Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tough year - Nationals 2009

My 26th year of competitive ultimate is now in the books. When I think back on the season, I realize that while I didn't actually miss any of the tournaments the team went to, this is probably the least 'work' that I have ever done.

Not that I am proud of it. It started with a serious broken throwing hand at the end of May which largely sidelined me for 6 weeks despite actually playing at Boston Masters Invite and the Boston Invite in June. Then got the cast off early to play at and win Grand Masters mid-July. Then, trying to get ready for the fall with a scrimmage while I was in NY, I get a nasty 4 inch scar on my right shin which takes me out for another month although I'm back just in time for Sectionals, if desultorily. Clambake gets mostly rained out resulting in only 3 games all weekend. Regionals is the wakeup call showing us that aren't the top DoG anymore in the Northeast. With our tails between our legs, we shuttle off to Nationals.

Hot, hot, hot. What else can I say? I believe that the TV news was saying that Thursday had set local temperature records in Sarasota. It sure felt like it. You would think that after having dealt with dehydration/calf issues since 2003 that I would have had the routine down by now. But it is always a different surprise every year. First game against GLUM on Thursday I played the whole game on offense and had a good game. But on the very last point of the game we turn it over, they throw a junky/floaty throw to my guy in the endzone, and I go up to try and get the D. I jump off of my left leg and yet it is the right cramp that seizes on the way up. Good times.

The next game against Surly is a write off as we are working on stuff pretty early in that game. I am out the entire first half without really explaining why to the team (I ran subs all weekend for both O and D). In the second half we are going to work on some zone defense so I put myself in on wing. By this time I am hydrating like a mofo and peeing pretty much all the time. Not enough though as my calves start barking some more. I play a few points of D wing then shut it down.

In the final most important game against Boneyard I think I was in for one point of O, we turned it over, got it back, and I actually took myself out on O AFTER we got it back. It just wasn't going to happen today. Of course, this also made it VERY frustrating to watch as we almost got beaten by Boneyard, having to come back and win 17-15 after being down 15-14. This would have effectively eliminated us from contention. Little did I know what was to come...

So off to the beer garden after the game. Too crowded, too long to get a beer, I get and finish one beer, don't feel too hot, and basically pour out most of my second beer. On the way back we stop by the burrito place which has its usual long line of Ironsides players plus some others, although this was the fastest I ever received my food. Back to the hotel and proceeded to beach like a whale for the next few hours watching the Yankees lose to the Phillies in game 1 and drinking water and eating lots of salt. Table salt unfortunately but you go with what you have. I finally pee normally a few times right before an early bedtime, and then the deluge. I must have gotten up at LEAST 10 times during the night to pee. Never seen anything like it.

Calves felt good in the morning. Lots of stretching and running and continued drinking and salt, and I ended up being able to play the entire day. First game against Ball & Chain to 'guarantee' a quarterfinal berth. They hadn't won a game yet, and it showed. We were able to move to a convincing and not stressful victory, setting up our final pool play game against Trouble Past. As Jim mentioned in his blog, we were pretty psyched for this game. The D got us two upwind breaks in the first half and after Troubled scored the next upwinder each time, they came down in zone and I promptly threw away a hammer each time, one to each sideline, to give back the break. STILL pissed at myself. TP ended up going up big on us towards the end of the game. Since the O had been playing a lot (and getting scored on) I put the D in for a few O points. The D ended up going on a run from 13-8 or so to 14-12 before losing. Meanwhile, Jim had observed the potential disaster going on the next field over where GLUM was playing Boneyard. If GLUM won, or Boneyard won by anything OTHER than 2 points, we were guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals. If GLUM lost by 2, there would be a 3-way tie for 3rd with all 3 teams at 0 in the plus minus, moving onto the next tiebreaker which no one knew. Sure enough, GLUM chokes it away and loses 15-13. We run over to the HQ and are quickly adding up scores tot find out that we are tied with GLUM at -2 and Boneyard is -9 or something. GLUM gets the head-to-head so we are 4th in the pool playing Beyondors in the quarters, which we are assuming will be the simulcast game. 20 minutes later, word comes down that we are actually 3rd in the pool ahead of GLUM and are playing Old Sag in the quarters, fortunately still in the showcase game. Jim had screwed up his addition.

