Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lady Gee Gees

From the north hails a squad of dominant flatballers with Club Nationals experience and world class Juniors talent. They have crisp throws and razor sharp cuts. They have stiff D and as good a breaks as there are in college ultimate. The Hodags? Try a little farther east and a different gender. Who do I speak of? The Lady Gee Gees from the University of Ottawa. Recently, these women braved the trek across North America and swept through the competition at Trouble in Vegas, taking out UCLA’s BLU in the finals 14-10. Who are these Lady Gee Gees? I was interested to find out and captains Anne Mercier and Alex Benedict were kind enough to answer some questions of mine. This is what we came up with.

The University of Ottawa’s ultimate program was begat in 2004 by Julie Holsworth and Andrea Cardin. The main goal of these two ladies was to compete at the Canadian University Ultimate Championships (CUUC). The previous Fall (2003), a rag tag team attempted to cross the continent to Kamploops, BC but money and midterms prevented any kind of success. After finishing 4th at Canadian Eastern University Ultimate Championships (CEUUC) in 2004 and considering that CUUC’s that year were in Hamilton (5-hour drive) the ability to field a decent team was potentially increased. Despite the proximity, however, there were not enough players from Ottawa to field a full squad so Holsworth teamed up with Cardin from nearby Carleton University to form a fusion team. This team made the trip to nationals but like most first timers, they didn’t do so well, finishing last. They did gain invaluable experience and team chemistry however, and eagerly awaited future opportunities.

The following year (2005), Holsworth took on sole administrative duties in addition to playing for the team. This Ottawa team was to be led by Alex Benedict and Shannon Becker, two players with the experience and talent to guide a committed group of women. This team again finished 4th at CEUUC and was ready for nationals. They were undefeated at nationals until an ever present and common opponent, weather, reared its ugly head and ended the tournament prematurely. With hopes high, these women patiently returned to the gym and continued prepping for their chance to show the ultimate community and the world what they had. In the Fall of 2006 they would not be denied, and came out ready for Canadian Nationals. They won Easterns and in their second real attempt at a university championship, the Lady Gee Gees were victorious and proved that they were the best collection of women in the Maple Leaf Nation.

In 2007 they had their sights set on the main stage and cleated up for the UPA college series. In contrast to the US, the Canadian series is set in the Fall due to weather and to avoid competition with the Spring UPA series. Last year, they came out for Upstate NY Sectionals and had a dominating Saturday taking out Skidmore and RPI 15-1 each and 2nd seed (and eventual Sectional Champ) Rochester, 15-9. They were set to face Cornell in the finals the second day, but again, Mother Nature would have other plans, and snow canceled the second day of competition. Because of exams, the Lady Gee Gees were unable to make it back for the makeup date and missed their chance to earn a bid to Regionals and potentially Nationals.

Fast forward to February 2008 where these women got out of the snow and made the trip to the Southwest for Trouble in Vegas. Up against the best teams in North America, the captains of the Lady Gee Gees had the modest goal of making top 12. With a roster of only a dozen, one would think getting this far would be a blessing. However, talent and chemistry would propel this team above all others and they swept the field in Vegas earning their first US tournament title.

After getting a little background on this team, I really wanted to know where their core talent rested. I asked Anne and Alex this questions and before they dropped any names, they promptly told me this:

Depending on the game I think that you'll find different standouts. The team has such a strong core of vets and determined and talented rookies. Mentioning only a couple names wouldn't really be accurate/fair.

What a great pair of captains, but I like my superstars. Among the talented women on this team are 5 Ottawa Junior players, Anne Mercier, Alex Bendict, Danielle Fortin, Sonia Komenda, and Kathryn Pohran. Anne, Alex, and Kathryn were all part of the Canadian Juniors team in 2006. In addition, Katie Krump is another standout and was a teammate with Alex on the Ottawa Captials who finished 5th at Women’s Club Nationals in October of last year. Anne, Alex and Danielle are the three main handlers for the Lady Gee Gees and have been playing together since 2003. Sonia, Karthryn, Katie, and Shannon Becker are a quartet of vicious cutters and earn their fair share of D’s among Ottawa’s athletic and crafty defensive front.

Aside from obvious star power, Alex and Anne also told me:

The team as a whole is strong because there are no huge gaps between the top players and the rookies. As I said before, our strength lies in our solid core and with what every single person brings to this team, therefore numerous other players would be worth mentioning as well.

Ottawa Ultimate Scene
The main source of the Lady Gee Gees talent stems from the Ottawa ultimate scene, which is quite substantial and boasts upwards of 6,000 members. With 7 traveling teams at a variety of levels including indoor, it is easy to see that year round focus and commitment are prevalent in Eastern Canada. The Lady Gee Gees have players that suit up for a variety of club teams that include the Capitals, Stella, Scarlett and the mixed team Bytowne Flatball Club. Despite being on the less prominent side of the country, Alex and Anne inform me that “Ottawa (and Ontario in general)'s level of play is really close to western Canada's level. Those are always fun games to watch and play: they're generally pretty close.” With the recent success of teams like GOAT and the Capitals, I am inclined to agree with them.

Challenges and Goals
For an up and coming team, challenges always come in unfavorable quantities. Aside from the obvious and continuous weather complications, Ottawa still has their fair share of difficulties. First and foremost, lack of tournament opportunities. I would like to include a tournament schedule section in this write up, but frankly their isn’t much to speak of. Outside of TiV, Ottawa is too far from any decent competition and because of a lack of funding, they don’t have the ability to make it to tournaments outside the UPA series. We won’t get the chance to see The Lady Gee Gees again until sectionals.

Peripheral to tournament schedule, Ottawa also has to deal with the fact that the Canadian Championship schedule contrasts that of the UPA series. Alex and Anne told me that:

The Spring series was never a focus for the club. The Canadian University Fall series has been the most realistic and attainable goal for the past few years. Everything was set around that short 2-month season. Trying to change the direction of the team to start participating in the Spring Series was hard. The uncertainties that were associated with this big change were hard to grasp, as not many were even aware of the existence of the UPA series. This, along with the fact that many of the newer players haven't experienced much when it comes to the different level of ultimate, made it hard to attract players to the spring series.

Despite seemingly endless challenges, these women are undeterred and are committed to making a nationals run. With their previous experience and successes it would not be surprising if these women took down some major teams on their way to Boulder this May. With no regional experience however, they will definitely have to stay poised in the face of veteran teams. They are humble however and hope to develop throughout the series. This is what Anne and Alex had to say about their goals:

Our goal for this year is to make it to the UPA College Nationals. We got a taste of our section last year and know we can definitely make a good run at it. The next step for us is to make it past Regionals and see how we do at Nationals. We're taking everything one step at a time and looking at every tournament as stepping stone in the program's development.

Rise to Stardom
In researching teams like Ottawa and UCLA, I can’t help but notice the seemingly accelerated development of some Women’s programs. I have played for teams that are decades old yet have not reached these heights. This could be a question of luck or simply that there was a ton of talent waiting to be harnessed. Either way, I think it sends a powerful message to Women (and Men) out there that starting and developing a team to greatness is possible regardless of location, money, or experience. This is what Alex and Anne had to say about their team’s development:

Play! Play when you can, as much as you can. Go out and throw as often as possible! Play lots of pick up. Join local leagues, teams, etc. Attend clinics. Practice hard to play hard.

Yes, we've had some recent success, but we are still a developing team. We practice hard and are continually working on the basics of the game. We don't think there's only one path to follow, but with the strong determination and will from everyone on the team, you can get as far as you push yourself to! Anne always likes to say: "If you think you don't have that extra push in you to keep going, just do it anyways and watch as you surprise yourself." We all do our best and come out with that mentality at practice and in games. And I personally think that's what makes the difference. It pushes us on and off the field, at practice and in the gym. The girls are committed to the team and have been since September. They put time and effort into practices, but also into individual training, social events & fundraisers. We are a strong, tight and motivated group of friends.

Closing Thoughts
After researching these Women, I have found their story to be truly inspiring. Having to face so many frustrating weather obstacles is more than I could handle, yet the Lady Gee Gees are focused and committed to being the best they can. With all-star talent, they may have the ability to win games, but their team dedication will get them through these tough times and ensure that their talent and numbers don’t fade.

