Club Nationals: Saturday by Grant
November 11, 2010, 12:45 pm
Filed under: tournament write-ups

I can only hope to be playing at the Sarasota level when I get to be Master’s division eligible. I’m impressed to see guys who are still visibly 100% after 2 days of playing and at the culmination of the season. The good men from Chesepeaked gave me some advice to for maintaining their playing health:

-Lots of ice baths
-Vitamin I (Ibuprofen for the ill informed)
-Compression. They didn’t really elaborate on this but I assume any sort of compression is good then.

Even more fun is to see the cornucopia of historic discs and gear that litter the sidelines of all the masters games. Something you simply don’t see everyday is this jersey:

Double Happiness, San Francisco, 1997 Worlds jersey


I was told this was the original 1997 Patagonia Capilene shirt that was first screen printed for Ultimate and the screenprinters weren’t sure they could even print on the material. I feel like this is one of the those early moments that started a revolution of elite apparel that we have today. Without instances like this, Spin might not be around. Retelling this story to Danny Karlinsky later, he mentioned that his older brother Dennis was one of the guys who was playing on Double Happiness during that year and helped organize the deal. [ED. note: After more concrete investigation, Danny has informed me that his brother did not engineer the deal but rather Billy Layden did, although Dennis was a member of the team.] Again, you just don’t find that out hanging out on the open sidelines all day.

Danny Karlinsky also shared a little bit of information about Ultimate Peace and it’s a wonderful program. I even challenged him to sum up the program in 7 words and he countered with 10. I agreed and after a few minutes came up with the following phrase, “Promoting peace through Ultimate, where kids need it the most.” Well done sir. Check out their upcoming summer camp next year at http://www.ultimatepeace.org

I don't remember these Dwarf names from the movie

By the time I’m done making the rounds over the massive field site, Sockeye and Revolver and locking heads in the semifinals. Everything is top notch including Sockeye’s call and response cheer on the sidelines:

“Hey Sebby!”

“What?”

“Do you have any 6’s?”

(Entire team) “GO FISH!”

Ironside had jumped out to a comfortable lead early and Sockeye had almost let the game get out of hand before halftime but Joe “BJ” Sefton stops Boston in their tracks with a big layout to validate the zone defense. Sockeye zoomed back the other way and Ben Wiggins makes the swing cut towards the end zone hoping to superman into the goal area with the catch but the observer doesn’t believe him. He resets on the goal line so he dishes to Nate Castine instead, making the game 7-5 Ironside. Boston would take the half 8-5, but even the difference of one goal is significantly better than being down 8-4 at half. Folks are in for a treat the rest of the way.

My favorite moment of the first half included a stoppage of play where a huck is brought back to the original Sockeye thrower just shy of mid field. There is also some side confusion about the possibility of another violation but that point was negated by the previous infraction. Never the less, Reid Koss is unaware of both the thrower violation and where the disc is when it’s sent back. Both teams shout heads so Reid gets down low, almost in a ball… and the disc still hits him. Everybody laughs at Reid! I asked him about it later and he said, “It was rough. I tried to be small.” Sounds like something to work on in the off season.

During the half I also got a chance to get some words from Andrew Fleming as everyone knows, blew up all over ESPN this summer. Well it’s been a sufficient few months since then so I asked him about the changes that clip has brought him in his life. Fleming said he was called by a few sports radio stations in Seattle and D.C. which was fantastic because they were asking a lot of questions about the sport basically had the attitude, “hey, this is sweet. We want to know more about it.” He also said the folks who didn’t know he played Ultimate were sending him the clip, which was always good for a laugh. The best thing he says, was the attention was awesome because it wasn’t the usual misconceptions about the sport that were brought up. There was much more of sense of legitimacy which he found to be very enjoyable.