Now THIS is what we had been waiting for the entire tournament. A good game. This is what happens when you have close to your entire roster for one tournament before Nationals. The first two days are effectively full-day practices. 5 games under our belt and into the quarterfinals against a familiar opponent. The offense finally hit its stride, turning it over 2 times the entire game, both in the second half, and only getting broken once. Unfortunately the D didn't come along for the ride and only got two breaks, making the game MUCH closer than it should have been with that kind of offensive officiency as we won 15-13 in a nail-biter. I had a very good game getting the disc a bunch and no turnovers, with a highlight reel throw at 13-12. I had the disc on the far left sideline outside the endzone being forced forehand. About 4 seconds into the stall I see Jim staring at me being forced away. He immediately cuts straight upfield and away for the hammer. There are no poachers so I immediately uncork a high 'blade' that hits him in stride with no chance for the defense to make it 14-12. Robin Stewart from Bodhi apparently was on the sideline with a teammate watching the play and he told his friend something along the lines of 'I couldn't imagine ever thinking of throwing that'. I'm sure that thought was mostly because of the situation, tight game at end of nationals quarters because he definitely throws stuff I would NEVER think of throwing. Regardless, caught, SAG scores again, 14-13, and then we close out the game 15-13. On to the (unexpected at the beginning of the tournament) semis against Surly.

For probably the last 12 years going into Nationals I have pretty much always remarked to Jim that I thought DoG had the tougher pool. It started to get amusing after a while, but at least for 2007 and 2009 I know I'm right. In 2007 all 4 teams from our pool made the semifinals and this year 3 out of 4 made the semis and 2 made the finals. We were looking forward to a different game with Surly. The first game had not been close as we were still getting our sea legs under us. And we had a burst of confidence coming of our quarterfinal win and a whole night to revel in it. I had admonished the team to be at the fields MUCH earlier than last years 10AM debacle against Mileage, and while better, the team STILL showed up later than they did for POOL play games the first two days that were an hour earlier. WTF!?!?!? Oh well. DoG had started on D almost all of the pool play games (by design) but I lost the flip for both shirts AND pull, so we received going downwind to start. Two quick breaks later we are down by two. Those were the last breaks that the O gave up until the very last point of the game. This was another difficult game to watch as the D was getting numerous turnovers/opportunities to get these breaks back but didn't finally convert one until late in the second half. Surly was now going to have to work it upwind. Our sideline had been psyched and into the game the whole time but now ramped it up a notch. Unfortunately Surly was able to work it upwind for the score to make it 14-12 (or 13-11). Now the O going upwind, and we finally turn it over for the first time since early in the first half. Surly scores to end our Cinderella run.

After doing the requisite handshake thing we went over to watch the Troubled Past/Beyondors game to learn to our shock that Troubled was up 11-9. Despite Beyondors best efforts, Troubled Past held on to get the other finals bid, making the originally heralded DoG/Beyondors quarterfinal now the betty bowl to get the 3rd worlds bid. By this time, both teams were sucking fumes. Beyondors had had a bunch of people drop because of the heat. We were mostly at full strength but exhausted. The game was close throughout although Beyondors took a slight lead early and maintained that lead for most of the game before finally running it out to get the 'bronze' medal (which they don't have at natties). You could stick a fork in me by the end of this game. Talk about a long weekend in the blistering heat. And thus began the 'celebrating'.

First stop was to catch the end of Ironsides/Chain. It was 9-6 when I got there and Ironsides had their chances. I think they got the disc on D almost every time from there through the end of the game and yet were unable to convert enough chances to come back. It was very frustrating to watch. I still feel like there has to be a middle ground between the grip it and rip it school and the conservative school. Neither team played that game here. Then I watched much of the masters final in the blazing sun while quaffing warm cans of something or another. Surly also had their chances but just had too many turnovers to overcome their troubled past... And San Francisco men win a division for the first time in a long time for the 2nd straight year. Who knew?