One last thing that I was interested in was whether or not there were any major differences between playing in the US and Canada. This is what Alex and Anne had to say about it:

There is a huge difference. The Canadian Women's University Ulimate scene is still in an early development phase. Programs are just starting and there's usually a smaller pool of experienced players in the programs (partly since there are many less developed Canadian juniors programs that can help feed into the university streams). I'm still in awe with the fact that TiV had 44 women's teams. I don't even think there are 44 Canadian university women's teams out there. There are way more US teams, which gives better competition at these tournaments.

Be afraid US. The women from Ottawa are ready to ball and without a chance to see them again until April, the anticipation will be one of the more exciting elements in ultimate this year. UCLA, Stanford, Wisconsin, Texas, Santa Barbara, Michigan and the rest of the best in the US will be training and practicing as hard as they can in the hopes that they can handle Ottawa. This is THE story in Women’s ultimate this year and I will be on the edge of my seat come Upstate NY Sectionals, Metro East Regionals and, with any luck, Nationals. I hope to see you ladies in Colorado this Spring. I’ll bring the Andre and hopefully I won’t be drinking alone.

For more information concerning the Ottawa Women's team, here is their ultimate website/blog which is actually very well maintained and put together.

match diesel

PS As an aside, this is my 50th ultimate article and I wanted to say thank you to all the people out there that have helped me gather information. You have really given me the ability to put my passion to work. I also want to thank all the people that have supported me for the last 9 months or so. It hasn't been the easiest road and your kind words have been very uplifting. Lastly, I want to thank my readers. I write this all for you guys and I truly hope you enjoy my words. I have said this before and I will say it again, if anyone wants to write an article and potentially publish it here, I would more than happy to work with you. Or if you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please let me know. I am always looking for new ideas. Feel free to email me at

PPS I thought this link was hilarious and given the demographic that plays this sport, i thought it would be appropriate

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

RIP Granddad

So I know this is an Ultimate blog, but my grandfather passed away last night and I wanted to talk a little bit about him. This is the first person I have been close to in my life that has passed away and I have realized now that it is possible to celebrate one's life as opposed to simply mourning their death.

My grandfather was Fred Stanton Fiedler. He was born March 12th 1922 in Peoria, Arizona. He grew up in Arizona and went to the University of Arizona for undergrad and studied Mechanical Engineering. After graduating he went into officer training during World War II at Yale University in the winter of 1943. After a 9 month stint, he was transferred to Louisiana where he worked on aircraft maintenance and repair. After completing his time with the military he went to work for Union Oil in Southern California. It was during this time that my grandparents met. Fred was a dedicated employee who never took breaks and always had his mind set on his objective. However, once a pretty little red head by the name of Patricia O'Neil went to work in the office, Fred began taking coffee breaks. This was something he had never done and he attracted not only my grandmother's attention, but that of the rest of the office, "Fred's on coffee break?!?". My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary September 20th of last year.

In 1957 Union Oil underwent an investigatory process where it wanted to determine whether or not internal engineers and architects were cost effective for the development of service stations. My grandfather was one of the investigators (as well as an engineer) and after an exhaustive process, found that outsourcing station design and construction was cost effective. He was promptly laid off, along with his fellow engineers and architects. Rather than abandon his peers, he started a small company known as Fred Fiedler and Associates which is now known as Fiedler Group. Over the last 50 years this company has designed and built service stations for several oil companies throughout the world. My grandfather has personally done work from Honolulu to Moscow and has built a company of his own imagination, more or less the American Dream.

As his company grew, so did the family. My father was the second of 12 children born of Fred and Patricia and in 1963 they moved into their current residence, one of the more beautiful homes in Glendale, California (the place even has an elevator). With 8 bed rooms and 12 kids the house was full of life. My grandfather was an active member in the boy scouts and has 5 sons that are eagle scouts. 6 would have been a Guinness World Record and while he had the sons, they all didn't share his enthusiasm for the boy scouts. In any event, my grandparents raised 12 beautiful children, 8 boys and 4 girls. They have all started families of their own and are sprinkled across the country from Maui to New York. With so many children, my grandparents have almost 2 dozen grandchildren. My brother and I are the first two and there are Fiedlers from 3 to 27, all at varying stages in their life.

My grandfather led a life that most would be happy to dream about. He traveled throughout the world both for business and for pleasure. My grandparents have been to the 4 corners of the earth and have the souvenirs and pictures to prove it. Rugs and papyrus from Egypt, cameos at the Blarney Stone and the Great Wall of China. Endless trips to the Hawaiian Islands and more time shares than I can count. He was definitely fortunate to have seen the world but his mark and his name have been spread beyond his physical reach. His offspring are engineers, writers, dentists, architects, accountants, real estate brokers, military officers, and lawyers throughout our great nation. His grandchildren have become teachers and students in the best universities that include UCLA, USC, Vassar, Yale, San Diego, Portland, UCSD, Gonzaga, and Oregon. Never a more proud grandfather was there.

In order to keep such a huge family close, my grandparents routinely held Christmas and Christmas Eve at their house or the Jonathan Club. They orchestrated not 1 but 2 large family reunions, one at Disney World in 2000 and one in Hawaii last summer. Such extravagant trips were exceedingly unnecessary but my grandfather was committed to sharing everything he had with everyone he loved. It is because of this altruism that I have been able to travel and cover our amazing sport. I am in your debt granddad and I will work the rest of my life as a reflection of your name and character.

I did not actually learn that my grandfather attended Yale until I decided to go here. In my conditioning for Ultimate I run up and down the same stairs he did for physical training more than half a century ago. Luckily, I stopped in Los Angeles this past weekend and managed to spend a few days at his bed side on my way back from Kaimana. It would be the first time I had seen him since Christmas and the last time I would see him breathing. His spirits were high, his mind as sharp as ever. It killed me and the family to see him wither away over a 5 week period from pneumonia but with the accolades and success he has had in his 85 years, I can say without question that I will celebrate his life first and mourn his death second.

I loved my grandfather very much. Once I began my studies here in New Haven, a close kinship between the two of us began that allowed me establish myself in a sea of grandchildren. My only source of regret is that he will not see me graduate but I do have the knowledge that he will be watching from above. His last words to me were, "Get me a Yale windbreaker, I am a medium." I could not help but smirk. His mind as sharp as ever, his hopes as high that day as they were any other. I'll get you that windbreaker and I will wear it under my cap and gown in 2010. I loved you grand dad. All of us did. Your mark is one of the more prominent and fantastic I have or ever will witness and only in my wildest dreams will I achieve what you did. Thank you for allowing me to share your name and thank you for establishing a family so many are proud to be a part of. Not only will you never be forgotten but you will be celebrated for decades to come. We Fiedlers all owe our lives and our happiness to you. Thank you and rest in peace.

match fiedler

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It’s official, the best place to have an ultimate tournament is Oahu, Hawaii. I have been to tournaments in every US time zone, Mexico, Canada, and the ultimate ultimate experience has to be the Kaimana Klassik. I just had myself a pretty sick nasty weekend in the sun and I thought I would share some details about my experience.

I thought I would start off by giving a run down of a few teams of interest.

First and foremost, the best team at this tourney (aside from my own) had to be my boys from Texas. These guys are spectacular. Skip, Natali, Matty, Wheels, Mars(?), and the rest of the boys from the “yee-ha” state are pocket Aces. My cousin Alex has told me about how badass they are for some time, but I didn’t know for sure. If there was a crowd that could match my flare, my stories, my social exploits, and could show me a better time than I could show them, it would have to be the Austin crew. I am glad Billings, Ross and Hartwell already knew some of them, but we were blood brothers before we even played our game against them first thing Saturday morning. Some hilarious comments included, “I want to make an enemy tonight” (Skip), “I’m distracting aren’t I” (Mars), “Ok Match, let’s get belligerent” (Matty), and “Dude, I forgot that I took a weed brownie this morning” (anonymous). I would love to tell ya’ll about our escapades, but yeah, not here. All I can say is that I will be saddling up with them in a month at Centex and if anyone wants a good time, look for a bunch of tall drunken cowboys and a red head. Oh and Mars, accept my Facebook request so we can work out that three way deal with my colt jersey and the XL blue lone star long sleeve. I might just end up buying it when I get to Austin but I’ll send you a fresh jersey once I get back to the Have.