Will Neff, showing me what kind of food a Callahan winner eats

Continuing to shift my attention away from the game which Ultivillage was covering as well (except their pen and paper was an HD camera), I caught up with Aaron Bell of PoNY, who qualified for Nationals for the first time in two years, surprising both Bodhi and GOAT on their way to Sarasota. Staring at the score reporter can be tough to try and figure out the story behind the games so Bell enlightened about PoNY’s determined run through the backdoor bracket as the 4th seed to take the second and last bid to Nationals out of the Northeast region. PoNY has finally become more of a structured team this year. Before, the team was just a hard running team but now they were able to implement a meaningful strategic plan. Another big hurdle is the traditional lack of consistent practice space in the city. Before they would try and find places in Brooklyn and even New Jersey but spots would change and it was a tough time to figure out a schedule. Fortunately, in the off season, the city bought up Randall’s Island, right in the heart of NYC and made it available to more of the club sport teams in the city. PoNY now has their practice field and it’s accessible by a variety of modes of transportation. As far as being able to conquer their regional foes? “Hard running. GOAT and Bodhi do a great job of that so we tailored our game to handle that,” says Bell.

There are always a group of games I was interested in watching but had never taken the time because of the spectacle that is the semifinals: the 5 through 8 bracket of games. These teams still fall in the top half of the teams at the tournament and still produce a lot of action yet know they are playing for placement and pride. What kind of mindset does a team have going into these games and how do you get psyched up? Tully Beatty, the coach of Phoenix said this, “You can’t be indifferent… The season’s over in a few hours. Just go out and play. Don’t be indifferent.” Sometimes we all need that reminder that it will end soon so enjoy it while it lasts…

5th place game, Women’s Division

Traffic (Vancouver, B.C.) v. Scandal (Washington, D.C.)

As it is the last game of the season for both teams, the two sides agreed upon a mutually beneficial solution that would give them a meaningful game after more than two days of play: game to 11. The game was already in high gear by the time I arrived with Scandal constantly having to battle against Traffic’s zone. In the early going, Scandal has little trouble zooming through the zone and Sandy Jorgensen benefits for the goal. All square at 4-4. Traffic comes right back with a quick efficient offense of their own. As the sun beats down on both teams, Scandal can’t catch up to the swing goal from Eva Cham to Amira Maddison. Traffic’s back on top, 5-4.

One striking feature about this game is the sparse sideline as all the other fields have been cleaned up and abandoned by the players, fans and personnel whose seasons have already finished and are elsewhere watching other games, drinking beer and generally enjoying all the good times at the lovely Sarasota Polo Club. The persistent wind that was present over the previous two days is gone and the sunshine is all that’s left. Water and shade are critical, not only for comfort, but also for health as one Nemesis player has already needed attention just to avoid being in the danger zone.

Since the game is short, this next point could mean half for Traffic. With a Scandal turn, it looks that way. Candice Chan throws up a flick on the liveside that trails away from the defender towards the deadside and right where Janice Lo can’t be D’ed. The Canucks take half, 6-4.

After a respite from the heat for a short time, both sides jump out of the gate with superb highlight worthy defense. Neilu Rishi gets a big layout D for Traffic, but just when you thought they are gaining momentum and might score again, Scandal’s Charlie Mercer gets one of her own and keeps on trucking towards the end zone. Her throwing has the green light to go for and sends a huck Mercer’s way that she tracks down for the goal, 6-5 Traffic. The girls from the north of the border get their insurance point back and but Scandal won’t close the door. 7-6 Traffic. The Washingtonians throw on a four man person cup that makes it hard for the girls north of the border to move the disc. Scandal causes a turn only to give it back. The defense isn’t the problem though and they get another turn and the thrower gauges the huck correctly this time to tie up the game at 7’s.

Only four more points to claim supremacy of the non semifinal qualifiers and Traffic lays it on thick. A bullet of a pass up the gut and then a quick out to Ashlee Davidson wide gives Traffic the advantage again followed by Kira Frew getting a poach D on the next point and then a fast pass to Davidson for the Canadian break, 9-7 Traffic. This team is very sharp and Kira Frew is an absolute spitfire for the team, making plays on offense and defense.

The Beltway gang will not go down easily though. Jenny Fey throws up a pass that Jorgensen pulls down for the goal, climbing over the heads of multiple defenders and receivers. Scandal gets a crucial turn on the next point and Jennie Wellman scoots deep and is the target of the handler. The pass isn’t going her way and looks to fall to the ground but Ashley Daly is there for the recovery and suddenly Scandal is right back even with Traffic, 9-9. Back and forth they go!

