Nationals was pretty bittersweet. I felt this was the year.
The core of ironside is made up of 2003 college graduates which means a lot of the team was 28 (jeff and i are the old two of that group at 29). There was also a feeling that for a lot of us, this might be our last year playing for boston due to age, job/family commitments, mileage on bodies that can no longer stay healthy, and moving away.
Practices were special.
Last season there was a sense of urgency that fortch, doug, and mccarthy wore all season. Winning the sprints at the end of practice (well, once fortch worked off his winter belly by chopping chords of wood), taking that extra second to look a teammate in the eye, working hard on every cut all season. Those 3 really brought up the level of those practices.
This season, it was even more prevalent as more and more players saw this as their last, best hope for a title with boston (me, faust, etc). I moved away and couldn't organize the tuesday night mini practices, but, our track workouts were more intense than anything we ever did to date, we had more teammates doing them as a group than before, and practices were intense and heated at times.
We also had a pretty up and down season in terms of results. We started the season sort of late by having extended tryouts with sons of liberty trying to create two boston teams. This meant tryouts for ironside really started mid-june, and the roster wasn't finalized until after june right after a poor boston invite appearance where we simply played bad.
after that, we beat a lot of teams at ecc by playing b- ultimate. i left seattle being disappointed at our play, but felt good that we could beat a lot of teams not playing our best. I was also left underwhelmed by revolver who everyone was heaping praise on.
at chesapeake we played pretty uninspired ultimate at times, but we were experimenting with lines, Ds, Os, and other things. On sunday, we were demolished by chain. We looked flat-footed and slow and they looked awesome.
We came back and worked and worked and worked and by the time regionals rolled around, we crushed teams. I felt really good going into nationals after absolutely crushing one of the strongest (on paper) goat team to date.
one of the biggest adjustments of the season was the hole that fortch left both in the offense and the defense (zones), as well as his confidence and leadership in the huddle. that guy could probably convince me to do pretty much anything.
anyway, wednesday morning i arrive at the tampa airport to be welcomed by stiffiling heat and humidity. I wait for my teammates to arrive. Our last couple practice weekends had been somewhere in the 30s to mid 40s, and i wondered how the team would be able to handle the temperature differential. The answer became better than most northern teams.
Thursday, we arrive at the fields at 8 a.m. to start to warm-up for our game at 9:30 a.m. We talked about some strategic things, and some changes that had to be made due to injuries.
Ben Faust who is a dynamic cutter and thrower for our offense had been battling injuries all season, and his quad injury was so extensive that he couldn't get up to speed meant that we needed to bring george stubbs and chicken over to the O sometimes to fill in his void.
This would mean our Ds O would sometimes not have the same fire power, but offensive fire-power is not something our D's O lacked. Matt Holzer and Paul Batten also had been riding the injury bus all season and were going to see slightly limited PT to see how their bodies could handle the injuries/heat (if you get injured, nationals is a very hard tourney to play due to not being able to get in good enough shape).
Anyway, about 30 minutes before our game with bodhi, when every team was warming up, Goat rolls up to start to warm-up for their game with pike. Ted Munter looks over at them, and then says to me, "goat just lost to truckstop, they are not ready to play today". His prediction was absolutely correct a few games later.
Back to our game with Bodhi. I think Bodhi was affected by the heat more than us. They are much younger than us, and I am not sure what was happening to them, but they looked like they were melting into the ground as we played them. There were several times that they turfed either the first or second pass and didn't even get our of their own endzone. The game was completely out of hand within the first 5 points, and the score could have been a lot worse as our D's O turned it over a few times near their goal line leading to easy scores.
We then got in shade, ate some salt, ate some tums, put ice towels on our heads, and tried not to let the heat affect us too much. We watched some other games after we cooled down some, and could not believe how slow people were running. The heat was just taking all the power out of people's legs. Ring was in a close game with chain i believe and was tied at 10s before they just seemed unable to convert scores due to lack of people cutting. They worked the disc up to the endzone on D in several occasions and then just stopped cutting and wound up throwing a high risk / low reward pass that would get d'ed.
Our next game was against san diego streetgang. we had watched them play doublewide and knew what to expect. what we did not expect was that they were going to play near perfect. i think they started on D and got maybe 2 breaks in a row on us by hucking quickly off of a turn. when our D line got onto the field, their two handlers, a lefty and a righty were dropping bombs all over us. it didn't matter the stall, if we were backing them, or if their was a good or bad matchup, if someone was going deep, they were sending it. and it worked, 90% of the time. I think they took half 8-5. and we were unable to get the turns needed to win the game. it was a little rattling because of how slow our Os D looked after the turn and it was unnerving to see us unable to stop a team confidently hucking on us.
