Friday, September 12, 2008

The Series Begins

I can't believe that the club series is already getting started. It feels like Arizona's romp through Vegas was just yesterday. Oh well, this weekend kicks off the first of many that will have club teams across the country squaring off to determine who's the best in the Nation.

First on the score reporter is the DC section. This is a great section because DC, like Philly, Boston, and Seattle, has a ton of ultimate talent. Not surprisingly it is the biggest sectional showdown with 23 teams. The main contender from this region is Truck Stop, who after a pretty tough Labor Day, need to get the motor running for the series. They should take the section fairly easily but they should focus on consistency and playing "their" game because a showdown with Ring is tattooed on their calendar.

Peripheral to the obvious DC National contenders, two teams in this section have really hit the summer circuit hard in Medicine Men out of Baltimore and Wiretap from DC. I'm amazed at how mobile Med Men have been with showings at tournaments in Upstate NY (Cazenovia), Mass (BI), Canada (No Borders), Maryland (Chesapeake), Colorado (Colorado Cup), and Illinois (Heavyweights). From what I've seen they seem to do the best with their full roster is present so sectionals could be their best showing. Likewise, Wiretap has really hit the circuit hard and I really like these guys. They seem to have the most fun of anyone at these tournies (outside me) and they should look good against Med Med. They are 1-2 against them with a 13-10 win and two DGP losses (12-13 and 11-12). I would expect a hard fought semis if they each take their pools, which means Truck Stop should get an easy final.

The big story of this section is how far Pike has fallen. In 2004 Pike was a major contender making Semis against Sockeye (losing 15-13). However, in the last 4 years much of their talent has taken off with guys like Danny Clark and Bailey Russell moving up to Metal and then to either Ironside (Danny) or PoNY (Bailey). Trey Katzenbach has also moved on from Pike and is now a great O-line presence for Boston. I will say that they have a lot of young talent that could be dominant in the future but I get the feeling the college kids won't sit still long enough to help out. Aman Nalavade (UPenn) is unreal and Ryan Thompson (Stanford) is a very committed flatballer. But they both are bright kids and will probably end up moving elsewhere once they get through college.

The one team that has surprised me the most out of this section has been Roots of Rhythm who seem to be a bunch of Pennsbury HS Alums that are all fast and squirrley as hell. They tooled on us at BI and have the speed and depth to really take it to teams. I don't know much about Forge, but their season performance has been pretty legit with quality wins over Med Men (Chesapeake) and an undefeated Sunday in Chicago. I'm guessing they are a bunch of Pitt guys which would make a nice little club team considering they have made college Nationals consistently for the last few years.

This is probably one of the more exciting tournaments on the weekend because it will showcase the #3 and #4 teams out of the Northwest Region, Jam and Revolver. Both went 3-3 at Labor Day and their RRI's are insanely close at 2542 (Revolver) and 2554 (Jam). This final will probably be the best game of the weekend because neither team has an experience advantage over the other and they both really want to win this game. However, despite my interest, this sectional showdown means very little considering Revolver beat Jam last year at Sectionals but Jam went on to win the region and Revolver didn't qualify for Sarasota.

I think the advantage Revolver has is their tournament schedule. They are 21-10 while Jam is only 11-8. I think more games will benefit a young Revolver team that is working on chemistry. Chicken was telling me that he thought Seth and Martin didn't look like they had each other figured out, but I think Revolver will only get stronger down the stretch. Tyler Grant, Josh Greenough, Martin Cochnran, Adam Fagin, and Seth Wiggins are all amazing competitors and they will really give Revolver the jolt they need to get past Jam.

However, Jam is Jam. They have so much talent and after a poor showing at Labor Day, they will be focused. They are a team that just needs to do what they've been doing for a decade. Nothing flashy, nothing over the top, just play the game that their start studded team has showcased over and over. I wouldn't be surprised if they were still working on their game plan and took second in the section only to peak at Regionals. I also hope that even if Revolver wins, they keep it in perspective and remain focused enough to get past Jam or Furious in a month.