Yeah, so this team was the all-star squad. They were probably the most fun team to watch and it sucked that they lost in semis. Notable players were Ben Wiggins, Josh Greenough, John “Kid” Hammond, Parker Krugg, Adam “Chicken” Simon, Andrew Fleming, and that’s about all I can remember right now. I will say that I kinda liked seeing Kid pull a Chris Webber time out move against Ono because it let me know that even the best players make mistakes. I will say that I kind of went over board on bugging him, sorry. He is just so distracting, what with the whole kimono/Paule Shore look-a-like/I’m so good at ultimate I can play wearing a bunch of crap/tight T-shirt antics. If you don’t want attention, don’t go out of your way to draw it. He is a spectacular player though, great D, very dynamic offensive presence, and hugantic running strides. The guy moves like a cheetah.

I also want to take this opportunity to poke some fun at these guys since I massage their egos enough and I actually got a chance to see them interact in real life as opposed to just on the field. First off, wow, way to act like a bunch of high school football heroes. The whole white jumpsuits at the party was a little suspect. Way to go out of your way to make yourselves try and look really cool in a Saved by the Bell sort of way. Well, the teal Ono collard shirts were much worse, but still, you guys looked like you were from Terminix. Also, Chicken’s Carson Daly-esk MC-ing during the dance off had me scratching my head. Manisha "Slap" Daryani's dance moves definitely helped distract me from how pink and pretty Mr. Simon is (side note: it really sucks that Slap got a ginormic concussion putting her on vomit duty during the women’s finals. Had she, Becky, and that girl that destroyed her leg, played in the finals, it would have been a much closer game). I will say it was a pleasure playing against him and the rest of Voltron despite the fact that they spanked us in quarters. I think most folks are aware Chicken is a premier handler, but I was really impressed with his D. Also, thanks guys for printing Voltron hats in blue, it’s my favorite color. You wouldn't think the last 15 seconds of this video would be inspiring but, who’s the savy veteran now?

Hey and ulti arnie, you never told me what your nickname means. You played really well and I hope I get the chance to see you and the rest of NC State this spring.

HA! This is too easy. Let me just say, Air Squids 1, Black Tide 0.

As far as actual ultimate goes, these boys definitely did not disappoint. I wasn’t in Goleta last month for Santa Barbara Invite, but the undergrads really did well this weekend. They started off really slow against the Japanese team winning a squeaker 11-9, but after getting their shit together, they really kicked ass and made semis. Sherwood is a stud, Ezra is a sick deep, and Schlag is as badass as his last name. I wish I could have seen Tom James play more, but he sat out most of our game. We played them in power pools and I was really stoked to get the chance to play against a team I have been following for so long. High points were me NOT getting D’d by Derek Frome despite his extremely tight/physical man D. Low points were my heckling (I sucked this game) and the fact that we lost. Their offense was really crisp and our team, despite a ton of talent, had trouble converting on O because we had never played with each other. In addition, it was really nice to meet Ryan “The Pulse” Thompson. He is a good guy and it sucks that he couldn’t play because of a broken arm.

This team was fun to watch because they were basically the Stanford talent of yester year, in addition to some bay area guys. Wiseman played a great game in the finals and the punk ass cost me a sourdough jack and two tacos. Thanks to his like 11 scores, I had to buy a drunk as fuck Protik 3 Big Macs instead of him buying me some Jack in the Box goodies I can’t get in New Haven. It was also cool seeing Mike Payne (Skeletor, Revolver, Jam, Stanford) line up against Steve Dugan (Ono, Condors, UCSB). I hope they swapped digits after all their marking contact. Skeletor definitely made the finals exciting after letting Ono creep up on them to tie it at 14’s after they had a 14-12 lead. I think the best thing about this game was that it was a semblance of the old rivalry between UCSB and Stanford. Back in the 90’s these teams were both at the top at the same time and I am sure players like Greg “Hollywood” Husak (Ono) and Mike Payne have no love lost over the last 10-15 years. The best heckle from our group during the finals was the Kevin Cissna movie chants. Every time he got the disc we would yell out a different Brad Pitt movie and while I didn’t initiate it, I definitely dropped Thelma and Louise first.

I couldn’t talk about teams without mentioning my own. What I thought would be a San Diego squad was mostly Mischief and Shazaam players. We had some great handlers, some great cutters, some great defenders, and great overall teammates. Here are a few things that I liked about my team, or I just thought were funny/cool:

1) Leetch, you could totally be a pretty boy douche bag and you aren’t. Thanks for being a lot of fun and I really enjoyed playing with you.

2) I ran into a guy I played with at Acapulco (Jeremy Clark) before games started and we were both happy to see each other and he mentioned that Cole (another friend from Mexico last year) was at the tournament as well. I was stoked and looked forward to crossing paths with him. Needless to say, the guy was actually on my team and I didn’t know it yet. HA! We had fun.

3) After the tournament ended, I got the chance to tell Brett Kolinek from Bravo/Colorado State that I hated him when I was a squid and he played for Hibida. I told him why and we both laughed at a story that is now ancient history. People, get used to liking all ultimate players because you never know when they will be your teammate some day.

4) Beevers, you make me laugh. You got balls and very interesting taste in women.

5) Protik and Becky are two of the best people I have ever met. Pro let me play for Almos Pau and he and his wife Becky basically babysat me the whole weekend. They shuttled me to and from the airport, let me stay at their house, hooked me up with showers/food/greenery, and were just good friends. Oh and did I mention I had never met them before? Gotta love ultimate players.

The whole team was a ton of fun and not only were we fun, but we were good. We went 3-1 in pool play and managed to battle back and beat the Doughboys (Australia) on double game point to make quarters. I wish I had actually caught this fucking disc, but later I managed to call a game saving pick that got us one of the breaks we needed to win the game.

My Gripes
So this tournament was fun but there are some things that I want to bitch about and since it’s my blog, I am going to say whatever I want.

First, the fields are HARSH. My joints look like burger right now. They are like playing in a thorny bush. Yikes. My scratches were definitely excessive and not the norm, but when you are stuck indoors for 5 months, you are going to take every bid opportunity you can. It was worth it.

The food was ehh. The only stuff that was actually good was the pig you had to buy for lunch everyday. That stuff was legit and only 5 bucks. Dinners were forgettable though. Weird Mexican stuff with processed nacho cheese? Meat paste egg rolls? Whatever the hell that salad stuff was? However, there was a TON of free liquids including copious amounts of booze, juice, Gatorade, and coffee. That made things extremely helpful in battling the blistering heat and getting hjammered (no typo) come party time.

Hippy bullshit. This has been bugging me for a long time and I am going to bring it up now. I am so god damn tired of the PC/green peace/sensitive crap associated with ultimate players. COME ON!! Yes I am a male, yes I am heterosexual, and yes I want to eat meat. In the food line, the first thing asked was not “chicken or beef?”, it wasn’t “pig or fish?”, it was “are you vegetarian?”. Really? Since when did eating meat become this unpopular? We have been doing it for a million years and now it’s a crime against nature? It’s an unhealthy lifestyle? It’s unsustainable? You guys are almost as bad as the Atkins nuts. Maybe I am just part of a sport that has a lot of green minded people and I suppose that is ok. It’s like being a Pink Floyd fan as well as a stoner, but I am going to bitch anyway.

Yeah and after the finals, I sucked it up and my drunk ass stayed and picked up trash. Most folks left but I was a contributor to the mess and I wanted to do my part. I walked around for like 20 minutes rounding up garbage. However, when I went over to the stockpile I got frowns because I didn’t separate the recyclables from the non-recyclables. Are you fucking serious? Have you ever been to a sporting event or concert? Large groups of people don’t pick up after themselves. That is why people are paid to pick up trash. Get used to it. And when someone actually sacks up and does pick up after themselves, you are going to give them shit for not sorting it? I was pissed, but drunk, so I probably overreacted. But come on!

