Monday, June 30, 2008

Boston Invite and MD's return

So, first off, sorry I haven't published anything this month. I have been working on some administrative things and they have caused some setbacks. However, after having just been in Devens, I can't keep a lid on my writing anymore and I want to get somethings out for you guys.

Yikes, these guys are really freaking good. I know I started this whole blog thing off with a not so nice piece about Boston and they have sort of hated me ever since. I'm not sure I regret what I did but hopefully 2008 will be a new year with some good content from the BU boys.

Judging from a year ago, this team has really improved. I can imagine with guys like Holzer, Ryan Todd, and Jeff Graham coming over from Metal, it was a little tough to get them integrated into the BU system. In addition, guys like Goldstein, Teddy, and Jasper were also new fish that needed to get up to speed. However, after a year of ironing things out, it looks like Boston is ready for glory.

They also have a ton of new pickups. Colin Mahoney is back, Will Neff is a new D-line handler and George Stubbs is my pick to carry the Boston torch into the future. In the early 90's it was Steve Mooney, mid 90's it was Parinella, late 90's it was Forch, then Zipp sort of, and if he keeps it up, Stubbs. This Harvard kid is incredible and he is only 19. I only watched the tail end of the GB game (which he caught the game winner) and the finals where he more or less did everything. He had a huge layout scoop to save a score, he got up and over pile after pile in the endzone, and he reeled in his fair share of amazing layout Ds. His combination of youth and skill puts him up there as one of the best prospects in the country and I would look for him in the Callahan race in 2-3 years.

Oh and Boston also has this dude from Florida named Kurt Gibson, I hear he is good. Bottom line, I think Boston is a semis team this year, and if they can put the pieces together at Nationals they could make it back to the Finals after a decade of missing out.

I have to say, I was not impressed with GOAT this weekend. They made the finals at BI which is an amazing feat but their performance in the finals left me flat. They also had extremely close games against Bodhi (quarters) and PoNY (semis) on their way to the finals and I think they have a lot of work to do before they can think about Sarasota.

GOAT this weekend reminded me a lot of what Colorado looked like at TiV and Stanford this year. John Hassell is easily their biggest weapon and like Jolian, he is stuck having to hang back with the disc and basically do everything. He never comes off the field, but despite his skill and composure, he's just not getting much help. GOAT seemed to want to jack it a ton and based on their size I'm not surprised. However, Boston's man D was superb and their zone really slowed GOAT down. Boston's offensive efficieny is a third concern and these things made it relatively easy for BU to dominate.

What is surprising is that they do have other weapons like Jeff "Link" Lindquist, who played a phenomenal tournament. This guy was playing with Team Fisher Price and GOAT and he was uncoverable. He is lighting fast with great cutting ability and I think he will be very valuable for GOAT this year.

What's weird is that GOAT is good. They were like 50-6 last year with several tournament wins including Boston Invite. They have confidence and experience but it just didn't look like it yesterday. They also need to work on their intensity. I got the chance to meet John Hassell, who is a really nice guy by the way, but he, like the rest of GOAT, seemed a bit passive. Boston was rushing the fields and getting up after every score/D and GOAT just wasn't. Maybe its because Boston is playing more or less on their home turf, but this team was nowhere near what they were last October at Regionals when they got as close as anyone to beating out Boston for the Regional title.

In the end, I think it is still early and tournament experiences like this are tough but they are what helps you learn. I hope with this experience and previous ones, GOAT will keep on improving and give Boston a better game in 3 months.

Oh and like last year, GOAT has THE BEST jerseys. Apparently one of their players works for VC (bonus) so look for me to talk up their new threads this year.

Wow, this team is the real deal. I am going to write a full fledged article on them (and I will for Boston, GOAT, PoNY, and a bunch of other teams) but for right now, i just want to say that these guys are legit. When I did my Juniors Team USA article I did an interview with Andrew Hollingworth and he told me that the best thing about 2006 was the friends he made and how he wished he could have more time with them.

Well, in 2008, he got his wish. Bodhi is more or less the best Junior Worlds talent in the country (save Stubbs, he gets to play with the big boys) and they have all the pieces. They are all talented, young, committed and experienced. Andrew, Christian Foster, Russell Wallack, Sam Roberts, Micah Flynn, Patrick Roberts, etc.. are all world class Juniors talents and either ARHS alums or just great young flat ballers. Miles is also a very talented player from Slow White and guys like Charlie Upton, Tyler Auer, and Chris Skipper are all motivated college veterans who want to play with like minded players.