By this time, several players were starting to feel the heat. We were doing everything possible to stay hydrated. For the doublewide game, we came out swinging. they had kurt on the D line, and he was out of shape for kurt's standard, but his job was to bomb it after the turn. they broke us a couple times, but our D line kept the game close. I think doublewide took half on us. out of halftime, the sun had sapped a lot of players energy. Everyone still had the desire to battle, but the game was being played at 3/4 speed. I really think that we would have lost this game if we weren't so deep. the D line just chipped away and wore them down until we went on a 5-0 run to close them out 15-10.
I felt good while playing but awful after. I ate a burrito, drank fluids, pounded salt, and in general tried to stay hydrated throughout the night. I was hoping tomorrow was going to be cooler.
On Friday, we had only 2 games. the first game would be against truckstop, and the second game would be against revolver. we had a team meeting to talk about the two teams and what they like to do and what we should watch out for. For truckstop, we wanted to pressure the dumps, take away their i/o breaks that they live and die by, and concentrate on team D. The O line was going to be aware of where stout was on D and make sure he couldn't just hangout deep like he likes to. Off of a turn, we were going to play stout tight and force him under as he doesn't like to work to go deep if you shove him under.
For revolver, we were going to poach off of the handlers to force it to a sideline because they like to run their offense through the middle. we were going to make them break us with arounds. On Offense we were going to play stubbs more and more on O and play chicken some o points as well to add athleticism to the O line.
A lot of our strategy against them would be based on taking away their pull play and on forcing certain players out and others under. This was a little bit of a change since we normally just force everyone under to contest the under throw.
Anyway, we start out by playing truckstop, and i think we get a couple breaks early, and our O looks much better than it did yesterday. Then, our O starts crowding the force side and we stop looking deep, and i think truck takes half on a few breaks.
out of half, our D takes over, getting several blocks and also forcing several stall 9 throw aways. those are always something to be really proud of (especially as a dump defender). truckstop seemed to be lacking a cutter thrower this season, and when the cutters would get the disc, the offense would stagnate. We wind up winning 15-12 after our defense goes on a few runs in the second half.
We then get ready for revolver. i thought this would be an excellent chance to steal the 1 seed for the tourney. i thought going into the tourney that chain was the team to beat and by winning this game, we could be sure to play them at our freshest.
We start out on D. We run down on the pull, and i am off my handler to force it to a sideline, they throw it to him and he launches a break huck when i am just putting on the mark to no one. kind of surprising and uncharacteristic for them. we work it down and score. on the next D point, we get a turn, and then cough it up and they work it down and score. we trade for a few points, and then we get a turn with our bozo zone, and convert on a crazy hammer from crockford into the sun to seigs (this might have been in the ring game though, everything is blurry). all of a sudden they break us to take half 8-7.
they proceed to break us twice more out of half. by the time our d line gets on the field, we are running out of chances to close it. we have been stupidly hucking off of a stagnant disc against them when we get turns. We got enough turns to even the score up in the second half, but converted only 1 or 2. I think we were at 12-11 when they closed us out. Our O line forced a few deep balls that we didn't have to, and we were having trouble scoring near the endzone.
I felt very good about that loss even though we lost an opportunity to take the 1 seed. I was pretty confident that we could make adjustments to win the next game, and that we would put some stacked D lines in sometimes as we had pretty much just played our 2 D lines alternating the way we do in most games.
I also thought they were going to run out of gas. The first thing I noticed was that they only played about 15 guys where we had played everyone who was healthy, and they only got a break on our team when they stacked their D line with O players.
I actually thought sockeye would beat revolver the next day due to revolver's short rotation and apparent lack of depth (it also could be that their players all look the same.... for instance, they seem to have 2 near identical lanky red-headed handlers who throw bombs).
aside: I only got to see glimpses of sockeye's play and they seemed to be making it very hard for themselves by playing long and sloppy points and close games against all the teams they were playing. they normally would not pull away from a team until late in the second half, and their games seemed to take the longest to finish.
We go home, and I feel pretty good. I felt bad in the revolver game though. The heat was making me weak and winded at times as I was having problems breathing in it. We have 6 D handlers and I am probably playing just under 1/2 to just over 1/3 the D points which is a lot less than last year where I was playing 2/3 of the D points and felt like crap by Saturday.
At the end of the day, I feel I am finally ahead of my hydration and looking forward to Saturday.
Saturday comes. Ring first round of the elimination games for the 3rd year in a row. I don't feel we are ever not in control of the game. I do have an unfortunate turn to a wide open crockford trying to lead him to the sideline. I always think he is running to the sideline and he never does because I am an idiot. I can't tell you how many times this season that exact same situation happened.
