Wednesday, October 31, 2007

#7 (or is it 5)

The question implied in the above statement comes from the abuse we heaped on Jay Seeger when he won the Masters division in '95 with Squash and we said that Masters was a minus one against national titles. Of course, now that a bunch of us have migrated to the old guy division, we may have to reevaluate this philosophy...

Well, in short, I had a lot more fun than I expected, and having won, it was much more difficult than I would have expected if someone told me we would win. I did not go in with the expectation of winning, just the hope and knowing that we were one of the top contenders, but the tournament itself, and specifically the quarters and semis, were VERY difficult. Fortunately we had some easier games where we were able to open up the rotation, but it definitely tightened up at times. It was hard to manage a roster of 31. I subbed the offense (easier) and Jeff Brown subbed and selected the D (harder).

Logistically, everything went off pretty well. Not buying the tickets until after Regionals cost me probably $200, but doing some last second shopping, Jim was able to find us a very cheap place on Siesta Key. Everyone stayed there except for Mooney who had a room at the Palm with his family. We also had to scramble for jerseys at the last second, having Patagonia second day mail a bunch of Chili and White jerseys the week after Regionals so that we could get them to the printer in time. The shorts we got from BreakMark as the Patagonia shorts have gotten WAY too big and they didn't have any mediums left when we called. They were pretty sweet. The shirts were good while the design was acceptable. Some people liked it, some people were not so fond. But I guess moving away from the dot designs of recent years was the key as they started showing up right around when we started losing. Now that we have the superstitious stuff out of the way.

We flew in Wednesday afternoon with few problems, got the rental car, drove down to Sarasota, stopped in Wendy's for dinner, and then went to our room. Originally Jim, Jameros and I were to have a cottage together (we figured no one else would want to stay with any of us individually, so why not put us all together...). However, the week of, they let us know they had double-booked, so we generously gave it up to the Eastham family, who we NEVER saw while we were there. The condos were about 200 yards away from the Palm hot tub. Wednesday night was also the first game of the World Series with YOUR Boston Red Sox, so everything was coming together perfectly. A few ciders/beers into the blowout, and we go to bed reasonably early. Brian is supposed to get in late from Seattle, and he rolls into my room around 2AM (11PM PST). The next morning when the alarm goes off at 7AM (4AM CST), of course Brian is luggage. We actually get out of the condo around 8 and to the fields by 8:30. For some reason, the anticipated traffic on 75 and University Ave which we had experienced the past few years never materialized. Very weird.

For Thursdays games we were in front of the roped off clubhouse for all 3 games. I had warned the team just before coming that they should bring a second pair of cleats and socks to the fields each day because all the dew on the field would soak cleats and socks during the warmups. Naturally this advice proved foolish, as for the first time in MANY years there was very little moisture on the fields in the morning. In fact, the only real moisture came Friday afternoon during the quarterfinals. It felt good to be back at the show, albeit in a 'slightly' less competitive division. I have my warmup down, which includes not too much throwing, since I get tennis elbow these days, especially after a lot of hammers, and I figured I would be throwing a bunch of them. It would be interesting to speculate exactly how many throws I have made with this wing over my entire career, tournaments, practice, summer league, etc. Probably a pretty scary number.

We opened with Ironwood, who was a first time entrant at the show (that I could see). They were from Arizona, and we were fortunate to start with them, as it was a good warmup, and they were generous with their turnovers. 15-6. This brings up round two against Mileage from Dallas. They were coming off of a double-game point victory over Surly, which I had examined as I could to find out what they were going to do on offense. Basically, they were huck & hope to the nth degree. They had one main tall blond guy that I often just threw the disc long to, whether he was cutting or not, just as long as he was deep. And of course he came down with most of them. We ended up playing a mix of zone and man and after giving up a large late lead, we took the game 15-13. One of the things that I noticed in the masters division is that people were a little more willing to throw over the zone than in Open, although I noticed this more when teams played against OTHER zones than ours. It always befuddles me how Open teams struggle against the zone. I always think zone is a gift and unfortunately, no one really plays it against anymore. We often joke on the line that if somebody throws a zone against us, we should dump and swing for about 40 passes so they think it is working and will play it more.