This is the tournament I will be paying the closest attention too. My SD buddies have been trying to get past the Condors well before I ever picked up a disc and this is their best chance yet. They took the Goleta crowd to 14-16 at Cal States and haven't played them since. I think their little rivalry with Madison Club has been good them with a 1-2 record because it has allowed them to practice their composure against a familiar foe. San Diego has always been a crowd of head cases and I hope that some true competitors emerge to challenge Santa Barbara. The team has been together for several years now and should have the athletes and chemistry to win, all they need to do is execute.

However, the Condors are going to make it hard on San Diego. They are a team with a mental edge and they really take advantage of history where they can. They always play Jam tough and are 2-1 against them this year. They also beat two great teams in GOAT and Truck Stop at Labor Day and I don't think SDU has ever beaten a Sarasota team. They might be a young overall team but veteran juggernauts like Tim Paymaster and Steve Dugan will carry this team if need be. I really hope to see some fireworks here.

Then there is the mother of all sectional tournaments, Washington/BC. On paper this tournament is about as exciting as it gets for this early in the series, but I don't think anything exciting will go down. I don't know why Furious got the 1 seed because they don't deserve it. They went 5-1 at Labor Day, as did Sockeye, but they have 5 more losses than the Fish and shouldn't get the top seed. However, I will say that Furious has looked phenomenal this summer. They are 25-6 going into the series when last year they were like 16-12. However, I'm not confident this is a good thing. Good showings at every tournament this year mean that they were prepared for Worlds, and I wonder if they have the ability to keep it up for the series. They seem to play just as hard as they need to which is why I see the Fish owning Furious in the Finals to the tune of 15-7. The Monkies know that they will see Sockeye again in a month and I can't imagine them really charging for a sectional title.

As for Sockeye, they will be incredibly amped to play Furious after their 17-15 loss to them in Vancouver. In addition, a 13-11 loss to Boston shows that their star studded O-line isn't perfect. Without the bail out presence of Chase, Sockeye should focus on their consistency. Moses, Ray, and Mike are the best trio of downfield cutters in the game and Ben, TG and Bestock are 3 handlers that could run an entire offense on their own. However, they all need to find their varying slots to avoid costly turnovers. They have the athleticism and legs to run all day but I think this tournament will be a great opportunity to work on near 100% efficiency from the O-line.

The Colorado and Oregon sectionals should be cake walk for Bravo and Rhino.

Closing Thoughts
Because there are much fewer teams in club than college, a lot of these sectional foes will see eachother again at Regionals so the results here mean very little. I can imagine Revolver or SDU knocking out Jam or the Condors this weekend only to slip in a month or so at Regionals. With this in mind, it seems like the main goal for this weekend is scouting. Jam and Revolver have only played once (12-11 Jam) and same with SDU and the Condors. Sockeye and Furious haven't seen much of eachother this summer and I think all 4 of these teams will be paying careful attention to their challengers.

Truck Stop, Bravo and Rhino are all sharks in a kiddy pool and should use this weekend to test out new things like putting the O-line on D and the D-line on O. I think Bravo's main goal should be to work on this because last year their O-line had issues down the stretch in the finals and improving their O-line D will help if the jitters return in Florida. Likewise, the converting power of their D-line will need to be better than Sockeye's if they want to earn more breaks and working on their D-line offensive chemistry could be a good strategy.

just my thoughts

match diesel

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ultimate Injuries

So after seeing Brady go down yesterday, I couldn't help but think about injuries in ultimate to marquee players that may or may not have led to performance issues of their team. Here is a list of what I could come up with. This is by no means a complete list and I do apologize for any drop offs in information. Feel free to add to any or others I was unaware of.

Danny Trytiak - One of the most unsung heroes on Sockeye. He was on the team when they won in 2004 and 2006 but 2007 was an unlucky year for him. At Northwest Regionals he managed to 360 his knee (probably an exaggeration). He broke something like 3 bones and tore his ACL and PCL, if I remember right. Not only did this mean that he would be unable to participate in the series for 2007, but also kept him from competing at Worlds and in the series this year. He was healthy enough to play in the all-star game at Potlatch this past summer so hopefully he is on his way back up but this must have really sucked.