Ring forced jeff under which made him become a thrower and lead him to get comfortable being an extra handler around the disc. This would turn up to bite us the next game because for our offense to work effectively, you have to have the best cutter in the game cutting instead of handling. we win 15-11.
I then go over to watch quiet coyote beat amp. redshirt and a redshirt clone, matt packard, are taking the game over with their athletic grabs, and misha horowitz is representing the metro east with his hucks. amp seems to be playing really tight and no one is actually making in cuts.
on defense, ben kleaveland is smothering misha on the dump, but they are not playing good dump defense on jay adams who is just getting every other throw upline by circle cutting the defender.
on offense for amp everyone just seems to be standing and watching their main receiver cut deep, which leads to a layout dump d block on a poorly thrown dump. QC picks it up and scores for the win and the opportunity to go to worlds.... I would assume that QC will pick up brian stout for worlds. I think they are going to turn some heads considering arguably their best receiver didn't come to nationals due to food poisoning.
We go to the grocery store to sit in AC for our game vs. chain. i hate the late semi's as a player. you have so much time before your first and second game.
Anyway, we start out and chain breaks twice to start. Our D line does a good job of getting it back to even, but then we get broken 2 more times to take half. we are having some pretty uncharacteristic turns from handler to handler, and we aren't doing a good job of creating space.
I played some piss poor dump D one of the points I was in and wish i could take it back, but I was also instrumental in some big yardage throws to get our second break in the half (twice since the first time the camera was on the field... i am not really known for big yardage throws or throwing upfield....). Ironically that was the point that I wound up on Dylan. I remember being in a gym with dylan when he could hang on the rim from a standstill and I could barely touch rim with only one hand from a run.... I was hoping he didn't remember that as he started to run deep.
For the second half it was more upwind down wind and i am not high on the upwind D handler depth chart so I knew my PT that half would be limited until we got a break. that break didn't come until late in the half and then they scored upwind to make it 13-11. They then proceed to break us 2 more times to end our season. We also had enough chances to get all the break backs with turns and we simply did not convert.
I was in tears at the end not because we lost which was pretty frustrating, but because I wouldn't get to play with my teammates one last time on Sunday. I had played with 2 of them in college, and at least 6 of them were my metal teammates, a few of them were metal tryouts with me 5 years ago.
So, why didn't we win nationals if the team we had this year was arguably better and deeper than last year? To be honest, I don't really know.
Our Os D looked a little slow at times this year, but that wasn't our downfall. At times our endzone O looked very sloppy for both the O and D line. Our offense is to score at the cone from the back of the stack, but we rarely did it. We also never really swung the disc well all season. i would say that was the greatest change from last year, we didn't move the disc from side to side as well.
If I had to make adjustments as a coach next year, I think I would slow down the endzone drills so players can absorb the mistakes and adjustments that they need to make. I would also play a lot more double score, and I would practice dumping more. I would also do a more zoney cobra D and add in a bozo transition and get rid of the normal zone transition.
but, what i realized last year was by the time you reach the semi's anyone can beat anyone, it is just a matter of who is on. last year, we were on (in the semi's.... jam was on fire in the finals). this year, chain was on.
Overall, looking back on my 2 years with metal and 3 years with boston, I grew a whole lot more as a player with boston than I did with metal, and I attribute a lot of that to having a great coach. Ted is really the unsung hero of what makes ironside work. He has a knack of getting the best out of each and every player. If you ever have a choice between playing for a team with a coach, and one without, you should play with a coach*. *that statement is true if said coach isn't an assclown.
I watched fury play brute in the finals. fury's d just looked much more sophisticated than brute. they seemed to run a clam or a poach off the 2nd or 3rd in the stack to the openside to slow down kathy dobson, and then they took away brute's around break and brute's offense stagnated. off of the turn, they had athletes on the handlers and just ruthlessly ran them deep. brute looked unwilling to handler crash the 4 man cup, and unwilling to throw a little blade over the top. i am very proud that brute never gave up and kept swinging until the end.
I then watched chain beat revolver. revolver played an even shorter rotation than against us, and chain used pretty much their whole 27 man roster. i think if fatigue wasn't a factor though, revolver still wouldn't have won. It was chain's year.
So what is next? I really don't know. I signed up for winter league in NC. I think I am going to try out for ring next season, and I hope to have a lot of fun with them. I would like to see them get over the quarters struggle.
I am also going to try to lift weights in the offseason. something that I have really never done. I am getting older, and I think I need to if I want to extend my career.
It has been a good season. I got to be a part of one of the best D lines that I have ever played on, and that was a truly awesome experience. I really hope we go to worlds.