Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Santa Cruz Invitational writeup

I hate red-eye flights. We left Santa Cruz on Jetblue at 8:20PM Sunday night and arrived in Boston at 4:45AM in the morning. As is my wont, I was completely unable to sleep on the plane, even though I had a buzz, a window seat, and plenty of pillows. I also had the ONLY row on the plane that had some guy reading with his light on the ENTIRE flight, but I don't think that would have changed anything. Of course, I might have 'slept' a little better if we had come away with a better result from the tournament, but more on that below.

Of course, focusing on the results as opposed to the journey is a little short-sighted, because everyone's goal is to win 8 weeks from now, but, competitive as I am, I hate to lose at ANYTHING. This was my first tournament since the Boston Invitational, and the offense still has quite a bit of work to do. The defense showed that they might be the best man-to-man defense to come out of the DoG house in quite a few years. The light at the end of the tunnel is that the offense showed flashes of dominance, but never for more than one half of a game (and zero points, much less a half, in the semifinals against the Condors). That was the worst spanking that I have ever been a part of, and I definitely made my contributions. About the only comparable loss was at Regionals in '95 against Cojones, losing 17-6 in the finals. While we swallowed that humble pie and turned that season around to win, the field is much deeper these days, and our star a little more tarnished.

As for the tournament itself, this was our second visit in two years, and as always, the setting was spectacular. However, this year the view hid from us the first morning as we arrived at the fields in split pea soup fog. It was almost comical as we approached the fields during our first round bye (jet lag coming to the west coast, entire hotel room up by 6AM, and they give us a first round bye...), heard players shouting, calling up, etc., and then finally as we got about 20 yards away from the first field, players appeared vaguely in the mist. Tracking a long throw, much less a pull, was an adventure. Admittedly, though, it was fun to be able to leisurely arrive at the fields, catch up with people you haven't seen in awhile, and just ease into the tournament.

In pool F, the first round saw no upsets or challenges. In the other side of the bracket, there were two exciting games, with Condors going up against Johnny Bravo, and Jam against Chain. Given the foggy conditions, both games were VERY exciting, with multiple turnovers (not sure why that makes games more exciting, but it does, at least for spectators).

We finally started our tournament in Round 2 with a game against Kaos, who had recently beaten us (or at least the team, I had missed out on another Phil Mickelson DoG defeat) in Colorado. The 4th place finisher from NW and nationals participant last fall, Kaos is still a very good team with a non-zero chance to sneak a spot in the 3-spot NW region. This was another dogfight, with the DoG offense flowing early and easily, and then balking late, before the team squeaked out a 13-11 victory. On the other field, Sockeye held seed against Doublewide. Our next game was against the Monkey. We were wondering why our seeds were switched, until we saw who they did NOT bring, including Shank, Lugsdin, and Grant. The only immediately familiar face was Al-Bob, leading a young and large crew. After the D staked us to a 4 point lead at the end of the first half (with the O holding serve), the O promptly gave ALL of it back in a quickie 4 point run to get it tied at 8's. The D staked us to another late game lead at 12-10 before the O stepped up again, gave away 2, and received at double-game point. After a few close calls and shaky throws (and no turnovers) the O punched it in to win 13-12. And no, I wasn't in that point.

Then we got a break and played Oaks, who nicely bent over for us and lost 15-3. Unfortunatley, we didn't take advantage of this game and the subsequent bye to give Sockeye a good game. While the final was 15-11, and we got some goals back, and the O did well for awhile, this was also with Sockeye having fun on the sideline, etc, just like we did for the Oaks game (and the Furious game when we were up 8-4, still working on the killer instinct). While Sockeye was impressive, they were not unbeatable, but we will have to be flawless in our execution, which we haven't been able to do on both sides of the disc for an entire game yet. And it remains to be seen whether we will have that extra gear that the best teams can switch into when necessary.