Martin Cochran - In 2005 Colorado was set to defend their title in Corvalis. However, fate would have other plans. Martin made a bid out of bounds in pool play and crashed into a folding chair. This would prove to be a very devastating injury as it would result in a few broken ribs that would puncture his lung. I spoke with Chicken about it and he was telling me that Martin was one of their best players that weekend with a fantasy line of +16. To pay tribute to their fallen team mate, each Colorado player wrote "Martin", "MC" or "#17" on their arms. I thought this was a really nice gesture and I'm sure Martin's team mates missed him as they lost 15-14 to Brown in the Finals.

Derek Alexander - This is probably the most tragic but also one of the most inspiring stories I have ever heard. I heard it from Nick Menzies at Worlds, so I will just let him tell it.

Formally known as "franchise" he fell 3 stories off a scaffolding and broke around 15 bones, including making a total mess of his right arm (80% mobility) 6 surgeries, partially torn acl, metal plate in his head, plastic surgery to fix up his face months after having his first child. This happened in early 2006. We held a team presentation for him on thursday night and MG read the series of emails of how he would make a comeback just for this tournament. He said he didn't care about anything other than playing for his country. Awesome quote "I am the same player as I was before, except I am now left handed". He is a very very quiet person, so this was pretty funny to me. Not a dry eye in the house hearing of his comeback, and how much he wanted this game. We gave him a canadian jersey with a maple leaf with a superman symbol inside. Talk about a special jersey. He built a field in his yard to train on. When I saw him at canadian nationals last year he couldn't run, or grip a disc properly with his right hand.

Derek managed to recover after almost two years of rehab and competed with Team Canada at Worlds last month and won gold. I wish all tragic injury stories ended this well.

Jeff Graham - One of the best products of Northeast ultimate (UMass), Jeff's biggest claim to fame was cracking into the top 5 in the Callahan voting despite not even making Nationals. He went on to start Twisted Metal and routinely competed against Boston's DoG until both teams decided to fuse in 2007. However, in the winter before Boston Ultimate formed, Jeff tore his ACL playing basketball. He managed to stay mobile via a segway, but was unable to play for Boston for all of last year. Number 21 is back in 2008 however, and is once again a fantastic deep threat, this time for Ironside.

Alex Nord - Of the plays that Nord has made over the last 10 years or so, none has stunned as many as his miraculous chest high sky in the finals against Colorado at College Nationals (2001). I would post a link to the picture, but my computer always freezes when I try and get to it on the CUT website. Go to photos --> 2001 --> action and it is the first picture. It made it onto I bleed black as well as the UPA poster in 2002. However, after catching the disc, he came down hard and gave himself a concussion. Here is a summary of the game. He would still record 8 goals in the game so I'm sure this might be the least serious injury of any on this list.

Mike Grant - In 2004 Team Canada won Worlds in Finland, but they would have to do it with one of their best players at less than 100%. Previously (not sure if it was in '03 or '04), Mike injured his elbow on a nasty accidental play against Sockeye. Mike was attempting a backhand huck when Ryan Seguine (covering another player) was running up the field alongside and ran into his arm hyper extending his elbow. He managed to pick up a lefty flick for Worlds, which incited some problems, but they managed to win regardless.

Martin Cochran - He pops up here again because in 2008 Colorado was reminded how good Martin really is. In the Winter of 2007/08 Martin broke his foot and was unable to play with Colorado through Trouble in Vegas and Stanford. He came back for Centex, despite being out of shape, and helped them make semis against Florida. Despite question marks associated with Colorado through most of the year they made their usual Nationals run.

Alex Nord - Nord cracks the list again because in the 2007 Sarasota finals he dislocated his thumb. On a huck to Richter (covered by Nord) the disc sailed over both and both bid for it. However, Mike Whitaker slid in and caught the disc but as he did so, he ran into Nord bending his thumb backwards. I'm not sure how severe the injury was but I do know that he was wearing a brace at Worlds. There are a few nasty pictures of someone setting it, but I can't find them now.