This brought up the long anticipated game against Troubled Past for command of the pool. It was fun to see these guys, against whom we have fortunately had a lot of success, often at their expense. Billy and Worm had iced us, originally with Worm playing with Truckstop and Billy playing with a local FL team, only to give us a 'in your face' and play with the enemy. We went up big again only to fall back to a close game. I stopped playing around 12-10 because my calf was starting to tighten up and it wasn't worth having it seize completely. Admittedly, it made it a little easier to sub the game as I didn't have to worry about playing time among the handlers now. And Jim made it even closer at 14-13 with a drop. 4 MORE points later, and it is 16-16 with us receiving. Coop throws a beautiful cross field long backhand to a streaking Alec Ewald for the goal. No, wait, Alec, no one within 10 yards, goes up way too early and has the pass go off his fingers out the back of the endzone. He walks back to play D with his head in his hands. Fortunately, Bickford got yet another huge D and we punched it in a few passes later. Game, set, match.

That night was Red Sox game 2. After poaching on the Palm Bay hot tub for awhile, back to the condo for the game. Too freaking exhausted, I finally crash after after the end of the sixth, when Hideki came in to finish the inning and held serve at 2-1. It was a good thing I crashed, as the score didn't change and the Sox went up 2-0. Next morning, the team is pretty good about getting out to the fields around 8:30 again for a 9:30 game. Interestingly enough, I was getting to the fields earlier for the Masters division than I ever did for Open. As the first game wasn't critical, I figured I would hunt down Russ for a quickie calf massage, but as I looked over at the Boston Ultimate sideline, he was continually busy, so I hung out until he freed up before heading over at around 2-1 us. After some hemming and hawing, we figured out it would be best if Jim subbed while I was gone. Half hour later (after Russ beat the shit out of my calf) I came back and Jim had JUST subbed his first line. Meanwhile according to Russ I was good to go for the rest of the weekend if I took care of myself. I ended up playing some in this game, although didn't have to since we coasted to a 15-9 win.

After winning that game, seeds were finalized for our pool and the game against Surly was now meaningless. They treated it that way, and we eventually did also. They were more than generous with their turnovers, and we coasted to a 15-8 victory. It was good to catch up with a lot of the Sub-Zero guys like Cooter, Dan Rydel and Dave Boardman. Little did we know that we would meet them again.

My prediction of having the tougher pool was validated when we ended up sweeping the quarterfinals, although I think a lot of that was due to the matchups, especially with the upsets in the other pool. On Friday morning, OLD SAG went double game point with Old and in the Way before losing. If they had won, they would have won the pool. As a result though, they ended up forth, and lining up across from us for the quarterfinals. This was an obscenely difficult game. They went up a break early, we got it back, they got another break and took it into half. The first half was pretty chippy with calls, as we felt a lot of D's were stolen from us, including 3(!) by Bill Stewart on one point! I believe we started on D the second half, so down a couple of breaks. We could not stop them on offense. I barely recognized ANYONE on their squad besides Paul Bonfanti, Brendan, Sam Sackett, Will Heyman, and another guy who was their main handler. They were short and ran the crap out of us and we couldn't get the breaks. Finally as the weather got worse we got the lead back with a 3 point run to make it 11-10 pulling. Right after we took the lead, they tried to ice us with a half hour lightning break. Although it was already clearing, most of the people headed to their Faraday cages (I mean cars) to ride it out. I stayed at the fields with a few others, and after a half hour, they gave us 15 minutes to warm up, and 16 minutes to cap. We ended up trading to 14-13 pulling before we finally got the D. At one point, we had two injury subs on one called back D play. First I walked in and called in Jim. Then backed out when it was a foul. Jeff didn't notice, and then called Mooney and Greff in only to have to pull them. So imagine my surprise when a bunch of passes later I notice Jim on the field. I completely missed Simon's injury and replacement. Finally, game over and the army of 31 beat the bigger army of 37 to make the semis. That was a LOT of handshakes. Talking to Paul Bonfanti, he figured (and was originally hoping) that they would be playing us in the finals.