Each side spots the other a turn but on Traffic’s second offensive chance, Frew takes a dump pass over the line with a hop to put Traffic in the first chance to win. Scandal tries to get a quick O point but gives up the disc and Traffic is working the red zone. Sanya Pleshakov turns to dump to Betsy Chan. Chan continues over to Frew and as soon as the disc is released, Chan bursts upline and Frew gives it right back for the goal and the game, 11-9 Traffic.

Ironside has fans of all ages.

With another day in the books, only six teams remain vying for a championship. Our merry band of spectators made the ill informed move to try and meet up and party the previous evening with teams in Siesta Key which left us a little gassed for the Saturday night activities. After joining up with a huge Atlanta contingent at the Spin house, the party ballooned to starting including the rest of the nation and folks began to migrate towards the local hotspots. Without proper identification from some folks in our running crew we headed home only to find out the next day, folks were partying till 5am. Rats.



Club Nationals: Friday by Grant
November 5, 2010, 7:28 pm
Filed under: tournament write-ups

Our arrival was early. The earliest in fact. At 5:30 in the morning, it was only us and the good folks guarding the beer truck. On call from 7pm to 7am, they spend as much time at the fields as anyone else yet they are rarely seen by the masses. My hat is off to you gents.

This is what the Polo Club looks like without any sunlight.


At 6:15 the port-o-john guys arrive and we are already jovial about having the entire site to throw around a flashflight disc while it’s still dark out. With our collective adrenaline we formulate a plan of action to get through the day that includes making a trip to Publix as it opens and loading up with the requisite bread, turkey, cheese and mustard to compliment our stocked cooler already filled with ice and beer. Now with the sun rising over the Sarasota Polo fields, it’s time to find out what’s going on.
We park our van for front row seats right in front of where Chain Lightning is beginning to come to life. Last year they could have run the slogan “Welcome to Destroyertown. Population: Chain Lightning” and the early evaluation was these guys look good. When Zip goes past me, I can’t help but think even his jog to the Honey Bucket looks like it helps his game.

With less 15 minutes to game time, I get a chance to catch up with Ring of Fire all around dominant player and good guy, Jared Inselmann to ask him what exactly happened at regionals this year. He responded that full credit goes out to Truck Stop. They were playing well and Ring simply wasn’t at its peak at that time. In previous years, they had the advantage of being comfortable heading into regionals but this time there was a lack of preparation. Jared also said they were only 1 for 7 on break opportunities. Well Nationals is a whole new ball game and early season heartbreak can be erased.

With 5 minutes to go before game time, I found out that Ozone was down to only 9 healthy bodies by the end of Thursday. Rough. And then the moment the teams were waiting for…

Horn sounds.

Mixed Power Pool Round 1

Drag’n Thrust (Minneapolis) v. Polar Bears (East Bay)

Despite the elevated level of play between these two sides, both squads carry a cavalier, whatever happens, happens attitude. Drag’n Thrust never calls subs or lines, instead relying on a alchemic mixture of athleticism and experience. Two of the players are over 30 and they even had a few practices this year. The Polar Bears cut their over 30 player count by 1 and when asked about gunning for a strength bid this year and coming back next year… they shrugged. These guys are just going with the flow. Sure, they had set out a goal of winning the Northwest region, but that’s in the past now.

Drag jumps out to an early lead and through my simple observation it’s quite simple. Drag’n Thurst’s throws aren’t floating while the Polar Bears’ throws are. 2-1 D’n T. Already down a break, the Polar Bear O spreads the field wide in hopes of opening the throwing lanes. They also get throws from both sides of the mark and get one back from Minnesota. Advance and conserve seems to be the name of the game early. Both teams are weary of the seemingly intermittent wind so they wear down the defenses with quick up field strikes, followed by a steady pace of dumps and swings. The offense is potent enough to beat PB’s cup as the Bears look to prevent the big rushes. When push came to shove though, Drag’n thrusted, 4-2 Minnesotans.

The game is far from over but D’n T makes a big statement with a turn and then a huck to Patrick Niles who makes a stellar grab. Thrust jumps to a 5-2 lead. What might be aggravating on the field is actually very enjoyable as a spectator. In a bid to get the next few points, both teams are ramping up the defensive bids and the wind is acting as the third man on the field. The Polar Bears interrupt my enjoyment by calling a timeout before either team can grab a point. I learn that some of the Drag’n Thrusters are operating on 4 hours of sleep after the bad weather in Minneapolis slowed air traffic to a crawl and caused multiple delays and missed connections.