Drew Mahowald - In 2008 Wisconsin was poised to repeat their natioanls run (and did) but they would have to do it with one of their 2007 standouts on the sideline. Drew broke his knee relegating him to crutches for much of the 2008 season. He cleated up in Boulder for Nationals but only managed to get in on a few points. I can remember feeling bad for him as Wisconsin won Nationals without him but then I remembered how much he dominated in the finals the year before.

Brandon "Muffin" Malecek - At Chesapeake a few weeks ago Muffin broke his foot. I broke my foot in April so I can sympathize and understand. Hector seemed to think it was because the fields were pretty hard in Maryland. His intensity and power flick will definitely be missed and it will be up to Sub Zero to adapt as they prep for another run at Sarasota. They look good so far avenging a loss against Machine with a 15-10 win in the finals at Heavyweights.

Lou Buruss - One of Sockeye's older but best players tore his hamstring in the 2005 UPA Finals. He was lining up against Mike Grant at the time and tore it in the first half. Sockeye would go on to lose and Lou would retire from elite open.

Feel free to add more stories or correct mine if need be.

just my thoughts

match diesel

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Recap

Phew...after a fairly hectic Saturday, the #1 and #2 teams met in the finals and like what it says on Idaho's hat "The Fish are Biting".

Like Wisconsin's run at Centex, I think this weekend was just what Sockeye needed. I am sure a silver medal in Vancouver was not what the Fish were expecting and with as many greats parting ways, Sockeye needed to know that they are still the best. However, like Wisconsin, that doesn't necessarily mean they go undefeated. In the case of the Hodags, they needed a reality check, and for Sockeye, they need to know/remember how good they are and how good everyone else is. A 3-1 pool play showing was more or less perfect because they stomped on one of their regional challengers, not to mention improved on their DGP game against PoNY with a 15-9 follow up. A universe game with Doublewide has me really scratching my head because, well, I just have no idea what to make of the Austin crew. Lastly, Ironside. Wow, I knew Boston was good, but I was impressed that they had the composure to take an 8-7 lead at half and turn it into a win. Sockeye brings defensive pressure like I've never seen and their cutters never stop on O. However, I think this loss is a very good thing for Sockeye. Going into Worlds they blasted Furious 15-6 and were wayy over confident at WUGC. With this loss in pool play, Seattle knows that they aren't the only big fish in the UPA pond. They are a committed, talented, and focused ultimate team, just like the other 15 at Nationals will be. This kind of mental check will restore Sockeye to what they were back in '04, just another team trying to win it all, not "Sockeye".

As for their Sunday performance, I think Sub Zero, Truck Stop, Chain and Bravo all got what they expected, a routing by the former champs. One thing I remember reading on Parinella's Blog and this is so true, is that Sockeye's Offense never stops. My cousin Alex was watching the finals and he was telling me that Bravo just looked gassed in the second half. They were without Jolian and Sockeye came out of the gate with three breaks in a row in the second half. Sockeye's depth is really their strongest weapon now that some of their big guys are gone, but this might be the rejuvenation that will allow them to dodge double peaking problems. Look for them to come out strong for the series, but this doesn't necessarily mean taking the region. They didn't take it in '06 or '07, and we all know what happened there.

Johnny Bravo
Better to go down this way at Labor Day, than UPAs. If you take a look at Bravo's scores, they remind me a lot of Furious in '06. They shredded through everyone on Saturday and may have met some serious challenges down the stretch because of it. It was nice to see that Beau and Popes were in attendance and I'm sure Bravo's game improved because of it. Apparently Beau was on Bravo's D-line which seems like a fairly decent decision. However, with his abilities and experience, he is more or less a Nord or Chase and can plug himself in anywhere so I'm not certain he will stay on defense.