In the other games, with Kaos upsetting Doublewide, our victories over Furious and Kaos basically made the morning game against Doublewide irrelevant to our presence in the semifinals, and boy, did we show it. Lethargic and playing on a very narrow field, we lost 13-11ish to Doublewide, never really getting many points on the turn (and the O still playing not so well, although at least this game we got a lot of the turnovers back). While I was expecting to play Jam in the semis (and looking forward to it), we had a surprise enemy, the Condors, whom we almost NEVER play against besides nationals. I guess it was this element of surprise that let them hand it to us. They had lost to Chain but beaten Jam the day before, and with both teams at 4-1 and Condors winning the head-to-head, they won the pool. We started with the disc going upwind, moved it VERY easily all the way to the goal line, and then Forch floated a short forehand for a goal that Hollywood promptly ran in and caught. The Condors promptly scored downwind, deflating the entire team. The O scored the next point without a turnover, the D was scored on, and then the floodgates opened. Over the next 2 halves, we turned it over on our goalline at least 4 times, including 3 first or second pass turns to nobody. It got so bad that we put the D in on O at least 3 times to try and stem the tide. Nothing worked, and the Condors pasted us 15-4. The only thing left was to go get lunch, lots of cider/beer, and settle down to heckle the finals between Jam (upset winner over Sockeye 13-12 in the other semi), and Condors. While exciting, somehow it wasn't as much fun as last years final heckle, although local sons SafDie, Dutchie, and Jambalanza made for some personal heckling, including a great defensive catch on the goal line by SafDie after he turned it, and of course some key turnovers by Safdie also.

Finally, had a few hours to kill before driving to the airport, and Billy Berrou, aka Frank, was kind enough to have set up a Goaltimate game, which I promptly joined. I played opposite the man himself (Jim joined a little later, ruining the beneficial effects of the shower he had just taken), and we won the first few games before the rest of my car showed up and said it was time to leave. I wistfully left the field, with one last look at the ocean below Santa Cruz, before heading back to the airport, not paying for gas in the rental car, and getting CREAMED for $43 for the refill charge.

Sockeye is everything they say. I would have like to see the Sockeye-Jam crossover. All the west coast teams were playing some form of the spread offense, and had the big offense (and big defense), which also led to big turnovers. I think there is still room for a team to play controlled offense to take advantage of the free turnovers. Hopefully it will be us, but we still have some work to do. Too tough to rate Furious, since it is unclear how many of their missing horses will actually be playing. But they were athletic (as always). Unfortunately, Kaos/Rhino are going to have a tough time grabbing one of the NW slots.

I didn't see any of Chain's games, and regret not being able to play them, since they got rid of the Phil Mickelson label in DC(fortunately, I wasn't there, so still undefeated lifetime against them...). Condors looked very young and very good. It will be interesting to see if they can sustain it, but it looks they have managed the feeder system from college very well and they are maintaining the program. Didn't see enough of Bravo, although I imagine their results disappointed them.

Jam seems to have transitioned well away from Idris and Damien, although it is nauseating to see Safdie take my traditional spot (the dump) as a former defensive stud. Will wonders never cease? It was also good to catch up with Moses, who appears to have fit in very well with Seattle. Doublewide beat us, but hopefully that will be the exception, as they struggled against most of the other top-notch teams. Of course, we have to earn a top-notch team rating, and we've still got a ways to go. Hopefully we can ramp it up in the next 6 weeks and surprise at the big show.


Blogger Idris said...

"Big Offense", "Big Defense", "Big Turnovers"... that's a good way of putting it.

Sorry about the fog... that was not the plan.

3:25 PM, September 07, 2005  
Blogger deepdiscthoughts said...

I find that Sockeye plays to the level of their competition to some extent. I guess the better way to put that is that their offensive decisions seem to depend on the teams that they play against.

When playing against Jam, they seem to have more turns than when playing against Pike or other more possession focused teams. I suppose it is a by-product of the "Turnover Compact" as elucidated by Zaz on his blog.

3:43 PM, September 07, 2005  
Blogger Alex de Frondeville said...

Hey, I thought the fog was totally cool. Made that morning very surreal. Of course, I'm glad I didn't have to play that first round...

As for Sockeye playing down, they have the leisure to do so, like DoG in its heyday. We no longer have the leisure to play down to our opponents, although recently we have been more than holding up our end in the Turnover Compact, to our dismay.

4:05 PM, September 07, 2005  

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