang in their for the first few points Surly showed their class and pulled away easily. Drops, layout Ds, layout catches, and fantastic pressure made it a runaway success on Surly’s part.
While dejected Boneyard took the silver medal knowing that they’re going to get better and that next year is a World’s year.
Congratulations to Surly, USA Ultimate Club Championships 2010 Masters Champions.