As for JB as a whole, like Sockeye, they needed this. After Chesapeake, lots of folks (including me) were curious to know if Bravo was the Finals team they were last year. With a 4-0 pool play performance and an average score of 15-7.75, doubts about their offensive consistency and D-line intensity were laid to rest. However, I'm curious to know what happened on Sunday. Over confidence may have been a problem and it just goes to show you how much harder a two day tournament can be despite 3 or 4 day marathons. I'm sure a long 13-12 game against Ring was not expected and I'm also sure a 14-11 game with Revolver was equally exhausting. Beau lined up a lot on Wiseman, which makes a lot of sense, and I'm sure Revolver's cutting strategy and legs really pushed Bravo to the limit. And this is all before semis. After 2 long games they get a polished Boston team that played 8 less points on the day and at no point was in danger of losing. This game was a close one with Boston taking half and Bravo pulling on Universe. Boston botched a dump pass allowing Bravo to capitalize and make Finals, but yikes, no wonder they couldn't last against Sockeye. I hear Mac Taylor played a great game with 4 huck scores thrown and Beau took care of Nord fairly well, but Bravo just couldn't last. After going up 5-2 in the first half they let Sockeye take control and half 8-7. After three breaks out of the gate, the match was out of reach.

I think this loss is a good thing for Bravo. They beat Sockeye last year at Labor Day but couldn't in the Finals at UPAs. However, a loss like this really gets the blood boiling and you almost have to hate these teams in order to snatch victory away from them. I'm sure Bravo did their fair share of scouting and will be peaking in Sarasota while Sockeye will be betting on their established game plan and depth to win it all once again. Nothing motivates a team to win like losing a tough one like this and I'm sure Bravo will focus all their energy on preparing themselves to take down Sockeye once and for all.

Another team that had just the weekend they needed. Right now Boston is better than they have been since I've been following them and after a few tournament victories, Chesapeake and Labor Day were great reality checks. At no point this year has any team really taken it to Ironside but they have lost their composure 3 times. A double game point loss to PoNY on Saturday shows that despite a strangle hold on the Northeast, they still have to grind it out like everyone else. This could have been a game where they rested a bit in order to be ready for Sockeye because a double game point loss followed by a victory over the 1 seed really is an impressive accomplishment. I hear Gibson didn't make the trip out to Santa Cruz and neither did Teddy, but a victory over Sockeye is a huge boost for their O-line. They bring amazing defenders, like everybody else, but executing a well oiled offense is really a challenge for a team that is really only two years old.

As for the Series, their main goal should be to remain humble yet motivated, which shouldn't be too tall an order. Ironside reminds me a lot of the Celtics this year in the sense that the team is made up of a bunch of great players that all want a shot at a title, but only 2 have ever been there, Forch and Doug Moore. Graham, Stubbs, Neff, Gibson, Goldstein, and the rest of the non-DoG components have had some success at both Club and College Nationals but none are satisfied. They will be ready for Regionals and their win against Sockeye will get them the respect they deserve nationwide. However, like every team, they need to work out those nitty gritty details so that a simple turnover will not make the difference in a major game, like against Bravo in semis.

Chain Lightning
When I did my write up of Chain a few weeks ago, the main message I got from Frito was that Chain was looking to bring it from beginning to end this year and they have done just that. Tournament wins at Terminus and Chesapeake, not to mention semis at Labor Day are all fantastic accomplishments that will get Chain the seeding at Nationals they deserve. The year they made semis they had to go through Sub Zero, Ring of Fire, Johnny Bravo, and Revolver (the 4, 5, 6 and 7 seeds) while Chain sat at 10. Last year they took out Furious, Sub Zero, Truck Stop, and Boston, only to lose to GOAT on double game in quarters. They never played a seed lower than them last year, and like '06 their only losses were to teams in semis. In 2008, they could get their first seed in the top 8 at Nationals which will really give them a chance at making some noise late in Sarasota. Without having to play one tough game after another, the marathon that is UPA Nationals may be good to them and we could see the best Chain performance yet.