Polar Bears come out of the huddle and get the point they wanted, leaving a gassed line to depart from the field. Thrust proves you don’t need long points to score and march down the field without turning over the disc and then score another crucial break with a bomb with the wind, 7-3 Drag’n Thrust. 808 Liu matches it with a bomb of his own to Lucas Dallmann making it look so easy, but Thrust gets the first laugh, taking half 8-4. As the Polar Bears come over to the sidelines to talk, Clay Miller is upset and directs his anger towards the nearest trashcan but this is how I saw it: Clay thought the garbage can looked a lot like Hitler and let it know how he feels about that with his foot. The uninformed might have seen the same moment differently though.

In the middle of half time I caught up with Greg Connelly, head honcho for the observers here in Sarasota to ask about the method to his madness and this is what he had to offer:

In the college championship tournament, every game is observed in addition to having 4 observers in the semifinals and finals. It would take 60 observers to do the same here at the Club tournament which unfortunately isn’t feasible. All of the observers have their flights, hotel and some meals paid for but there aren’t enough willing to make the trip and to complicate the situation even more, some of the better observers who Greg would like to have are playing in the event. So, it’s not a budget issue, just a personnel issue, but Greg makes due with the qualified staff he has on tap. Each observer goes through a screening process and he tries to pair up rookies with veterans who also give feedback to the newer guys. Even at the quarterfinal level, all of the games can’t be observed because the Masters division semifinal games are taking place at the same time and require observers. Before he takes, he offers one last pivotal piece of information telling me that quality definitely counts over quantity. “A game with poorly trained observers is worse than no observers at all.” I wholeheartedly agree with his philosophy and he is definitely on the ball with this event. Kudos Mr. Connelly.

Back to the game at hand where the teams are converting on the offensive chances. Josh Hemmesch gets a step for first position and D’n T’s 9th point. Natasha Won makes a super layout grab to make it 9-6 Thrust and provoke this exchange on the sidelines between teammates, “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming.” “I did.”

Why do I love ultimate? Seeing teammates laughing and smiling on the sideline even while down at Nationals. Even though the haven’t closed the gap yet, the Polar Bears are still hanging tough, staying an edgy 3-4 points behind at all times. They are close to a game breaker but under a high stall count they have to punt the disc towards the end zone that always ends up as a completed goal (a contested stall would have nullified the goal). You what though, sometimes things just work out for you regardless. Robert Gormley breaks the mark to Ernst Westphal and the Bears have finally gotten a break back, 10-8 Thrust. PB wants two breaks in a row, even forcing a turnover but Drag’n Thrust serves up a handblock and then Robyn Fennig goes crossfield to a wide open Michael Berseth for the score and the momentum 180. 11-8 D’n T.

“Pick. Pick called! Oh, that was a bee. God dammit!” Daniel “Robot” Naruo always vocalizes the important stuff. Things aren’t going well on the field for the Polar Bears either. Drag’n Thrust starts to display that athleticism and experience I’ve been hearing so much about as Niles gets elevation again for a break and then Thrust connects on the outshot again going downfield to make it 13-8. The Polar Bears work the disc with supreme fluidity to slow the Thrust, 13-9. D’n T counters with an O point and then gets it back when PB coughs up the disc in the red zone. They don’t want to waste their own chance after lots of disc advancement so they call timeout on the winning doorstep. 1-2-3-4 throws is all it takes and Fennig takes in the game winner, 15-9 Drag’n Thrust.

After the first of two power pool rounds, it’s time for a well deserved beer and a sandwich. The long hours and little sleep haven’t gotten to me yet and the rest of my traveling posse also look sprite as I encounter them in our sandwiching making van. There’s something about Club Nationals that fills even the spectators with a whole lotta adrenaline.

I have also found out one of the more intriguing storylines for the weekend that has some players wondering if this is the end of an era. The beer garden is no longer free. What will this mean for the future?

Clearly this is an issue.