And the whole sex thing, yes I sometimes use words like “raped”, yes I am going to draw attention to hot women in ultimate (in what I believe to be a respectful manner) and yes I like to tell offensive stories/jokes. Sorry, I really enjoy having that Y chromosome and I act like I have a pair. I try and keep it clean here but have any of you ever let yourselves laugh? I am having a kick ass time in my 20’s and securing a topnotch future in the process, not to mention entertaining some people in the process. I’m not going to be like this in 20 years (I hope?) but I will have the satisfaction that I did it right when I was young and I am not going to be a 40-something in a midlife crisis because I haven’t had any fun. Folks, it’s called age appropriate behavior. Enjoy life and don’t be a BUZZ KILL!! For help, watch more Family Guy and less Lifetime.

(I am probably barking up the wrong tree and I am going to get a lot of “Get used to it Match” but god, no wonder people make fun of our game and call it things like “fag-toss”. Not my words, so don’t give me that homophobic crap.)

Closing Thoughts
In any event, I loved Kaimana. I am not much of a camper because my dad drank and sucked at taking care of his sons, so I was a bit unprepared, but I had a great time none the less. I hope to return in 2009 with more friends than enemies, but we’ll have to wait and see. Thank you to the TD crew, you guys run a hell of tournament and I can see why the best in the world come all the way to your polo fields to rock out under the sun. Thank you to my team organizers (Pro and Ross) as well as our team mom (Becky), you gave me something I have wanted for a long time. Thank you to my Texas homies, you made this weekend unreal. Thanks Billings for being Billings. Thanks Hartwell for being a friend when you should have been one 3 years ago. Thank you to my teammates, you let a fat red head enjoy ultimate he can’t get in Connecticut. Thanks to anyone that laughs at my spittle and doesn’t toss too much shit at me when I unload it all over the place. And thank you for taking the time to read this, I am nothing without my audience.

Next stop Paganello?

just my thoughts

match diesel

Friday, February 15, 2008

Feel the Burn

It happens to the best of us. We forget to re-apply our SPF 50. We grease up in the hotel room before we head to the fields, but the excitement of the tournament, the thrill of victory, the pain of defeat, they all distract us and we forget to block those UV rays. The burn is coming whether you are ready or not, though, and in Vegas last weekend it came two fold, the singe of those pasty mid west/east coaster that haven’t seen the sun since Labor Day and the burn from Arizona Sunburn.

I was just as shocked as the rest of the ultimate community, glued to RSD last Sunday. Wisconsin in the finals, yeah, ok no biggy. But Arizona? Did anyone see that coming? Now that the dust has cleared and we have all caught our breaths, it is time to find out who this team actually is. Chris “Shep” Shepard was kind enough to answer some questions of mine and this is what I have on Zona.

So who is this squad? Who was reeling in the fantasy points? First and foremost, Shep describes Joe Kershner as “one of the most inspiring players I have ever played with. His creativity and strength really shine on the field”. Joe was a member of the 2004 gold medal Juniors team in Finland, along with greats like Jacob Goldstein, Mike Vandenburg and Will Neff. Despite the fact that he looks like a more masculine version of Jack Sparrow, it is obvious that his talents really inspire respect from not only his teammates, but anyone who he lines up against. Another standout is current captain Erik Gafni. Gafni was Sunburn’s 2007 team MVP and “is also an amazing player who deserves a lot of credit for helping this team to where it is now”. Gafni is one of 5 Arizona players who suited up for Barrio last October at Mixed Club Nationals and it is without question that his experience and talent have really propelled Arizona to unforeseeable heights. In addition to these two standouts, Arizona also has several players who played for Arizona’s Kaos at Junior Nationals in 2003. Ben Gray, Henry Schaff, Gabe Wigtil and Shep himself were all on this Kaos team in addition to Kershner. They also have a young Junior player in Marco Alatorre who played at High School Westerns last year. Bottom line, each one of these kids had a flick well before freshman orientation.

I was very curious to know what kind of development this team has gone through and I know I’m not the only one. I think the main benefit that this team has is experience playing with one another. It’s obvious that I like to focus on superstars but if good players play together for long enough, they can/will form a great team. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Most of these guys are in their 4th or 5th years with Sunburn and I agree with Shep when he told me that, “our O line is one of the best in the country”. If every player is on the same page, having played with each other at the Juniors level, the club level, and year after year of sweating it out in Tucson, their offense will be as crisp as the New England Patriots in every month but February. I think, like the Kaos experience, playing with Barrio has really elevated this team beyond a semis/quarters team at Regionals. With open teams getting better and better it is not surprising that a lot of talented men are transferring to mixed. Players like the Smith brothers get the chance to dominate at the national level despite a somewhat “grip and ripe” style offense that would be punished on most elite Open teams. This gives more up and coming college players the chance to get experience at a much higher level than the college series, especially if they never make nationals. With the ability to play against the very best in the high winds of Sarasota and year round commitment to ultimate/conditioning, it is no wonder that these guys came to Vegas ready to ball.

Trouble In Vegas
Before TiV, Arizona was pretty modest. This will be a recurring theme and I really like that. When I asked Shep about his expectations he told me, “as for Vegas, most of the team came in with the goal of making it to quarters, but we were really put into a tough place by the format. So I lowered my expectations to 9th once I figured we would have to play the #1 seed (meaning Florida or Wisconsin) from one of the power brackets in the round of 16”. No ego, I love it. However, their trip to the finals was no cakewalk. Aside from the obvious challenges associated with Wisconsin and Florida, Shep felt that “Tufts was also a very formidable opponent. They played an amazing game against us when we weren’t at our top form. Fortunately, after a timely footblock [on universe point] and some more luck we managed to secure the final point”. This set them up against the reigning TiV champions and this is what Shep had to say about taking out Florida in pre-quarters:

Florida is a really amazing team, we were lucky to beat them. We won the flip and managed to hold serve the whole game. Our O line is one of the best in the country and I place a lot of faith in them, but also our D line did get us a break in the 2nd half of that game.

Cyle told me had a costly drop at 4-3 allowing for some significant momentum shift, but either way, Arizona’s ability to match the Gators explosive offense really says a lot for their team.

Fast-forward through Cal and Harvard and Arizona was in the biggest game in their program’s history. Arizona actually had a surprising level of confidence going into this game due to “previous success against them. Two years ago they beat us 10-8 in the quarterfinals after breaking us once. This year our D-line is better and we are a deeper team with a lot more experience”. I think a lack of intimidation is the only thing that will allow teams to challenge the Hodags this year and like CUT, Arizona is not afraid of the baby blue. I suppose things like Shep’s scoobers show a lot of poise and I think a 12-11 final expresses some serious offensive ability against the best defensive team in the country. Despite the cap controversy, Shep seems very content with the way Vegas went down. This is what he had to say about the situation:

I can see that from an outsider’s standpoint they might feel like we’d been robbed. Especially since we were on a 6-4 run since half, but most of our guys aren’t that greedy. We don’t know whether we would have won that game or not and we might have had Wisco on the ropes, but we were very satisfied with our performance and accomplished our goals of getting into Stanford and Centex. Essentially we feel like we won that game.

Listen up folks, this is what fall/winter tournaments are for. Get the experience and credibility you need to set yourself up to challenge the best in the country when it matters. I could not have said it better myself and Shep and the rest of Arizona’s focus clearly articulate why they are the team to beat in the Southwest.

Tournament Schedule
After having done exceptionally well not only at TiV but New Years Fest, Arizona has a few more chances to shine before the series. They are making their usual trip out to Pres Day in San Diego this weekend where they will have a chance at the Squids, UCLA Smaug, some sort of Tide team, Texas, Arkansas, and whoever else makes the trip to La Jolla. In a few weeks they will get another chance to face the best in the country again at the 3rd NCUS tournament, Stanford Invite. They could be looking at a #1 seed if they continue their success at Pres Day and at the end of the month I will have the chance to see what they have at Centex. I believe this is their first trip to Austin and I really hope they are ready. Unlike Vegas, these 3 tournaments are not going to offer a home field advantage. It is not surprising that a desert team did well at a desert tournament and Shep told me that Vegas is “very similar to Tuscon” and that he feels that “Cultimate with TiV has really done a great job brining quality teams to our doorstep”. I doubt the desert offers any significant advantage peripheral to travel distance, but I will say that their ability to play and win so many tough games in such a short span will really help them in Van Auken style tournaments.