With all of these things to consider, it is not surprising that this team has all the pieces and they are going to give PoNY some pressure from underneath as the 3rd team to come out of the NE, if not better.

I talked with Jody Avrigan about his team and these guys are excited for 2008. They are headed to Seattle in two weeks and Jody also told me that they made it into Labor Day. PoNY has been a team that has been trying to break into the National scene for sometime and 2008 could be their year. They have some new pick ups like Aaron Bell (Oregon) and Nate Raines (Dartmouth, Juniors Team USA 2004), not to mention scores of veterans like BVH and Bailey Russell. However, they have their work cut out for them. Bodhi is easily their biggest challenge in 2008 and despite the fact that PoNY made semis and Bodhi lost in quarters, the youngins still are 1-0 against the Pride of New York. Their advantage is experience, but not by much, and they will have to rely on their Club Regionals experience while Bodhi relies on their experience in the College Series.

As a tangent, one thing that got me thinking after talking with Jody was about how Club tournaments differ from College. Since Skip came onto the scene with Cultimate, College Ultimate has really gone nationwide. Vegas, Stanford, and Centex are all tournaments where regional location mean very little. This is the future of ultimate and I love seeing teams face eachother from across the country. However, club ultimate seems to be more like what college ultimate used to be. Boston Invite is very East Coast heavy and Solstice, Cal States, and Labor Day are all West Coast heavy. This kind of reminds me of the way Pres Day, Stanford, and Ultimax used to be with teams staying close to home. There are some exceptions with tournaments like Colorado Cup and maybe Seattle Invite if it stays around, but they still have a long way to go before they are like Centex, Stanford, or Vegas.

There was some talk about how teams should be organized/seeded on RSD a while back and with tournaments with like 8 teams in the "elite" division, it really doesn't do a whole lot for parity. I know it is hard to travel a ton as an adult (which is probably why club teams stay close to home) and teams want major challenges if they travel across the country, but wouldn't it be nice if the top 12 or so teams at Nationals saw eachother a few times before nationals? I hear Labor Day is going to be pretty close to that so maybe that'll shut me up but for the last few years, it seems like tournaments could be a bit more Sarasota-esk.

We got the chance to play DoG again and despite the fact that I'm still out, it was still cool to face them again. I think Parinella is still bitter about WMO last year because he was really fired up for this game. Our most athletic player lined up on him and despite the fact that he is a fantastic athlete and an experienced player, Jim scored at will. I think he had 3 or 4 deep scores on John and despite the fact that Korber is half Parinella's age, he still got taught a lesson or two.

I also got the chance to finally meet Alex de Frondeville and my only regret was that I didn't save any Keystones from the previous night so we could shotgun, oh well. I'll have a few more chances. In addition, before Jim or Alex get the chance to poke fun at me, I thought I would just mention that I spent most of Sunday with duct tape on my mouth. I always lose my voice at tournaments and the best way to get it back is to just not talk. Even if there is no one to talk to, I'll just talk to myself and the duct tape is the only way to shut me the hell up. Jim had a good line saying "thats a good look for you" and I wish I could have tossed a jibe back at him but, I had duct tape on my mouth.

The game itself was fairly frustrating to watch. Like most masters teams, they were just more patient and crafty than us. They capitalized on mistakes and punished the youth of our team. I think the one thing that was effective, and this worked against Above and Beyond last year, is the huck. Masters teams are usually a bit slower (although Jim and a bunch of other DoG guys routinely smoked us) and I think it is a good idea to be aggressive. Playing small ball will not work because the old guys do it better but if you play a bit grip and ripe you can be successful.

As for my own team, we played a great tournament. I feel like a lot of elite players don't know what it's like to lose, but we do. We were 0-8 in pool play at BI the last two years but this year we went 2-2 on Saturday. We beat Firebird, a team that beat us 13-8 previously, and kept a lid on Run Silent, Run Deep as usual. In addition, we came out on Sunday fired up and took out Medicine Men, a team we have lost to a bunch of times and never beaten, on universe.

The game was actually pretty awesome. We traded breaks the whole game and after a few miscues we ended up tied at 14's for universe, with us receiving. Korber had tossed a few flick hucks in the game, all turnovers, and he put up a lazer that one of our cutters couldn't reel in on a layout. Bottom line, we turned in on double game. However, like the superstar that he is, John came up huge on D. One Med Men player tossed a cross field swing in the end zone and John came out of nowhere to sky Bill Mill (sorry buddy) for a game ending Callahan. The player who tossed the Callahan was more than a little peeved, but thats ultimate. We rushed the field. it was bad ass and despite losing our last game to DoG, we felt good about BI, for once.