Power Pool Round 2

Sockeye (Seattle) vs. PoNY (New York City)

My first glimpse of the open scene is the power pool game between Sockeye and PoNY and Seattle looks like Sockeye of 3-4 years ago. They yell, “Blood in the water! Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!” out to a 3-0 lead over PoNY and the dreaded dropped pull strikes the Pones before they get on the board. The game begins at 4-1 Sockeye. The Seattle offense is back after a long rest and Spencer Wallis gets the big throw downfield. He dishes to Mike Caldwell and gets it right back outstretched in the end zone. The Fish can seemingly do no wrong, 5-1. Anything they throw is working, 6-1. The defense is forcing mistakes, 7-1.

Jody Arvigan gives New York something to smile about with a highlight of his own, staving off halftime for at least one more point, 7-2 Sockeye. Seattle finally comes back down to Earth and PoNY gets a break chance but Adam Holt stabs a swing pass out of the sky. A dump here, a swing there and Seattle maneuvers the disc into the end zone, 8-2 Seattle half.

This is how Muffin manages to tweet and play at the same time.

New York starts out the second half the way they wished they had started the first half with Ben Faust connecting with Jack Marsh to make it 8-3 but Seattle matches with a goal to Mr. ESPN, Andrew Fleming. Kevin Terry goes to Aaron Bell on an inside out breakmark flick and now the Pones are starting to string some offensive possessions together and giving more playing time to the D line. A break in the wind and the Pride announce their presence with a hammer for the break in the game, 9-5 Seattle. New York is stepping up on D because if New York ultimate has taught me anything, it’s FCU, it’s ICU. Sockeye is forced to work harder and they step up to the challenge to get the goal, 10-5. PoNY is working harder but they are going to need to get some more breaks in a hurry to make a run at the fish… and then they get one. A O point leads to a D where Marsh throws a trailing flick to the end zone, 10-7 Sockeye. Both squads are fired up so Fleming acts like there are more cameras around and skies 3 Pones to keep pace. Tyler Kinley follows that with an encore breakthrow to Tim Gehret, 12-7 fish. PoNY almost gives up another break but Ignacio Yz has other plans and gets a bookend goal, 12-8.


Even though both teams are incredibly focused in the game, Ben Wiggins doesn’t give up the opportunity for an on field heckle during a stoppage of play. During the stoppage Webster McBride needs to take an injury, BLW responds, “I need you to earn that injury,” with a smile on his face. So one of the Pones on the sideline lobs a bottle at him. The game is never too serious for both teams to share a laugh. After the disc is tapped back into play, each team produces a turn but the fish get the benefit end, 13-8.

Gehret comes up with a big layout D on the next point but has to take an injury. Even more unfortunate, the goal pass is too far and the fish give it up. Another hammer, another near injury so the Fish avoid a possible third incident by scoring this time around, 14-8. PoNY continues to fight, even on their deathbed and eeks out a goal as well as a break from Joe Anderson to Grant Boyd, bringing the tally up to double digits for both teams, 14-10 Sockeye.

Wiggins finishes things with a pass to Dave Bestok for the win but Dan Heijmen looks on the bright side: “Prequarters baby! Prequarters!”

Before the final round of play, I get a chance to ask Andrew Lugdsin about how exactly Matsuhiro Matsuno came play for the monkey. As it turns out, Lugsdin and Matsuno have been communicating over the past few years with the hopes of playing at some point, when Matsuno asked to play with Furious next season. Lugdsin responded that while it sounds great, he wouldn’t be playing next year as this was his last season, so come play with Vancouver for Nationals this year. And the rest they say, is history.

Well, not exactly. Lugsdin also explained to me this is the first time Matsuno has played with Furious and he speaks little English. The Buzz Bullets also run a different system than Furious so figuring out a place for Matsuno is not as easy as it might seem to those aware of his gargantuan stats at Worlds earlier this year. Sometimes he plays O, sometimes he plays D because it’s always tough to integrate someone where everyone else already knows each other.

Regardless, it was quite awesome to see him on the field and while Furious couldn’t pull out a prequarter victory, there were some awesome highlights and the spectators can only wish for more Matsuno vs. Ken Porter matchups in the future. Next up… Saturday play!

Matt Lane and I got into a shootout during Friday. He won.