And now the long awaited rematch with Troubled Past, who ended up third instead of second in our pool after losing to Mileage that morning to move to our side of the bracket. The day started off poorly for me as I was the first one at our field at 10AM for a 10:30 game. As you can imagine, I was livid at my team for getting there with so little time to spare for the most important game of the tournament so far. It didn't help that when I walked out and stopped on the upwind upsun sideline, Jeffy immediately came over and started barking in my ear with a megaphone to move to the other sideline because they didn't want us there. Naturally this got my hackles up so I stayed for awhile. They took my chair over to the other side, so I sat on their cooler, etc., etc. Much 'hilarity' ensued until FINALLY a teammate showed up (Rick Kenyon) after 10 minutes of this. We ended up going to the other side, although he kept me company for awhile on the evil side. This set the tone for the game early, as it was now elimination, and it became readily apparent both on and off the field. They had a few players who thought it was funny to heckle people on the field during the game after bad offensive plays. I'm not sure I remember ever having that happen to me before at Nationals. I thought it was incredibly unspirited and made me want to beat them all the more. After going up big yet again, the O gave up 3 in a row in the second half and the lead before we got it back, and traded out to 15-15 receiving. After scoring the previous 2 or 3 goals without a turnover, Jim hands the disc on a platter to Worm just outside their endzone. Fortunately we get it back. Then we turn it over AGAIN and I believe Bickford gets it back. Finally we push it in to make it 16-15 pulling. I REALLY don't want to have to go in to the game at 16-16. The D saves me by getting the quick stuff and score with a bladey forehand from Simon to Dan the Can(adian) and we're in the finals. It was incredibly satisfying to win this game because of the poor spirit displayed by the other team. It would have sucked if they had made the finals. Of course, we were fine off the field with them, but that doesn't excuse the game time posturing.

Now the long break before the finals. I went over to the Boston Ultimate guys, told them we had won, and said I had one word for them. "SHOWCASE". Playing in the finals was about the only thing that made it seem like a real division, at least in terms of the other players. We eventually got a pretty good sized audience once the JAM game was over although, like Jim, I barely noticed anything that was happening off the field, including some apparent heckling that I was getting. I had an early forehand inside out turnover which I think we got back, but otherwise I was able to keep up my largely good play from the weekend. At one point, we were going slightly upwind in the second half and I was on the right side of the field being forced forehand. All of a sudden, my teammates were lined up in about 4 different areas to receive a hammer, and I cocked and waited to see who was going to cut for it. There was NO way I wasn't going to throw a hammer here. Finally, Mooney, who had was deepest in the stack and had been curving to the far sideline, looked like the likeliest candidate so I uncorked at least a 45-yard crossfield hammer to him which he ended up catching cleanly although his defender made up most of the ground. One pass later, goal. Very satisfying. I threw a couple of goals in the first half, caught the last goal by the offense to make it 14. The coolest thing was opening up the subbing on the last D point and watching them get the turnover and then have everyone involved in scoring the final goal, including people who hadn't touched the disc all game. Everyone had gotten with the program. This was definitely our most complete game of the weekend, with the only glitch being the two straight the O gave back in the first half.

I was pleased overall with my performance on the weekend. I had between 0 and 3 turnovers a game, including 1 in the finals, 2 hammers in the semis (and maybe one other), and I think 0 or 1 in the quarters (which I'm sure Jim will modify). The only time I had any difficulty getting open was when one Trouble Guy covered me, but only because he was cheating by handchecking me continually. I had to keep slapping away his hand. Someone said he was marking me by putting his hand in front of my face which apparently is now explicitly excluded in the 11 edition. I said I didn't notice and thought it was a benefit because it gave me an unmarked throw on that side. I thought I broke the mark pretty easily all weekend on both sides, including the step around backhand and the step out bladey forehand (often without the step). Except for the end of the Trouble pool play game when I stopped playing because of the calf, I probably played almost all of the O points and was the hitch for almost every point I was in, except for when I switched it up with a fake to me a few times in the Troubled game. I heard second hand that an OLD SAG guy that had covered me a bunch had expressed that he hated covering me because of my first step. Thank god I have that, because there ain't much else. However, I thought I was running very well considering how much less track work I had done this season (interesting comparison) although I had played a bunch of tournaments and had done some low level pickup where I tried to focus on running hard and playing hard D. I thought my D was very good, especially when I covered handlers. And considering how many points I ended up playing, especially compared to last year (playing barely 50% of the O points), I thought I held up very well, feeling almost as fresh at the end of the tournament as at the beginning.