Closing Thoughts
I really like seeing some new faces in the southwest and I hope to see Arizona and my Alma Matter make it out of the region. Arizona has never made nationals and it is their primary goal, not unlike most teams. I think this team really deserves all the attention they are getting, but I think of any team, they will need to really stay focused. This is definitely a topic Arizona is prepared for though. One of the really intelligent things Shep told me about his team was that they changed their leadership from Kershner to Gafni and himself. This has “allowed our best player to focus on playing”. As a captain, I can say that playing and leading is really taxing and can really hurt your personal performance. I am really impressed with the modesty of this team and I really like their style. They remind me of the New York Giants. Not a mainstream powerhouse, very under the radar, but when you really pay attention, they have had the pieces all along and can take it to the best in the game. This is their time to shine, but they aren’t popping the Andre yet. When I asked Shep about Vegas and if this Arizona team is the best ever, he said “this is our best tournament performance in the 5 years that I have been here” but as far as the best Sunburn team ever he simply said “talk to me in May”. Hopefully you guys will be in Boulder and I’ll get that chance.

match diesel

PS Sorry this is lacking in the hyperlinks, but I wrote this in transit to Kaimana and I wanted to get it up before Pres Day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thats why they play the game

I am going be honest. I had almost an entire write up done going into the finals. I started researching Queen City and had updates about TiV through semifinals. I was ready to go, I knew it was gonna be Wisconsin vs Arizona (shocking, I know but I was ready) but I figured the Hodags would take Sunburn 13-6 or something. However, I am getting text updates from my cousin, 5-3 Wisconsin, 10-8 Wisconsin, what the fuck? How is Arizona scoring? Sunburn lost to Claremont in quarters at regionals last year, what the hell am I missing? I dunno whats going on in the desert, but I am gonna find out. I want to write more, but I will save that for later. I will say, though, that like the Patriots, no team is invincible. Go Arizona, please talk to me.

Here is my original writeup. More to follow:

So Trouble in Vegas has come and gone, as has Queen City Tune Up. There were a lot of big winners in Vegas, not mention a few broken hearts. Charlotte also housed the biggest barn burner East of the Mississippi and my NUMP ballot looks like the floor of a Pedro Martinez sponsored cock fight. Here are my thoughts on each tourney.

Trouble In Vegas
First lets start off with the Cultimate extravaganza that has been dubbed the best and worst idea in the history of ultimate. I hear the weather was actually good this year which is nice considering the last two years were like Wyoming in November.

Wisconsin: I thought the 'dags were gonna steam roll folks but they definitely had their pulses raised en route to winning their 2nd tournament. They had close games against CUT (11-9) in semis and Arizona (12-11) in a capped finals that ended with a Sunburn score. I want to draw some conclusions, but like the 6-5 Wisconsin loss to CUT and Texas beating Colorado back in 2006, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Arizona: I get a text Saturday night, "Arizona beats Florida". I know that Sunburn has a few winter wins for the ages. They knocked off the Squids at Santa Barbara a few years back but Florida?!?! They managed to do something that no one has EVER done, beat the Gators in Vegas. The next thing I know Arizona beats Cal and faces Harvard in semis, semis?!?! Ok, Vegas is weird, Arizona wins, good luck against Wisconsin. 23 points later Arizona scores it's 11th goal to end a capped game. 11 on Wisconsin? Oregon got 9 on the Hodags at nationals and a team that has never made nationals gets 11? Are you serious? I have no idea what this result means, but I will say that no one has gotten this close to Wisconsin this year and this really shows that Arizona could be significantly better than just a quarters/semis team at Regionals. My sources say the finals were exceptionally well played on both sides. I think I am one of many that is blown away with this performance and I really hope to see more of Sunburn this year. The Southwest royalty could shift significantly this year and if Arizona can keep it up, they may have a chance to finally play in a game-to-go. I wish I had more information on them, but I'm on it.

CUT: When I asked my buddy JAM (who was there) what he thought of Carleton, he had one word, "Fast". The crafty boys from Minesooota are definitely experienced, polished and on track to challenge the best in the country. It's too bad they got all this World's talent right around the time Wisconsin was on their way to an unprescedented, and un-possible, undefeated season. Tough draw in semis but they really belong this year. Their biggest advantage, their Junior World's talent, is actually 2-fold in the sense that not only are these kids spectacular, but they have all already played together and in analogous systems (ARHS and Paideia). If they can overcome the size barrier by playing crisp, mistake-free ultimate, they can challenge Wisconsin when it matters. Unlike the rest of the country, CUT is unafraid of the baby blue and if they can capitalize on Wisconsin's raw intensity with composed ultimate, they maybe the NY Giants against the NE Patriots this May.

Whitman: I am really glad someone from Washington reads my blog. Here is what Joe's Brother had to say about the Walla Walla Sweets:

Somewhat off the radar, but maybe worth keeping on eye on in 2008 is that the best high school player in the country last year, Jeremy Norden, went to Whitman and claimed a lot of other Juniors players had interest in going there as well. Plus, he said the club gets an enormous amount of support (financially and otherwise) from the school and community. He's good enough by himself to propel a team into the mix. And the RSD chatter supports the rumor that there are other solid HS standouts on the freshman line. No word on their bureaucratic recruiting (they had a paperwork related DQ last year), but if their papers are in order, this team could be THE team on the rise.

They're at TiV this weekend, so by Monday we should have a little more info on them.

Turning heads and making quarters (over Ego no less) was definitely not what I was expecting from this Pool F second seed. They have their work cut out for them and are going to need to keep it up to get out of the Northwest.

Haavard: Aside from the Ivy rivalry, I am really impressed with these these guys. They are the new Brown. Making semis by beating two hot teams in Whitman and Illinois is impressive considering what teams usually make it this far in the desert. Most NE teams play their best in the spring and seeing that Redline is getting big wins (but not against the squids, HA) when they can't even practice outside says a lot. They have stellar freshmen with Andrew Vogt and George Stubbs (injured), but Zirui Song, Dave Roebuck, and Dave Lipson are all superstars. I had the pleasure (sarcasm) of playing against them this past summer/fall when they suited up for New Noise and like Cal, their club experience is really paying off for their program. However, NE teams have a tendency to shuffle around a lot come the series. Harvard definitely has their work cut out for them in a region with the most teams fighting for a spot at nationals (Williams, Brown, Dartmouth, and Harvard) with no clear front runner.

Santa Cruz: Finally, they show up. Despite a slow start they battle back from starting 0-2, and go through UCSD to make quarters. DLK gives me far too many shout outs, but I will say the slugs finally showed why they are in contention to win the Bay Area section and come out of the NW. Vegas is cool because there are 3 days of good ultimate and several teams get a chance to do well. Illinois owned day 1, Santa Cruz had their time to shine on Saturday, and Arizona owned the Lord's day. They beat my Squids (by 1) making quarters, but got stuck with the ravenous wolves (Wisconsin). It would have been cool to see them play any other team because they might have stood a chance. Regardless, they brought themselves back to their status post Sean Ryan and have the knowledge that they can bring it to Stanford and Cal. I feel sorry for LPC because they will have to play one of these teams while the other two duke it out in semis come sectionals.

Illinois: For a team that wanted to break into the elite, they definitely did not disappoint. They managed to knock off 2 juggernaut teams in Oregon and Colorado, on the first day no less. Folks have been talking them up a lot on RSD as of late and I continually understand why. They lost in pre-quarters to Haavard, but this kooky format with 10-8 scores and 80 teams really doesn't blemish Illinois' hopes. They showed that they are #1 in the Great Lakes and have given Ryan Purcell and Will Neff an enemy to fear.

