Thursday, May 31, 2007

College Ultimate Nationals 2007

This memorial day in columbus, ohio, 16 teams traveled from around the country to compete in one of the best (2nd to Centex) ultimate tournaments in USA. Here are my thoughts concerning my weekend watching my favorite sport.

First, Wisconsin is too dominate, in a good way. Team is sooo well put together top to bottom. This year is the second occurance of what could be called a faceless army, the first being Stanford in 2002. Lead, passively, by the 2007 callahan award winner Dan Heijman, these guys straight up dominated the competition in what could be called the best college ultimate campaign in history with an astounding and unheard of 55-1 record. I am not a fan of Wisconsin in any way shape or form, but this past weekend really blew my mind.

I intentionally avoided Wisconsin for the first day of competiton because I knew that they were just going to rape and pillage in pool play and I also figured I'd see enough of them in quarters, semis and finals. This was confirmed by my friend and observer Jay who basically felt for every team that had to face baby blue and black. When I first realized that Wisconsin was going to win, basically without any contest, was in the semis against Stanford. Now Stanford is my team. my first year of playing disc was 2003, the year after Stanford compiled a 37-1 record winning 6 tournaments and basically owning the competition at nationals. There are few teams that have as much consistency, class, and talent as Bloodthirsty. However, the semis, once again, was a slaughtering ground for the Red and White. At one point in the first half, Stanford managed to work the disc about 10 yeards out. At this point, Wisconsin's basically impervious defense really turned it on, now that there was no deep shot to fear. Stanford was passive and patient, careful and selective, with break dumps and swing across the field. After about the third swing, I thought to myself, "wow they are really gonna earn this point" and then WHAM layout D wisconsin and Stanford's hearts as well as my own, sunk like a boulder in the ocean. With a 15-11 previous match up between these two teams, this game could have been predicted to be close, but alas, it was one game in a collection of 6 where the Hodags simply manhandled a team top to bottom, leaving nothing left but grass stained shirts and shattered opponenents. In any event, Wisconsin advances to the finals as they did in 2006, favored this time, with a semifinal win 15-6. This would mark the 4th year in a row that Stanford lost to the eventual champion and callahan MVP in the semifinals. They went down 15-7 to Tim Gehret's Florida team in 2006, 15-10 to ZIpps Brownian Motion in 2005, and 15-10 to Richter's Colorado Mambird. They deserve better, but you can't exactly feel sorry for a team that has played in the semis 4 years in a row.

Now comes the finals and the Hodags once again bring their A game. Its windy, its warm, its time for anyone who cleats up against these guys to lose, sadly. I suppose Wisconsin's scouting reports are stellar or they just execute thier isolations well, because these guys came at the most athletic player in Ultimate history and made him thier bitch. In 2003 WIsconsin met Oregon in the finals led by the last Callahan winner to NOT win a national title, Benjamin Lloyd Wiggins. Ben was superb student of the game and a phenomenal leader, motivator, and handler. However, he wasn't an elite defender and Wisconsin knew that. They basically would live up their best cutter on Wiggins for defense, let Oregon turn it over and then Wiggins needed to play D on his toughest matchup of the year. Fast forward a dozen points and you have a paniced and frustrated MVPer who is trying to take over a game he can barely contribute in and Wisconsin sends Ego packing 15-7. Now, in 2007, more of the same occurred. You have a dominate player in Beau Kittredge who is known for his legs, and basically not much else about the waist. I mean come on the guys a 27+ year old wood working major at Colorado. However, that doesn't change the fact that he can basically out run and jump anyone. So how do you attack an entity like this? You let him have the disc and force him to throw open side. Wisconsin would put one of thier better defenders, bascially anyone save muffin, on Beau and give him the underneath, then the CLAMP. Force him to throw open side because you know he has no breaks. You put an amazing defender in Chris Doede, Dan Miller, Heijman etc... on his dump and let it rain Ds. It seems like Wisconsin waited a few points to see what Beau and his offensive unit was going to do so they came man. They then came with the Beau underneath strategy and take the legs out of Beau's game. So after developing a decent lead and frustrating a good Colorado team, they come with the zone. This was brilliant. Colorado is a talented zone team because they utilize the hammer more than anyother team I have seen. Literally, their entire team, will work on hammers before games and at half to keep both their throws and hands ready. However, when you wait till an offense is frustrated to throw the zone, you know have handlers and cutters that are anxious and ancy resulting in an unimaginable number of drops and throw aways. Thats how you beat a team that loves to go over the top. Without the mamabird handlers of old, Rabbit and Jolian had to do the grunt work of keeping the offense moving, but these boys should take some lessons from the DoG guys because patients and working it underneath is not Colorado's strong suit. So thats enough on Wisconsin and the finals.