One thing I think is funny is that when I got home I watched "Semi-Pro" with my roommates and it is nice to see a movie about not winning it all, but just winning a realistic game like "4th place". Most competitors don't get to be #1 but we still can have glory and success and our experience at Boston Invite was just that. Great work guys. It has been a challenge to play with Colt the last 3 years but it looks like we are finally picking up some deserved momentum and I hope it lasts.

Closing Thoughts
As for the rest of the summer, I'm not entirely sure what my content is going to be like. I have a ton of ideas and I have already done interviews with captains/reps from the Buzz Bullets, Furious, Sockeye, Jam, Bravo, SubZero, Chain, GOAT, Boston, the Dingos (Australia), Bodhi, and PoNY but I'm not sure how the information will be published. I have been trying to get more of my stuff onto mssui which is what has slowed me down a little bit, but I'm not sure the format will be the same. For the last year I have become what most folks call a "gonzo journalist" in the Hunter S Thompson sort of way. However, mssui seems to be a bit more formal. I feel like I can write both ways but I really enjoy the informal Bill Simmons "bloggey" style. I feel like I have established myself as a personality in this sport and the writing itself doesn't stand alone, but has my sort of spin on it.

So with that being said, I have a poll up, Informal or Formal. What do you guys like? Do you like my MD style more or my mssui-esk style? I prefer the former but i'll let you guys vote.

Thanks again for your support and patience. I really love this stuff and I appreciate all the people that come up to me at tournaments telling me they read my stuff. Stay tuned.

just my thoughts

match diesel

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thoughts after Cal States

So Cal States came and went this weekend and it is nice to see that some elite teams are starting to beat the crap out of each other. I don't think that these results are completely indicative of what we can expect for the series, but they are interesting none the less.

First off, congratulations to the Palo Alto crowd. This is a team with one of the better pipelines in the country (Stanford) as well as one of the best ultimate minds, Mike Payne. They missed out on Nationals last year by being on the wrong side of the NW Regional 4/5th place debacle that happened last fall. However, at least out of the gate, they came out red hot. This isn't too surprising for me because players like Nan Gao and Robbie Cahill, who were both 5th year Stanford players, have now had some time off and I'm sure it has done them well. I know that Robbie is in Seattle now and despite offers from the Fish, he has decided to stick with his college buddies, good for him. In addition, I hear that Seth Wiggins has moved down to the Bay Area and is now suiting up for these guys. In any event, with their existing talent, their pipeline and some new talent, they will definitely give Jam, Sockeye, Furious and Rhino a challenge for a bid to Sarasota. Next chance we'll see of these guys will be Summer Solstice in Oregon, but I think one of the more exciting challenges they will have will be the Seattle Invite, which seems to be an early version of ECC. This tournament has some, but not all of the NW juggernauts, and it will be nice to see where Revolver stacks up later in the season. Congratulations again on a great first tourney and I like that they came back and beat Sockeye Y after a DGP loss to them in pool play.

Sockeye X/Y
I'm not surprised about which Sockeye team won this tournament. I was lucky enough to get the rosters of both and it seems that X definitely has more pure tryouts and Y has some old faces that are back. I want to get into the roster status of Sockeye and other teams but I'm planning on doing some formal writeups like I did for college, so hopefully most teams will talk to me. In any event, Sockeye, like Jam, seems to have more talent than they know what do with. Considering that the team is still fairly young and Fish veterans have been in the system for a long time, their team strategy should be as figured out as it's going to get. However, I do know of some serious roster shake ups that will affect the club series, not World's, so while I do believe Sockeye is in good shape to take gold, I think other squads like Bravo and Jam are in line to win it all in Sarasota. In any event, like Revolver, the next chance we'll see for some real Fish action will be the Seattle Invite and hopefully with one team we'll know who's who in the NW.

Furious George
I like seeing my monkeys come out firing early in the year. Historically, they always seem to start slow but despite 15-6 losses to Sockeye and whomever else in early summer, they still bring it in the Fall. However, with World's happening in August, I think Furious will have to push themselves harder earlier which will be awesome for us fans. Seattle Invite will definitely be the weekend to watch because it will be one of the last times we see the Vancouver boys before the big show. I was a little surprised that they didn't split up do their Furious and George team that they usually do this time of year (maybe thats just for Flowerbowl), but I can imagine that figuring out that many roster issues would be ill advised considering the fact that they need their system sorted out earlier this year. In any event, they played a decent tourney. They had 3 losses total which were only to the two teams in the Finals, so not too bad. I can imagine the TD being a bit frustrated that 3 of the 4 teams in semis came from the same pool but I suppose thats the way it goes with small tournaments.