Subbing was an interesting experience, one which I had requested long ago before we had coaches. I think it helped to have an O person sub the O and a D person sub the D so that we could stay in tune with what was happening on the field. At the end of the Troubled Past semifinals (or maybe OLD SAG), I ended up putting the same O line in for the last 6 points because it was playing well, and I didn't feel comfortable putting in someone new at that time of the game. It was sort of cool in that the typical power O lineup was basically old DoG plus Alec Ewald for a little bit of youth leavening. Once the O would get on a run of being broken, then I would have to start putting in some D players. I know some people got iced in the important games, and it is never easy to take. I didn't hear too many complaints from any subbing 'liaisons', but I think part of that is because a lot of people were just happy to be at nationals at all, AND even happier to be part of the National Championship team (maybe THIS should be called the Chumpionship).

And now on to Vancouver!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We opened with Ironwood, who was a first time entrant at the show (that I could see).

Ironwood has been to nationals many times. Clearly this was not their best year, but they've had some decent success in the past.

9:32 PM, November 01, 2007  
Blogger Alex de Frondeville said...

Hmmmmm. Guess I should do a little more research. Oh well, it's my first year in the division. Guess I need to research the division's history a little more.

9:59 PM, November 01, 2007  
Blogger luke said...

both you and jim mention less being more in your training, and i have an anecdote to share.

a dad on the team (he's the guy who I THINK) invented the magic expanding ball (you know, i'ts plastic, it's small, then it's BIG). also a former airforce rescue parajumper, the dude is totally athletic... but... he ran this marathon in the low 4 hours as a 50 something (nothing special, but a good recreational time), but his point was, this was 4min faster than last time.

this time, he did a lot of runs with the HS team. a team training for a 5km, running no more than 25-35 miles TOPS.

that said, he used the galloway program, in which in a marathon, you walk a certain short percentage out of each mile, or time increment.

i'm not sure of the physiology, but perhaps relating it to ultimate, as you get older (better) you get better at running less, so that you can, say, run more on 'd', or better, run LESS on 'd' and WAY less on 'o' while making your opponent run way more.

the team/ game length/ etc. makes this irrelevant perhaps, but it may be something to consider from an anecdotal, if not scientific standpoint.

just interesting.

i had to look up the faraday reference. very good.

you know i was on the discover channel about a lightning strike at a frisbee field.?

12:07 AM, November 02, 2007  
Blogger parinella said...

For the condo swap, I did manage to extract a six-pack of Guinness and a reduced rate as payback. I asked the condo owner to make sure that the Easthams were the ones to get it, not her, but I did not dust the beer for fingerprints.

You forgot to mention that I made you drive to the fields because my conscience wouldn't allow me to cut off the expected mile of cars backed up on the highway at the exit, but I could claim the moral high road if you drove.

The fields were also wet on Saturday, leftover from the rain.

Interesting how you completely forgot about your hammer over Mooney's head late in the semis. I know that it was immediately before a timeout call by them, and that they called a timeout at 15-15, and at the same place on the field that your hammer ended up. It was also funny to hear Mooney yell at you for yelling at him. Sigh, just like the old days, except he was a little on the defensive instead of attacking.

Also seems like I read most of this blog entry elsewhere already.

3:14 PM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger Alex de Frondeville said...

Yeah, still can't believe there was no traffic. I was unable to wield my traffic avoidance skills.

I didn't forget the hammer, I just forgot when it happened. So you had the first one, and because of yours, I had the second one in the same point? I blame you.

Nah, just a different flavor...

3:31 PM, November 05, 2007  

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