They look great for the series and just need to maintain their consistency. They lost to Ring on Saturday but they are in different regions and Ring seems to be somewhat inconsistent at Nationals the last few years. All Chain has to do the next month or so is take their section and region and with Doublewide struggling and Ronin lacking a solidified offense, that shouldn't be too tough. However, my one concern is that they really won't see a team that they will struggle to beat until late in Sarasota. Perhaps another shot at Sockeye, Bravo, or Ironisde would be nice before Nationals but thats not going to happen. Chain will now have to take what they have learned over the last few months and really hope it's enough to make it back to semis or further. A 3rd or 4th seed overall at Nationals could get them a nice tough game in power pools to assess their strengths and weaknesses before bracket play. This will be just what the doctor ordered because Chain will want to take some chances in power pools, rather than have to play their best just to make bracket play.

Furious George
The format for this tournament didn't bother me until I realized that Furious' 5-1 record was not good enough for semis. They were 5th at the end of the day on Saturday when teams like Ironside, Sockeye, and Chain all had losses to lesser teams than Bravo. What I keep reminding myself however is that these tournaments are not about the overall winners. Furious probably wanted the chance to play as many different teams as possible to figure out their strengths and weaknesses now that their out-of-province players are gone. I didn't like seeing a double game point finish with Truck Stop, but at least they were victorious this time and a redemption win over Sub Zero must have been nice. However, I get the feeling that Furious will have to really work to be as good as everyone else come October because a lot of the teams they beat this weekend will be better at Nationals. As for their Bravo performance, I get the feeling JB went up early and Furious checked out. I was afraid SZ would do this to them, but at this point in the season, Furious seems to let teams get the better of them, unless its Regionals/Nationals. The bear trap strategy has worked against Sockeye twice (Nationals '05 and Worlds '08) but Bravo is a different team. They are not afraid of Furious whatsoever, probably because they bring the same combination of youth, confidence, and athleticism that Furious has boasted for the last decade or so.

As for Regionals, I really don't know what to expect. Last year, Furious didn't look great but managed to beat Sockeye on Saturday but lost to Jam in the Finals (then got worked in the 2/3 game by the Fish). They could take the region, they could finish 2/3rd and they could miss out on Nationals completely, it will all come down to how much they want it. I can't imagine Furious missing the show and with Jam looking ehh this year so far I think the 3/4 game will be between Revolver and Jam, with neither one being the favorite. I like Furious to take 2nd behind the Fish simply because a Worlds rematch at Regionals should favor Sockeye but all bets are off for Nationals.

Ring of Fire
Just when you think you can forget about a team, wham! they come right back. Ring's performance the last two tournaments has really been surprising, at least after looking at their Nationals performance. They finished 11th last year (6 places behind regional rival Truck Stop), but so far this year they have a lot of good games. Beating Revolver, Truck Stop, Bravo and Chain are all fantastic achievements and they can/should use that confidence at Regionals. However, losses to Bodhi, Madcow and 2 to GOAT are not good indications of consistency. Ring was once a dominate powerhouse with routine semifinals performances ('97, '98, '02, '03) and they could be due after another 4/5 year hiatus.

I was checking out some NC rosters to figure out where the UNC/NC State/UNC-Wilmington talent was this summer and I found some weird results. Tully Beatty (long time Ring standout) is playing for Wilmington as is NC State stalwart Josh Norris. Josh's fellow wolfpack teammate Brett Matsuka is playing for Ring which is interesting and Rusty Ingold-Smith, a UNC-W bad ass, is also suiting up for Wilmington. It seems like the talent distribution is a little hectic in North Carolina but that doesn't seem to be stopping Ring. I hope they have the depth and the composure to last through Nationals this year because their last trip to quarters was '06 with a 15-9 loss to Furious and I'm sure they'd like to at least make it back to bracket play.

I don't know why I thought Jam would be their best first round Saturday. Alex was telling me most of their turns were mental mistakes, which I kind of figured would be below a team like Jam with so much talent. Perhaps like the Athens Nightmare Team, it's just too many all-stars. Who knows? It's too bad all of their wins were to lesser teams, in the sense that Jam's need to secure a win over a team like Sockeye, Bravo, Furious, or Ironside has yet to happen. Rhino, PoNY, and Doublewide are all decent teams but all three will be happy to finish 3rd in their own regions. At this point, I really hope Jam realizes that to make semis at Nationals you have to make Nationals first. When I talked with Idris about Jam he said that he wanted the team to be 3 points better than last year (they lost 17-15 to Sockeye in semis). However, I really hope Jam doesn't make the Justice League mistake of looking past Regionals directly to Nationals.