Now another perspective on the tournament, the callahan nominees. First and foremost, Dan Heijman. Guy is a class act. i thought he was going to be a hot headed, unspirited douche when I showed up to nationals, but this guy was the perfect team mate, leader, defender, offensive threat, etc.... The guy owned Cahill in the Semis making me re-evaluate my conception of what it meant to be good at this game. However, what I thought to be the classiest move of the weekend, Wisconsin is pulling with a 14-7 lead, its gonna be the last point of the game. Colorado has scored 2 points this half and they are going down, but instead of finishing himself and taking the glory, Heijman strolls off the field and lets his younger team mates enjoy the glory. The guy literally sat for the last point of his college career and I was in shock, great move on his part and a great way to end a fantastic ultimate tenure. I think the guy went something like 150-15 in his 5 years as a Hodag, unbelievable.

Next, Dylan Tunnell. Guy did not have a good tournament. I have been a fan of his since 2005 when JoJah shoulda beat Stanford in quarters. Despite routing my alma mader (UCSD), Colorado, and UCSB in 2006 (basically eliminating bids by the day from the SW) I still considered myself a fan. However, Dylan could just not get it done. In the first game that I watched at the tourney, Georgia had a chance against Stanford. They were only down 8-7 at half but then Georgia just gave up. Dylan was sooo quiet. He did not call for the disc. He put up some bombs that were nice but was not the Dylan of old. Maybe he was hurt, maybe he wanted to spread it around, I dunno. The guy was the best player on the field and he sat back as a seconday cutter. He should have been much more aggressive and utilized the fear that Stanford had. Their coach was worried about his flick huck, he's got 4 inches on every stanford player, why lay back and let them rail you up the tail pipe? Things just got worse from their. He shows signs of pain and frustration as he sits when his team is down against Carleton but almost as if he were a tumor, Georgia comes alive when he is off the field and rallies back to beat CUT in a great 16-14 round 3 nail bitter. Dylan caught the game winner but come on, that win was all David Neder and John McDonough, and basically anyone but Dylan in the red army. I actually predicted this upset (along with 97.3% of the games at nationals, 36-37), but I figured Dylan would own the skies and the D, but oh well. More of the same in quarters against Colorado.

Mark Sherwood!! Behind Heijman, this guy is my player of the tournament. Guy was unreal in every close game stanford had. Granted he was not as dominant as Cahill in the Texas or Georgia games, but they won 15-11 and 15-9. He was all over the place in the 17-16 win against CUT, not to mention stellar performances in every game save the Wisconsin one. This guy was actually nominated by his team for the callahan and rightfully so. But the public, including myself, thought Robbie was the true best player and so the RC nominated him and Robbie made 4th in the voting. Now, I think robbie is a great player, skinny as hell too, and had a good tournament but I was blown away by Sherwood and the guy deserved SMUT's callahan nomination. I am glad I got to tell him so at the party. Yeah I might have frightened a poor undergrad player, but fuck it.

Thats enought writing for one post. I have many more opinions on Gibson, Beau, Colin Mahoney, Williams' girls, and chipotle, but it'll have to wait.

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