Colorado: I wanted to mention a few words about Mamabird's seemingly poor weekend. It looks like Beau is no longer wearing black and gold considering that he wasn't in Vegas for the first time in 3 years. Martin Cochran was also not in attendance but a broken foot has sidelined him only until March and if he heals alright, #17 and the rest of Colorado will be back for the series. I will say that without Beau their offense is going to have to make some serious adjustments. Jolian can't throw to himself and with Mac Taylor streaking deep as well, their handling responsibilities are going to fall on veterans like Chris Wicus.

Closing Thoughts
TiV is just as crazy as Vegas itself. Arizona 11-10 over Florida, Santa Cruz 11-10 over UCSD, Whitman 10-9 over Ego, Carleton 11-9 over Colorado, all of these scores are close/exciting, but suspect and do not paint a clear picture. There are many more positive things to take away from this than negative, though. Arizona and Harvard need confidence, and their results help them. Florida and Colorado need to know that they have weaknesses and their results help them. Whitman and Santa Cruz need to prove they belong and their results help them. UCSD and Oregon need to know that they can win but also know that they can lose and their results help them. CUT needs to know that they have got the talent and Wisconsin needs to know they can't intimidate their way to another national title and their results help them out.

Queen City Tune Up
Just when I thought I had it all figured out, UNC, Georgia, NC State, and Michigan had to go and screw it all up.

NC State: The biggest winner is obviously the winner. But damn it, where the hell did they come from?!?! They weren't at Warm Up. I didn't write about them. What the hell?!?! They played spectacular and hats off to them. They really have dropped below radar since finishing 5/8 at nationals in 2004 but they could be back in black...and red. If I had to guess, i think that they took advantage of a gassed UNC team, twice. They played them in the last round on saturday after UNC barely beat Michigan 9-8. They then played them in the finals after a 15-14 semifinal game with Georgia. I wonder if they can handle UNC at 100% and I also wonder if UNC has the depth to make it to out of the AC.

UNC: I am not sure what to say about Darkside. At 100% it looks like they are the real deal but I wonder about their legs. They made the finals but they lost to the same team twice after winning double game point matches. I think their depth has got to be an issue and this problem will not fix itself considering that Georgia is very deep and Florida has more star power. They took 2nd in the region last year so they have history on their side and I hope they can keep it up against the AC's best in Florida, Georgia and now NC State.

Georgia: Ahh, I wish you guys were going to Stanford. They sweep their pool, they dismantle Edinboro and Georgia Tech, and then WHAM, get taken out by UNC. I think behind NC State, Georgia gained the most from this tournament. The funny thing about ultimate is that unless you are challenged, you really can't see your weaknesses. I remember Furious at nationals in 2006. They raped everyone, including Chain Lightning 15-7 in semis, but their offense really wasn't tested and Sockeye took advantage in the finals. What's cool is that this is just QCTU. Georgia now knows that UNC, as well as Florida, can take them down and they will take this knowledge into practice the next 3 months. Hopefully Swanson stays healthy, but he is lucky that he plays for a very deep team.

Pitt: Delaware won the region last year but after this weekend, Pitt is definitely the aggressor. Pitt has some phenomenal talent in sophmores Chris Brenenborg (team USA) and Eddie Peters (Pike), not to mention a lot of veterans with nationals experience. They were definitely the best Metro East team in Charlotte. They beat Penn and finished ahead of Delaware, not to mention taking NC State to 12-10 in semis. However, this is just February. Keep the engines burning boys, you'll need it if you want to earn big wins for yourself and your region in May.

Michigan: Will is a great pick up but like I said, I think Michigan's performance will improve tournament to tournament. Their offense is going to have to adjust to #1 and it is no wonder that playing outside for the first time in '08 was not kind to Magnum. However, they did play UNC 8-9 (what kind of score is that) and dismantled a national caliber Delaware team 13-3. They did lose to Penn when it mattered though, but I have a feeling they may have looked past them considering they had beaten Georgia Tech 10-6 and Penn lost to Virginia in the last round on Saturday. Needless to say, I am sure they have a lot to think about back in Ann Arbor and hopefully they have the tools to put together a fight against a fired up Illinois team that had a great weekend in Vegas.

I want to reiterate how amazing NC State and Arizona played this weekend. I was expecting Wisconsin/CUT and Georgia/UNC but like Berman says, "thats why they play the game".

In the next few weeks we have two prez day tournaments, Kaimana, Hellfish Bonanza and Mudbowl. I will be watching Stanford this weekend in Hawaii and I wonder what Mike Payne has done with Bloodthirsty after they got rocked in Santa Barbara. Stay tuned, this year is just getting started.

Just my thoughts

match diesel

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What to watch for in 2008

So after doing a fair amount of research and now that some tournaments have been played (and some big ones are coming up) I thought I would talk about a few things that I think will make this year interesting.

Trouble in Vegas
One of the reasons I wanted to post this right before TiV this weekend was that I wanted to give folks a few things to consider. A big change is that Wisconsin has already been outside. They destroyed teams as usual at Mardi Gras and have had a chance to get some grass stains. I think this gives them a new advantage in Vegas and considering that the weather is supposed to be good this year, I would expect them to dominant. Colorado will also draw some attention because now we get to see who they are going to bring in 2008. Will Beau saddle up again? Regardless of how Mamabird does this weekend, if their roster is more or less 2007 (minus Rabbit) they will be playing a lot on Sundays this spring. Florida will also be ready and the hype that they have received concerning this tournament can and should give them the fear of being publicly toppled. This will give them more focus, playing one game at a time and hopefully they can do well. The biggest question mark for me is Carleton. TiV will be the first chance CUT has to show that they belong. They beat Colorado last year at TiV with a healthy Jacob Goldstein. If the wind is bad, CUT will have an advantage with scores of seasoned throwers. However, has picnic weather planned for Vegas this weekend and that will favor the taller/faster teams. Also watch UCSD for their encore performance. They played great at Santa Barbara, winning the tournament for the first time since I have played disc. My undergrad buddies tell me that their roster depth isn't spectacular though and the grueling nature of Vegas may hurt them in the long run. Oregon will also look to make a name for themselves. So far most of the NW talk has hovered around Cal, and for good reason. Dusty and the rest of EGO will look to pop their 2008 cherry and their results will begin to paint a picture for NW regionals in the spring. UBC is also in this mix and I am curious to know what 2008 will bring for the Thunderbirds now that Oscar Pottinger and Morgan Hibbert are long gone. Also watch for Santa Barbara, Central Florida, Illinois, and North Texas. They have all had their ups and downs this year and are hungry for blood. Tide managed to beat everyone save the Squids in Goleta but they usually do well in Vegas. Hopefully their depth and experience will give them an edge. Central Florida had early season W's last year but dwindled as the season wore on. Hopefully they can repeat their success from a year ago and keep the steam through the series. Illinois and North Texas took turns earning big wins at Mardi Gras but both need to develop considerably before they can begin to dominate their respective regions. This is the time for them to gain the experience to challenge the best in the Great Lakes (Michigan and Ohio State) and South (Texas). Look for surprise wins from UCLA and Claremont. They both got screwed out of Santa Barbara and will look to show why they should have been in the slop. They are each trying to show that they are contenders in the Southwest and now is their time to either put up or shut up.

Will Neff's Transfer
One thing that I think will be really interesting and I haven't heard much discussion about, is Will Neff's transfer to Michigan. Will has been a stand out on every team he has played on including the 2004 WFDF Junior USA Team, Twisted Metal, and Northeastern. I can only speculate as to why Will decided to transfer, but coming from a large program (UCSD) to a smaller one (Yale) I can imagine his potential frustration. I hope Camden Kittredge (yes, Beau's brother) will forgive this transgression, while he is left to play without his 2006 FOTY teamate. I will say that Michigan has been a consistent program for many years but has yet to really break past the pre/quarters threshold. Ryan Purcell represents the core of this team and despite being a devastating defender, cutter, handler, and all around south paw iron man, he could still benefit from some added star power. I think Will's arrival will be like Nash and Stoudemire pairing up together. I have watched Ryan for a few years now and I think his heart and commitment will be rewarded in his fifth and final year for Magnum.