I was fairly surprised on Saturday when I found out Jam lost to the Condors, but considering their 15-10 win over them on Sunday, I'm not too worried. The issue with Jam is definitely not their personal because their team is more or less the same as last year. I spoke with Idris and he told me that their roster won't change much in 2008. This helps out Jam early in the year because guys like Kevin Cissna, Jeff Estham, Damien Scott, Idris Nolan, Greg Husak, and Mike Namkung have been in the system for quite some time and I can't imagine anything new on the white board. I will say that it seems like the ripple from Justice League is still in effect. Jam learned in 2006 that nothing was guaranteed and in 2007 they were definitely more fired up and took the NW region. However, this team is still developing their synergy. After the 2006 shake up, the roster is still working to develop team chemistry that squads like Sockeye and Furious have stock piled. Much like Boston, their success has very little to do with talent and everything to do with continuing to develop as a team. The 3 year mark is definitely a good chunk of time because after 3 seasons, their really shouldn't be anything terribly new. I see Jam coming out hot early with success at Colorado Cup but even if they do dominate early, they still will have to deal with elite teams that peak well. Win or lose in July and August, I really hope this very experienced team has what it takes to compete with younger teams in the series but barring any major setbacks, they are definitely Finals contenders once again.

I'm not sure what to make of the Santa Barbara crowd. This team has benefited from the spectacular abilities and leadership of Steve Dugan for so long but their 2001 National title is now 7 years old. With players hopping all over the country to play for teams, the Condors are having interesting issues to deal with. Jimmy Chu is now back in Seattle and was playing with Sockeye Y and key Santa Barbara players like Rory Orloff were also trying out for Sockeye. To compensate for this, I hear that the best in the South Land, ie Los Angeles, are heading up to Goleta to try out for the birds. They have plucked a few guys from UCLA, which I'm sure frustrates Monster, but I also think that the redistribution of players will hurt the Condors. Not that these players aren't legit, but now instead of having the Black Tide pipeline where synergy was developed in college and used in club, now the Condors are having to continually recruit and develop players like every other team out there. They do have a great team system that has worked for over a decade so I'm sure they have their affairs in order. They have taken the Southern California section for god knows how long but I wonder if teams like San Diego United with gobs of college buddies playing together again will have a chance at the Condors late in the year.

YR, San Diego United, Last Call, and Monster
It's funny, for the 4 teams at this tournament where I actually know the most people, I have the least to say. YR took the "coveted" 7th spot at this tournament and their 15-11 win over SDU is a good one. These LPC guys have a lot of experience playing with one another and I'm not surprised at their early season success. However, I wonder what will happen when their competition gets better. Summer Solstice should be a good opportunity for them to reaffirm their talents and potentially turn some heads.

As for SDU and Last Call, it really breaks my heart to see these two teams separated. When I was in San Diego, it was just PBR but when the dust cleared after their civil war it was more or less the UCSD crowd (SDU) and everyone else who lived in San Diego and loved ultimate (Last Call). I'm happy to say that I have good friends on both teams but it sucks that the talent is divided. This is definitely something that favors the Condors in their control over the Southern California section and I wish folks could just consolidate talent and ditch egos and personal bull shit.

However, despite these issues, I am glad to see that SDU is on top of Monster again. Nothing against LA crowd, but I have my San Diego bias and after Monster took the 3rd spot to Natties in 2006, I haven't been much of a Monster fan. Success is the only data that matters however, and if they can get their offense and conditioning taken care of, they will give SDU, Last Call and anyone else a run for their money. Best of luck this year.

Closing Thoughts

A month ago I wasn't too fired up about the club season but now that college is out of the way, I'm happy to say that this club season is going to be exciting. With the world's curve ball this August and with a significant amount of roster rearrangements across the country, there should be some good stories this summer. I am going to try and put together some team writeups and I've got contacts with Sockeye, Jam, Chain, Boston, and Bravo. I still need some help with Revolver, SubZero, Furious, Rhino and GOAT, but I'm on it. Hopefully I still have some readers out there now that college is over and hopefully I'll have the material to keep you all stimulated and unproductive at work.

just my thoughts

match diesel