Then off to catch the final sunset, swim in the water, have the blisters on the bottom of my feet get sand and salt in them and cause me great pain the rest of the night, watch some of my teammates play Koob on the beach (a little different with the sand), off to Siesta Key to the Daiquiri Deck, close the Deck, off to the beach to watch the moon and water and sit around the bonfire with some Canadians, then get back to the room in time to switch with the early morning crew that has just woken up to catch an early airport flight. Up at 9:30, clean up, then off to the Orlando Airport for a 2PM flight home. Missed the DoG alumni winning a national championship, ie., Rob Barrett and Josh Ziperstein.

We exceeded expectations, especially given how we got smoked by GLUM in the finals at Regionals and again couldn't put it together against them in the first game of nationals. We definitely grew as a team during the tournament though. I know OLD SAG was bummed they had to play us as the 3rd seed out of our pool. I don't think I have ever lost to those guys. For whatever reason, we always play well (enough) against them. Quarters 2 years ago was also an epic battle. And once we made the semis, we had our chances. Running O and D subs for an entire tournament is not the preferred job. I lose my voice by the end of the first day trying to get people to hear me call them in. I need a town cryer next to me to parrot my calls. I'll have to invest next year.

Oh, and more excitement after John Bar tackled Jimmy P. at the beach early Sunday morning. But Jim tells us all about it over at his blog entry. Hopefully he will be OK post surgery and able to get back out on the field.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

How are you running the subs. Are you looking for equal playing time, strongest lines at all times etc?

Regards,

Carsten

9:07 AM, November 10, 2009  
Blogger Alex de Frondeville said...

Funny. The subber on one of my opponents at nationals asked me the same question leading into the tournament. Exchange below.

Him:
I was wondering if you might be able to tell me how DoG runs subs in tournaments. Not sure if this qualifies as secret information or not, so feel free to tell me to buzz off :) But we're trying to figure out a rotation that works for xxx, and I thought you might have some insight. Essentially, we're trying to figure out how many people should play in "big games" and how we keep our top players fresh for the third game on Thursday and quarters. We've got some guys advocating we go top 14 until we're up a few breaks in every game. Then we've got others saying we need to play all 28 in every game. And we've got some taking a middle ground. Again, if you don't want to advise your competition, I'd certainly understand.

Me:
Really depends on your rotation, the mental fragility of the people at the top, at the bottom, who you are playing, are you developing for later in the tournament with the assumption that you are going to make quarters, etc.

You want to have your best O lineup and D lineup (regardless of usual personnel) available for maybe 7-7 and double game point. Even worth calling a timeout at 7-7 to let everyone rest if necessary. especially if on a D point (we've done that before but not recently).

We start the game strong, and then based on situation, it evolves from there. If the O is doing great, probably the same 5 or 6 players for the first few points. The D always rotates a lot, especially if they start getting breaks, so you will have to go deeper.

Obviously you aren't going to be able to play all 28 in a really big game (unless you are getting crushed). Any who argues that is either on the bottom 14 or soft... :)

Just a few thoughts.

9:12 AM, November 10, 2009  
Blogger parinella said...

Philly beat us on Day 1 of Masters Easterns in 2008. Philly is tied for 2nd in most times having beaten DoG from 1994-2004 (8 times, most recent in 1999), probably most of those at Mothers Day.

Not that I put a lot of weight on consolation games, but the other teams in our pool won every one of those, too, finishing 5th, 9th and 10th.

2:17 PM, November 10, 2009  
Blogger Alex de Frondeville said...

Crap, just had to check Quicken to see if I played that Saturday and I did (drove up to Portsmouth that night). And now I remember that game. They smoked us, and we returned the favor the following day. I was just talking about the masters team though, not Philly in general.

2:22 PM, November 10, 2009  
Blogger Marshall said...

Continuing a theme from a different post... If I remember correctly, after that Saturday loss, we lost several players and picked up Coop just for Sunday.

10:52 AM, November 11, 2009  
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