So far Michigan has looked good. They have had close games against Wisconsin and Carleton, not to mention winning their indoor tournament, beating Ohio State in the finals. Will's defensive presence will be felt right away but I know that it will take time from Ryan and the rest of Magnum's offense to adjust to him. With that being said, I would imagine that their results will improve tournament to tournament. Since the departure of Craig "Polar Bear" Forshee, Tom Worsfold and others, Michigan State has really dropped below radar. Michigan had a forgettable season last year, failing to qualify for nationals. However, Indiana and Ohio State have quickly stepped past these two motor state power houses by going #1 and #2 at Great Lakes Regionals last year. However, I think if Will can fit in with Magnum, they will have a 1-2 punch that cannot be stopped in the Great Lakes region.

The first chance we will get to see this Magnum team truly in action will be at Queen City Tune Up, which is an alternative to going to TiV. Notable teams that Magnum could use to prove their abilities include Georgia, UNC, Pitt, and THE Ohio State. I'm excited.

Queen City Tune Up
There is another big tournament this weekend outside the Cultimate umbrella in Charlotte, NC. Some of the leaders in the AC chose the shorter trek north instead of west and this is where the Great Lakes and Metro East powerhouses chose to go. Georgia and North Carolina are definitely the favorites to make the finals. Unlike Warm Up, North Carolina will be in attendance and could give us fans a chance to see where they stack up against Georgia. There might only be 2 bids out the AC this year and 1 of these 2 teams will attempt to knock off the other this spring as well as challenge Florida for that trip to Boulder. I have already talked about Michigan, but they must continue to show dominance over Ohio State and prove that they can beat them both indoors and out. The Leadbelly boys got the better of Michigan last year and made nationals. They will have the experience of knowing they are better, but they will need the heart and motivation to back it up. Delaware and Pitt will both be in attendance and each has shown success in the Metro East. Who will take the region? Delaware took the region last year and beat Florida lat natties but Pitt has made nationals the last 3 years. Hopefully they play each other or at least some common opponents to give us an idea. Lastly, UNC-Wilmington and Georgia Tech. They both did well at Warm Up but in deciding to go to Tune Up over Vegas, they are going to have to show that they can hold their own and need to make a good showing in bracket play if they want to contest the rest of the AC.

Wisconsin's Callahan Selection
This is probably going to be one of the tougher choices for the Hodags this year. When I asked James Foster about this he told me to look for Muffin, Shane, Drew Mahowald, Will Lokke, and Rebholz. Muffin is absolutely the face of Wisconsin. He writes more than I do on his blog and I think he definitely can make a case for the team's MVP nomination. However, despite his superb athleticism, his impact seems to revolve around his handling and his flick, which to me isn't enough to earn you the award. I personally think Shane is their best player. He can shut anyone down and has more consistency and dominance than most college players. 2008 will only be his second year on the team, however, and I can't imagine him getting the team's nomination this early in his Hodag career, despite his obvious talents. Mahowald is definitely a top notch player. It is too bad he plays with a slew of superstars because he would be a callahan nominee anywhere else. I didn't know his name at nationals but I kept thinking to myself, "that dude with FBI hat is ridiculous". Will definitely gives a good name to red heads in ultimate and I think he is a superstar. However, what he has seems to be almost the standard on Wisconsin and I don't see him really breaking away from Shane and Mahowald. Rebholz is one of the team captains and has some Heijman qualities. A silent killer with the fundamentals and skill to really punish his opponents while making his teamates look good. If I had to guess, the team will nominate him and if not Reholz than Muffin. The reason I bring this up is that I think Hohenstein deserves a Regional Coordinator nomination and I want whoever that RC is to be ready to look out for #19. I think the voters should decide this one and in the event Shane gets/accepts an RC nomination, I think he might sneak past a teamate on his way to getting a top 5 finish.

I am interested in this because Wisconsin has two major issues to deal with when it comes to the callahan. 1) They are on everyone's radar, meaning their candidate can win. Some sophmore who plays in the NW or the South or wherever, will be encouraged to vote for the callahan this spring and when he does, he will vote his team's candidate #3 but for #1 and #2 he will go with the guy from the team he knows. That will either be Jolian, Kurt, or whoever Wisconsin has. That is how Heijman won the callahan last year (I think) and considering that the talent distribution on Wisconsin is more or less the same as it was in 2007, the same thing could happen again. 2) They have a lot of potential candidates. They could easily nominate any of the 5 players I have named here, which would leave 4 remaining. However, like Heijman said when he got his callahan, he felt he was only the 4th or 5th best player on his team. Those 3 or 4 better guys are still there and I think an RC nomination could put them up there with Nord (RC nominated Callahan winner). Bottom line, folks pay attention, this is a good story.

Junior Ultimate Players
I am not the biggest fan of juniors ultimate (although I am trying), mainly because I never played it, nor really had that many teamates that played it. However, junior players are continuing to make a name for themselves and I think they deserve a vigilant eye. I have already talked about this a lot here, but keep an eye on Sam Kanner and Grant Lindsley for Carleton. Chirstian Foster is also part of the Carleton College Juniors elite. I hope he manages to play to his potential, despite attitude problems that hurt him and his teamates at Connecticut College. I hate to keep hounding this poor kid but when you are the #1 scorer for team USA yet can't get a long with your teammates, people are going to notice. A name that sometimes gets left out, but who I think is the real deal is Tufts Captain, Andrew Hollingworth, who opted to stay in Boston after winning gold and currently captains Tufts. He will definitely spend time covering his former teamate George Stubbs, who is now a freshman at Harvard (eh, fuck him). Bottom line, it has been two years now since team USA won gold and I think that their players are really going to start impacting teams throughout the country. I think CUT is in the best position because they arguably have the largest influx of talent that can and will impact their team right away. I believe this to be their main weapon against Wisconsin in the hopes of getting back on top of the CN region. Aside from CUT, Colorado and Florida both have spectacular freshman pick ups in Hylke Snieder and Alex Hill (actually they were both teamates on Sack Lunch).

Stanford Invite
This tournament is going to be incredible this year. If you are an ultimate fan and live within an hour of Palo Alto, do yourself a favor and go to this thing and watch. The #1 seeds are probably going to be Wisconsin, Florida, Colorado, and maybe Stanford, sound familiar? This is the closest we will get to a true carbon copy of what waits in Boulder. Hopefully the weather is decent because this tournament is going to set the tone for Centex and the series. I almost wish I were going to this Cultimate tournament instead of Centex, but hey, they will all be at Centex, as will Georgia, so I can't complain.

Coaching Impact
Today's college teams are benefitting from years of complex strategy and development. Now that more and more teams are being led by former college greats and current club all stars, teams that may have had trouble breaking out of their performance level, may begin to earn some crucial W's. Most notably are Stanford and Cal. Cal is coached this year by Ryo Kawaoka and Stanford is being coached by UPA president Mike Payne. Other teams like Georiga, Colorado, and Brown also benefit from stellar coaches and I think coach-less teams are now going to have to wonder if they should hire their own Morris Buttermaker. I for one am very curious to know if the right coach can get Stanford in the finals or Cal to Boulder. Believe me, if a coach can do that, I think most teams will consider hiring.

College Nationals
I suppose this is a no brainer, but I am curious to know if there are going to be any tragic stories about players that can't make nationals for whatever school related reason. Maybe there are issues every year with Memorial Day, but I doubt it. Hopefully we will be talking about how great the CSTV exposure was and how awesome the Boulder facilities are. I will be there and come Monday the 19th, I will have an article letting you guys know what I think for whatever its worth.

I suppose I am just trying to convert some college players out there into fans of this great game and hopefully give you guys a few interesting things to keep in mind. Hopefully one of these stories actually comes to fruition. Stay tuned folks, should be a good year.

just my thoughts

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Yo Mamabird

I thought I would wrap up my college previews with a team that everyone knows, fears, and likes to watch, Colorado Mamabird. I managed to get a few questions answered by 5th year Martin Cochran and I thought I would share some thoughts about MB's 2008 season.