To make matters worse there are only 3 Northwest bids to Nationals for the first time since 2003 and Jam will have to work hard just to earn another shot in Sarasota. Another thing I keep thinking about is the regional shift in power. In college, the Northwest has fallen pretty far since their peak in 2004 (Cal and Stanford making semis) and I suppose it is just a matter of time before the ripple hits the club sphere. However, there are always folks hopping all over the country so teams like Jam always seem to have talent, but then again, Revolver seems to be slowly improving and '08 could be Mike Payne's year to keep Jam out of Sarasota.

With all of their new talent finally done moving around, it is time for Revolver to iron out a team strategy for the series. They have a ton of new players such as Seth Wiggins, Tyler Grant, Martin Cochran, Adam Fagin, and Josh Greenough and it is time to put up or shut up. Revolver fought every team close this weekend, outside beating PoNY 15-7, and Labor Day should have been a learning experience everyone benefited from. They were on both sides of DGP situations and I think these kinds of gut wrenching experiences are good right before the series. They need to remember whatever worked against GOAT and whatever didn't against Chain. Adversity brings a team together and composure down the stretch is exactly what they'll need against teams like Jam, Furious and Sockeye. They only need to knock out one of them but none will go quietly and Rhino could play spoiler once again.

I don't know why I thought the Condors would beat GOAT, but it was weird when it happened. Saturday could have been a lot better to the Toronto crowd but a rematch win over Ring is a big accomplishment. Beating a team twice when both are fairly equal is really tough but it shows who is really better. At this point, out of region performance for GOAT is really irrelevant because GOAT should just focus on getting back to Nationals. A 14-10 victory over PoNY Sunday morning is a great showing because it shows who is in line for the 2nd spot out of the Northeast. I also like that GOAT followed up this game with a victory over Doublewide but given DW's up and down season, I don't think there is much to gather from it. At this point I think GOAT is a lock to make Nationals again, but I see them having issues cracking into the top 8. There biggest wins this summer are Truck Stop, PoNY, and Ring with little success outside the East/Northeast. This program still has yet to earn a major win and while it would be great if it happened this year, it still very well might not.

I'm curious to know if PoNy's travel schedule went as well as they hoped this summer. They went across the country twice and secured wins over the Condors, Rhino, Voodoo, Boston, Doublewide and fought Sockeye to DGP. I want to say that their victory over Ironside is huge, but in reality I don't think so. Boston still made semis and almost finals despite this blemish and I see Ironside controlling New York at Regionals. However, these games do give PoNY the opportunity to establish the experience barrier between themselves and Bodhi. Come regionals, Bodhi's 2-0 advantage against PoNY will mean very little but PoNY's experience against Sockeye, Jam, Revolver, Furious, Doublewide, Sub Zero and Chain this year will. Then again, Bodhi has played Bravo and Ring, and PoNY has not. Needless to say, this story has panned out a lot better than I could have hoped. Best of luck to both teams.

Sub Zero
Yikes, I really hope losing Muffin to a broken foot is not what's holding SZ back. They went all the way out to Chesapeake and Labor Day but instead of beating teams like Furious and Boston as they did at Nationals last year, they are 0-2. Likewise, a win over Chain would have been nice after a 15-9 loss last Fall, but again they are 0-2. They also have a loss to Machine (a regional rival) and don't look like the semis team I once thought they were. However, unlike most Nationals contenders, they still have one tournament left before the series, Heavyweights. This one will be more or less at home and I still think they have the personnel to succeed late in October. I remember thinking Carleton was overrated last Spring and they turned major heads by making semis in Boulder. We could see a similar situation here and a strong Heavyweights performance will be a nice confidence boost going into the series. However, Machine is in a similar boat and will be hoping for the same kind of confidence boost. Hopefully both make the finals this weekend to give us a nice preview for Regionals and I also hope neither team has any further injuries.

