Monday, May 4, 2009

Regionals: we had a good run

My goal for the team this year was for them to make Sunday of regionals. It is pretty much my goal every year, but this year it was a bit of a stretch considering the fact that we lost every single game including all the consolation games at regionals last year.

We go into regionals with I think 15 players. About 10 of which I would consider "A team" if there was an A and B team split. The others show a lot of promise, but just aren't at regional level yet. The biggest hurdle as a team this year has been: 1.) Lack of numbers for the team and 2.) Communication, sideline voice, etc.

We go into the UConn game knowing they have a few good players, and that we should try hard to isolate them and win those matchups. MIT matched up well on the teams with a few stars this year, and were blown out by teams with no real stars but rather about 14-15 solid players.

I think we got down the first couple of points just playing jittery offense. Wide open pass, to wide open pass, to a deep look that is either to no one, or is just out of reach. A couple rock solid players are just sort of sleep walking through the game (another problem is that MIT classes don't start until like 10 a.m., so very few of them are used to being up at 8, let alone playing).

I call timeouts, remind them that the game won't be won by itself, and that we are playing a good team, and they are going to win if we don't work on defense. Finally, due to nothing I said, we start to play better. Andrew Ji is just starting to roll and getting layout D blocks, skies, and taking over the offense. This will be the theme throughout the tourney. Andrew and our other senior, Footsteps, played the best tourneys I have ever seen them play. The both played close to 100 points for the day (ouch), and they both were getting layout blocks even when battling cramps in the last game.

Anyway, the game is very back and forth, We normally get down, tie it up, and then get down by 3 again. It isn't until 10s that we trade the next two points and then score the next to to win in a cap 13-11. All in all, not a good start, we played a lot of ultimate already, and we aren't playing efficient. Luckily, our junk D we worked on to save some legs worked out well.

The next game is against middlebury. They aren't very deep either, but their top 5 or 6 players are all very talented. If they only had 1 or 3 solid players, we might have had a chance, but, they were too talented and athletic for us. oof. Tough loss. In the second half, I pull some players and play the younger kids.

We now have to bounce back off of a loss, something that MIT doesn't do very well at all. We walk to the new fields and find that UMaine has upset URI. This is a little bit of a surprise, but after seeing UMaine play in the first couple of points, it became clear how it happened.

UMaine ran a really cool give-n-go oriented handler motion with the ho stack cutters cutting and then looking to throw break side dishey passes to the handlers streaking up the field. In other words, they just never stopped moving for one second. For the first couple of posessions, we never had them hold the disc longer than 2. That was a bad sign. Looong game.

On defense, they ran a very aggressive junk against a ho stack that was effective in making us throw a lot of passes. I didn't spend too much time on handler defense and different styles of marking this year, and that came back to bite me as only a handful of kids could actually play D on the handlers without being toasted just watching the guy throw and go. It is ironic that i am a handler defender I know.

Anyway, back to the game, they take half 8-5. Andrew, Owen, and I give a speech about how this is it, the game is in our control, but we have to want it. We then come out a little flat as the kids are trying to learn how to play with emotion and not be so robotic. Then, the blocks start flowing, and we start to climb back into the game on the back of andrew ji and footsteps. The kids have also realized that UMaine has no answer defensively for andrew, and they start jacking it deep to him with abandon.

We tie it at 12s, make it 13-12 us, I think at some point though, really close to 15 all, we get broken when one of their players just played good dump D and got a well-earned block. We pull at 16 all, they drop a contested dump pass, and then we work it up, and i believe score on an upline pass to footsteps for the game winner.

I think in hindsight, we should have forced middle to slow down the give-n-gos. Our marks in gerneral are sub-par though, and our communication on the field is minimal with only about 4 players that routinely talk on the field.

We then get ready to play BC. They are not tremendously talented as a whole, but they are deeeep. They have about 18-20 players who are all capable and competant to play at a regionals level, and they have this kid named Phil who is a talented cutter and handler.

We were out of water, and we couldn't find the spicket. That was a little annoying. We already had players cramping in the last game, and I knew we were in trouble. Too many points played by too few players.

We start out, and I think go down a couple early. We are fighting and working, and as more and more kids tire, Andrew picks up even more of the load. We tie it up close to 5s, and then i think they take half 8-5 or 6. Phil's hammers are giving us troubles and he throws them late in the count, and the kids are too tired to react to them. He is also doing a nice job of keeping the O moving when not throwing hammers.

We take the full halftime, and we are physically spanked. I have seen the look at a team that has played too many points before (regionals second half against dartmouth 2 years ago), and it is a terrible thing to see as a coach. There was nothing I wanted to do more than to go out and play with them.

Everyone looks around in the huddle, and are determined to leave it all on the field. We come out and start to claw our way back into the game slowly. Again, the d's come through andrew and footsteps, and the goals come primarily from andrew just out-athleting BC. The game is taking it's toll on him though, and he is starting to cramp after every goal.

I call timeouts just to rest people, and we get back into the game at 9s. they go up two breaks i believe, and then we score to make it 11-10. I call a timeout to rest some more and get ready for the final push, but there just isn't any gas left in the tank. we get several ds but we start to sputter on O, handlers missing dumps, throws to space to people not there, and people standing around just letting their man poach off.

BC runs away with it 15-10. the last point, the kids are so tired that they don't count properly to match-up on D, communication rears its ugly head one last time.....

In one way it is a good thing that they won because either way, they were going to be the fresher of the two teams on sunday. no amount of ice baths can wash away 100 points in a day.

on the other hand, it would have been a really nice way to end a coaching career to see the kids you coached for 4 years get to experience the magic of sunday of regionals where anything can happen. It would have also gotten andrew ji exposure to others that don't know how good he is. he has one of the highest ceilings out of anyone i have ever coached, and i expect that sometime within the next couple of years, his impact on the club series will be known.

I guess as a consolation, i know that i coached 2 players for the full 4 years of college and both of them are capable of contributing to a club national level ultimate team. something to be proud of, but i couldn't say that if they didn't work so hard as individuals.

Anyway, that is it for the season. Club tryouts for ironside and sons of liberty tomorrow, and a bunch of MIT kids are trying out, so it should be fun to play with them. I hope all of them make sons of liberty since that will be a great experience for them.


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