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November 6, 2009

The emotional and physical hangover of the past few days has reminded me of something: writing about Nationals is fucking hard. Publishing words about an event gives it such finality, and the act of closing out a season by making it something upon which to look back and reflect is quite daunting. Moreover, even if you do manage to overcome such an obstacle, there is another challenge even more inherent to the process: Nationals is a big deal, and it’s hard to do justice to a tournament that means so much to so many.

What can I say, I don’t like when things are over, and I don’t like doing a disservice to something very special. For anyone concerned, this should shed some light on why I’ve still not finished writing anything about Columbus.

But I gotta write about Nationals.

In short (very short), Sarasota was amazing. From beginning to end, the whole weekend felt like a surreal culmination of my relationship with Ultimate to date. Countless faces and teams, some familiar and some unknown, had all gathered to celebrate what I love most by playing Ultimate at the highest level possible, and being there felt like a huge honor.

As a team, Axis had the weekend we all set out to have when we showed up to tryouts. And when you buy into a team ethic through track workouts, time sacrifices, and lots of pent up anxiety and expectation with the hope of doing just that, winning feels very, very gratifying.

Our results are as follows:

Axis of C’Ville 15 – LA Metro 11

Axis 15 – TAU 6

Axis 15 – D’oh! 5

Axis 15 – Bucket 7 (Power Pool)

Axis 15 – AMP 12 (Power Pool)

Axis 15 – Barrio 12 (Quarterfinals)

Axis 15 – Mental Toss Flycoons 9 (Semifinals)

Axis 15 – Chad Larson Experience 11 (Finals)

Thursday morning was hotter than any of us expected, and so was our close game with Metro. It’s one of those teams that I remember little about strategically, just that they were solid enough to be at Nationals and unwilling to simply concede their first game. Coming out of half, we made sure to ratchet up our dump defense, recognizing their reset patterns and taking them away. I got my first and only O point of the season at the end of the game, got big eyes and turned over a shot to Kusy, but we got it back and I scored on an upline throw from Tyler. One win was under the belt, and all was well.

TAU was the third team out of our region, and while we had defeated them twice already, you always have to be wary of familiar opponents. That, and Mike G. All said, though, no real trouble this game, as we tightened up downfield and stopped playing catch-up and, in the greater scheme of things, saved our legs.

We played D’oh! in the last round of pool play, and I was excited to play a team from Seattle. They had some real good throwers and some women who could really break the mark effectively. Also, they had some cool offensive sets off of the pull. The game went more smoothly than I expected, but not before Scuttle made one of the most athletic grabs I saw all weekend.

Is there’s a word for when you haven’t experienced something but people who have tell you how important certain aspects of that experience will be? I’m sure there is and I just don’t know it, but the point is that after Day 1, it was really apparent just how important management would be in Sarasota. Regardless of talent, teams have to think about taking care of themselves, structuring their lines, actively organizing their sidelines, and a whole lot more. Thursday really hammered this home for me.

On Friday, we headed into Power Pool F, along with AMP, Bucket, and D’oh! We played Bucket first, and while we didn’t have a hard time with them at Chesapeake, they gave us a tough first half (that left me unsurprised by their impressive Quarters score against Flycoons). With a few former Chain guys, a Paidea girl that was good, and Victor Wu, they opened up a solid deep game on both O and D. Once we adjusted to make long shots more difficult, they hit a rough patch, and we were able to gain and hold onto a solid lead.

Our game against AMP would decide the pool winner, as well as give us a chance to avenge the tough loss to them at Regionals. It really sucked that they were without Jeff Laarz, who is a boss through and through, but without the wind that gave us so much trouble in Poolesville, our offense had a much easier time not getting broken. AMP had switched Dan Heckman off of their O line and Ricky Chung off of D, making things a little less predictable, but at halftime we discussed stopping a few of their pool play looks and saw some real results later in the game. Conger had a big game, getting open or skying someone deep a number of times, and when it came down to it, we just had much more in the tank. Really though, AMP is cool, and I wish them a lot of luck next year.

Saturday brought on Quarters against Barrio, and coming out strong felt particularly important because of Night Train’s loss there to Texas in Columbus. They had a couple of Sunburn guys who broke the mark well, and a girl that was ridiculously tall and did the same, but they got into trouble when their handler set stuttered. Letting them put the disc on the sideline and then locking down on D produced the necessary turns, and once our offenses stopped looking to huck so much, we pulled away. Barrio was a really cool team to play. Also, winning this game got us a bid to Prague, which was somewhat of a secondary goal all season.

I think our Semifinals game against Mental Toss Flycoons was toughest of the weekend. The defending champs know how to play, applying pressure where other teams did not and having impressive chemistry with both of their offenses. I had heard Tim Murray was impressive, and he was, guarding Chase as effectively as can be done by staying with his initial move and setting a strong mark. (That said, Chase did what he did all weekend: be such a deep threat that you have to give him the under, and then abuse teams with his throws.) They broke our offense twice en route to being the first team this year to take half on us, and with their offense looking mistake-free (I don’t know if we got more than two turns in the first half) to that point, had us shaken. They used their women well, and made a great amount of space for each other.

What happened from there was pretty much the best possible outcome we could have asked for: we gathered our focus at half and came out with five breaks in a row. Gonzo got things started with two Ds in the first point, and our defense continued to pour it on. This game was a show of the defensive ability that made us contenders all year, but Mental Toss deserves a ton of credit; they were really good.

Finals against Chad Larson was just crazy. My memory of the whole thing, outside of Mike G yelling “Please solute your shorts for the singing of the National Anthem,” is somewhat of a blur. They had an athletic defense, and their handlers got upline and threw accurate hucks very well. Personally, I had a tough time defending some of their guys, but our team as a whole did a great job of showcasing its depth. Tom impressed the hell of me in the Semis, marking MTF’s big Mark Aagenes effectively, and stepped it up another notch in the Finals. Everyone played really well, and while CLX broke us once in the first half, we got it got it back and played strongly for the rest of the night. The game ended on a throw from Tyler to Tom, that was that: we won the National Championship.

The rest of Sunday was even more of a rush. Getting a medal, holding the trophy, taking all the pictures, and then realizing that there was nothing to do but relax with my friends and watch some Ultimate was such a good feeling, and while I could get caught up (and long-winded) in reflection upon my observations and the lessons I learned, I’m hoping to break down Sarasota over the course of a few more focuses posts. Stay tuned.


One Comment leave one →
  1. June 6, 2010 1:58 am

    Greetings, You write some good blogs. I check back here often to find out if you have kept up to date. I thought you may want to know, once I click your RSS feed it re-directs me to another website.

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