The Condors
When I did my preview for Labor Day I made another big quoting mistake and I really hope I didn't burn yet another bridge. Instruction in journalism is not something I have had and making mistakes is more or less my only education. Hopefully I learn this time.

Anyway, despite questioning the Condors ability to take the Southern California section, they seem to be right about where they were last year. Beating GOAT and Truck Stop are big boosts for a team with a lot more red on their score reporting page than green. Out of region wins like this are good for determining strengths and weaknesses and for a young Condor team, this is a great step forward. I also like that despite looking up to Revolver, Chain, Furious and Ring, they still managed to score at least 10 which is an indication to me that they have the offense to score against the best, just maybe not the consistency. They will once again have a mental edge against SDU in the series, and hopefully my undergrad buddies pick up a few big wins in Chicago.

I am more than happy to dine on my words from Thursday and it is nice to see that Rhino got themselves a win unlike Sockeye Invite. However, I think this is more a loss for Truck Stop than a win for Rhino. Be that as it may, an out of region win is still a nice little boost and weirder things have happened in the series. Last year Revolver took the Bay Area section ahead of Jam, who won the NW, only to lose to Rhino in the 4/5 game. Perhaps Rhino is setting us all up for a nice little rope-a-dope and will put it all together in Burlington. I've been harsh enough on them so I'll just stop here.

Man, I was really hoping to see some fireworks in Santa Cruz. Nothing like following up 3 DGP losses with 2 more two weeks later. I wish I could have seen the Sockeye game as well as PoNY because it looks like Doublewide is playing up and down to their opponents, which really doesn't work out well either way. To me, this shows a serious lack of composure, which I'm guessing has something to do with being the lone "elite" team in Texas. Hopefully they can figure out what went wrong in all those universe situations and my only advice is to bury egos. Some players are good and some are great. Just like some players are head cases and some are not. In the end, putting ice cold players on the field when the game is close is better than putting on your superstars. Hopefully after 5 universe losses, DW can figure out who is best in those kinds of situations and hopefully players outside the lucky few can be happy with their contributions outside game point.

Truck Stop
If you look at their win/loss record, I'm sure Labor Day was not what DC wanted. However, their scores tell a different story. Three DGP losses, not to mention a close game with Sockeye and the Condors all shows that Truck Stop is a decent team that may surprise us all come Mid-Atlantic Regionals. They have big wins against Jam and Revolver, as well as close games with Bravo, Furious and Sockeye. However, like DW, I get the feeling they are playing to their opponent. They took it to the Northwest at Colorado Cup, but I'm guessing little previous experience against the DC boys worked out well for Truck Stop. They came close to beating Furious again, but they just didn't. They were a quarters team last year but have yet to make it past 5th/8th at any tournament this year. I don't think they have what it takes to get past Ring at regionals but if they catch an unsuspecting team in Sarasota, they may get another shot at bracket play. I felt about as luke warm for TS last year as I do this year and we all know how that turned out.

Closing Thoughts
I like these sorts of tournaments because you can succeed without actually winning it all. These tournaments are not about winning but about achieving goals and I think teams like Sockeye, Bravo, Ironside, Chain, Furious, Ring, PoNY, the Condors, and Rhino all did that this past weekend. GOAT, Sub Zero, Truck Stop, Doublewide, Jam and Revolver still have some questions associated with them, but thats what sectionals/regionals are for. In the end there will be teams at Nationals that aren't on this list of 15 and there will be teams on this list that aren't at Nationals.

I like Sockeye, Bravo, Chain, Ring, and Ironside to take their respective regions with Furious, the Condors, Truck Stop and GOAT taking second. I'm not sure if Sub Zero will take the Central this year and with Ronin's success and DW's lack thereof, the 2nd spot in the South is up for grabs. PoNY could take 3rd in the NE, but Bodhi is right there with them. Needless to say, the gloves are almost off, and it's time for a summer's worth of preparation to be laid out on the table for us to see who is still standing with the dust clears.

just my thoughts

match diesel