Player Departures
I think everyone is waiting for Beau's eligibility to run out. However, if his freshman year was really back in 2004, he could theoretically be available for a 5th year in 2008. However, peripheral to Beau, the biggest loss to MB this year will be Justin "Rabbit" Salvia. This kid was unreal. I really enjoyed watching him play at college nationals last year. Despite only being 5'7" he is awesome and really earned his team's callahan nomination. This little guy ran harder than any player I saw and was never shown up. His video footage is also top notch and I really encourage anyone who wants to check out MB in action, to watch stuff like this. Justin is a phenomenal presence for Colorado both on MB and Bravo and his experience will be missed. However, like most MB alums, I am sure he won't go far.

2008 Playmakers
The fantasy all stars for Colorado this year will be many. They usually have one of the best starting 7's in the country and 2008 will be no different. First and foremost, Jolian Dahl. I am saying it right here: Jolian can, should, and will be the 2008 Callahan winner. This kid can do it all: send the huck, bring it down, sky you on D and layout past you. He has the same overall build as Beau and is comparably athletic. He has the throws and the offensive composure of Parker and Chicken, he is the ROCK and captain of one of the most exciting teams in the country, and he has more experience than any other player in college ultimate. As a Paideia Alum, a 5th year player for Mamabird and stellar standout on Johnny Bravo, there is no one in the country that can contain, control or take Jolian out of his game.

If Beau comes back, he will obviously be a standout for MB. He and Jolian were both freshman when Colorado won their last national championship and like Dan Heijman, I am sure they want to end their careers the same way they began. I will say that having him back as a handler was really lame to see last year and I sincerely hope they have him down field where he belongs. I have also heard from a few sources that he is training harder than ever and with some top notch help. Yikes.

Another standout for MB is Martin Cochran. This grad student was also on the 2004 team but missed most of nationals in 2005 when he punctured his lung in Corvalis. He has always been a great defensive force on Colorado's D line and has the experience to run a decent offense once a turn is generated. Martin is also another, in Colorado's army, of 6+ footers and depending on a foot injury, could be a veteran standout for Colorado. Another MB veteran and Johnny Bravo crossover is Mac Taylor. He is a vicious underneath as well as deep cutter/defender for MB and has the experience to plug himself anywhere in Colorado's explosive offense. Lastly, veteran Kevin "Pebbles" Schipper, will look to have a big year with spectacular quickness underneath and great vision on both sides of the disc.

Young Guns
In addition to scores of veterans, there will also be some new faces getting points for Mamabird this year. One name that will generate some Ds will be Junior Tom Higginbotham. He is a 6' moose of a player and can handle just about any teams major deep threat. Andrew "Stitches" Graham (junior) will also get some PT as a staunch defender and will help generate the breaks that MB's O-line will need to secure W's. Freshman Hylke Sneider is another up and comer that could really make plays. He was on the cover (courtesy of Jason Mechler) of the Fall 2006 issue of Ultimate News, not to mention the 2006 Fall League player of the year in Colorado. With his 6'2" stature and club experience playing for Sack Lunch, I am sure he will be making life hard for whomever lines up against him.

Tournament Schedule
Probably the most exciting thing about Colorado this year is their tournament schedule. They start off the same as they did last year, with Trouble in Vegas. They usually do OK (meaning quarters/semis) at this tournament but the wind combined with the fact that its the first tournament, usually exacerbates the weaknesses in Colorado's grip and rip style of offense. Teams that have more composure and patience usually do a bit better, which is why I think Florida has done so well in the desert, despite being evenly matched talent wise.

After TiV, Colorado heads out to Stanford Invite, something they have not done since I have played ultimate. This year Stanford Invite will probably rival Centex as far as competition goes with Colorado, Wisconsin, and Florida all in attendance (but no Georgia, which is weird because they won it last year). Centex is a grueling tournament where teams have had to play 5 pool play games on saturday, not to mention quarters, semis and finals on sunday. For those folks that think less is more, the 7 "games to champ" schedule of the 20 team Stanford Invite might give a better indication of who is the best. Either way, I wish I was headed to Palo Alto in early March.

Towards the end of March Colorado heads to Centex as usual. They have made the finals there twice ('04 and '05) winning it all in 2005 but have yet to break past semis since then. Unlike most teams that do not play an additional tournament between Centex and the series, Colorado will make their usual trip to Lawrence, KA for Fools Fest where they have won a number of times in a row. The series will be uneventful for Colorado, as usual. They will get to play sectionals and nationals at home, while only having to travel to regionals which will most likely be in Arizona again (accoriding to mamabird's website).

Goals and Challenges
It is tough to say what Colorado's goals for 2008 would be. They were in the finals last year as well as in '04 and '05. How can you hope to improve? I will say that Colorado can definitely be better than they are. They seem to do a few things that hurt their performance against equally talented teams such as Wisconsin. First, it seems that Colorado really clings to their O and D line sets. Last year I saw a lot of Jolian, Beau, Rabitt, and Mac Taylor on one side of the disc and then once they scored, they switched out for players like Cochran, Pebbles, and Andrew Graham. This is good if you have stellar defenders but this is college and unlike club, generating the score is not guaranteed. I have seen it so many times where Colorado generates a great D but can't turn it into a score against a good team because their best offensive personnel is not on the field. Without the ability to generate breaks, Beau, Rabbit, and Jolian ended up having to do double time and they ran out of gas late in games. I think that this is what allowed Georgia to beat them in quarters back in 2006.

In addition, Colorado has always had a grip and rip style of play. With so much height, speed and experience, they can usually pull anything down and therefore come at teams with brut force. However, with adverse weather (college finals last year) or teams with equal ability in the air (Florida and Wisconsin), 50/50 hucks and hammers can potentially put them in a hole they can't get out of. They are then forced to play underneath ultimate, something that they are not used to. If I were Catt Wilson, I would work on narrowing the talent gap between my players. Beau and Mac Taylor are great deep threats, Mike Davidson and Rabbit were great around the disc, Jolian does everything, but I think it can be hard for the 4-7 players on Colorado to be effective. Like Florida back in 2006, they seemed to just want to isolate their best players and make easy scores, rather than take what the defense gives you and spread it around. However, with injuries, exhaustion and crafty opponents, this can really limit the ability of the rest of your team to make plays. I think this is what allowed Brown to come back and win nationals in 2005.

Basically, I think Colorado should open and mix up their rotation in order to get all of their talent comfortable with each other and themselves. In college the best players are the ones that are confident doing it all. If you focus just on defense or just on offense, it is tough to be good at anything else. I think they should focus on developing chemistry between all players. Sometimes you get yourself in a situation where legs are the most important thing and if every player is good with every other player, your 7 on the line is always ready to go. I also think this helps because everyone knows Beau is gonna burn you deep and Jolian is going to get the disc every other throw. Teams have been paying attention and they will have a game plan ready and waiting. If you come out with a different set of threats or just have a highly dynamic and fluid offense, one that the defense can't adjust to, you will see better results. With better all around talent, it will be easier to find those mis-matches and get scores to the "Wes Welkers" out there. I am just ranting though. I am sure the coaching staff for MB has the situation well in hand. I mean come on, they have made nationals 10 years in a row, they haven't lost a pool play game at nationals since 2003, and they have made the finals 3 out of the last 4 years.

Closing Thoughts
I want to say that with players like Rabbit, Jolian and Beau at the end of their careers, MB is in trouble. But for people that have been watching Colorado for years, they know that another superstar will emerge. Before Chicken it was Parker, before Jolian it was Richter and JV, before Beau, it was Mickey. MB seems to always get and/or develop the best players in the country with their sterling reputation and program. With that being said, many other teams are getting better, and I think Colorado is going to have to sharpen their game to remain on top. Subtle things like breaking the mark more often, unconventional cutting, a more "faceless army" feel are all things that Colorado could benefit from. Their brut force offense and athletic D won't always work anymore. Brown's conservative and crafty tactics worked in 2005 and Georgia's depth worked in 2006. Wisconsin was untouchable in 2007, but I think the most important factors for Colorado this year will be the players I have failed to mention here. We all know that Colorado's top 7 can do it all, but games are played to 15 and if Colorado wants to win it all again, they will need their 8-21.

just my thoughts

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