Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Classic City Classic XLI

Classic City Classic XLI – The Dirty Details

I’ve been saying this for awhile, but only the Midwest was really listening. Wisconsin is good. Like really talented, scary good, like never lose again good. Frankly, the Hodags have almost forgotten how to lose. After the most successful season in history with 48 victories and 7 tournament wins, many of the returning Hodags have become accustomed to the feeling of domination. As Adam Drews comments, “I am 64-3 as a Hodag, Wow.” Yeah holy crap, who else can even say that in his first season? But enough sweet-talk, let’s get down to business.

There is a reason Wisconsin is the hardest team to make in the country. It starts with defensive intensity and ends in focus. Although coping with the departure of 8 players, three of which won the title in 2003, there is no doubt about it; Wisconsin is a different team than last year, but no less deadly. There are new faces and stud athletes with different strengths. But it becomes clear that once they put on the baby blue their play elevates due to the contagious emotion and overall team speed. Soon enough teams will see the throwing lanes shrink and offensive opportunities wane as every player is being shadowed by his defender. The crazy part is that Wisconsin got younger, faster and taller losing in sheer experience and dominant leadership. Veteran players will need to step up and take control of roles on a team still without a coach. Enough hype right? Without further ado, I give to you CCC XLI.

The Classic City Classic might be one of my favorite tournaments. I guess I like it almost as much as I love Clip of the Day from Rob. But after a finals loss in 2004 and victory in 2005, it was still the premier tournament of the fall. Needless to say, Wisconsin approaches every tournament with the intent to win. But seriously, we drive 15 hours south and find frost on the fields? I mean what sort of trick is that? It should just be always nice in the south. Anyway, warm-ups looked… well actually I didn’t make it there in time for warm-ups, because my car left Madison at 6:15pm Friday night (Thanks Q) and had not quite made it to campus. But when I finally made it to the fields and got my cleats on, well, it was a little swilly. There must be something wrong with this Frisbee, is that a Wham-O? Why is it being dropped and turned over with such little regard? I mean, yeah it was cold, the sun was right in your eyes, but Jesus guys, catch the disc! I guess both teams were “feeling each other out” for the first half, turnovers mainly within 3 throws. Playing time must have been a little loose and kids were trying to learn and figure some things out. Maybe it was the anticipation of not knowing how the ‘07 Hodags would play because this was the first time the entire team had been together. But with the 6th seed in pool D, our day looked forward to many many field changes.

The Central Florida Dogs of War looked pretty intimidating for the start of the windy, cold and yet glaringly sunny Georgia morning. The wind would actually be a pretty big factor throughout the day and could be attributed to the plethora of turns early. Despite the sloppy play and miscommunication between handlers, Tom Annen found Jack Marsh for the first score of the season. I was worried as I warmed up on the sideline if Wisconsin would be as good as I expected us being. I guess it took about half the game for new players to get on the same page and for our Offense to start dominating.

The O line isn’t that bad… it’s not like they get broken over and over again so the defense just has to watch from the sidelines. I mean the defense didn’t just work incredibly hard to get that one super important break and the O just gives it right back… it’s not like that, no seriously. So with Wisco up 2-1, lil’ Rilers is looking to throw a pass through the cup, but manages to hit a defenders chest for a Callahan. After this the D line decided to take up the responsibility to carry the team this year. Now with the game tied 2-2, Foster busts out the big forehand and finds Heijmen for the score. The game was close early 3-3 and then the calls started. At first, they were only kind of shady. But soon, the desperation in their eyes showed as bad calls amplified and the legend of Bulge became a little more transparent. Flashback… (Cloudy smoke) à Bulge is that really unspirited club team from Florida, not that one, the other one. I’ve never seen the cheat to win philosophy played out so well. They make calls like it’s their job. It’s like these stubborn old men get a little bit of contact when he was reaching for the disc and suddenly his world ends and he is rolling in the fetal position on the ground screaming bloody murder. There will be finger pointing and obscenities slurred, somebody might need to hold back Rocky. Well I guess a couple of the young kids at CF took notes and thought it was cool to make calls. It blows to play against that without observers and that’s why Central Florida struck me as odd when they made some pretty unusual calls. Either way it didn’t matter as the Hodags began working things out and the deep looks started finding their man. It was pretty much the Dan Miller Show going upwind snagging deep discs and even Skywalker got in the action bitching some awkward looking freshman to capture 2 straight breaks. Madison takes a 7-4 halftime lead with Pearce finding Heijmen again in the end zone. The zone was also coming out, with both teams trying it both ways, setting up some ruthless cross field hammers downwind. The Hodag end zone offense seemed confident and relaxed, patient yet purposeful. I think Dan “Bonkers” Schmit had some nice throws upwind and Tom Animal was wearing socks on his hands, both racking up 2 D’s each. And then there was Riley, he was like doing his own thing. One time he was running so hard that he punched the other kid in the face. Well something like that, but Kevin was kicking defenses in the face, especially on the marks as he threw a break goal to Rebholz for an 8-5 advantage. The Hodags run off 4 straight breaks in a row and cruise in the second half for a 13-6 win over CF.

Round 2 was against upstart team Indiana “Hoissiermama”? It was pretty nice to move to a bigger field and change wind directions. However, Indiana actually thought that they had a chance in this game. Probably because after they dropped the pull on the first point, we spiked the disc out of the end zone. Well actually, Heijmen spikes the disc for a turnover because apparently there was a red line and a white line, so when Dan catches the break for the would be goal, as fellow Hodags were screaming for him to not spike the disc, he promptly takes two steps and flips that shit like a hot pancake. I guess this fired up Indiana who was so hilariously pumped to score that they spiked the disc with contempt and seemed to think they were awesome at ultimate every time they made a play. This tactic worked until the Hodags got pissed and began exerting their will and shutting down every single player on the field with some suffocating defense. Seth Meyer, the new Dan Miller, of GOP origin, showing some skills, catches a pass from Adam Drews for a break and finds Ryan Ingersoll on the very next point for the second break to take a 3-0 lead. Freshman Cullen Geppert also got into the action marking up two layout-in D’s, one on a player like 9 inches shorter than him with a ponytail, so let’s just keep things in context. But it did feel really good to break Indiana down like that. On the next point, Wisconsin keeps rolling, with Muffin finding his deep game in a big huck to a streaking Drew, but not before punching his mark in the jaw with the off hand (!) calling the goal back. Nevertheless, we struck out 4-0 before Indiana scored 3 of 4 to bring the game back to 5-3. At this point the Hodags freaked out and with Scallet getting D’s in the air all over the place and Even Klane bombing forehands, we steal half 7-3. Anyhoo, with the larger field (yet smaller end zone) and nice crosswind, the floodgates of deep shots exploded. Jim Foster began dropping bombs to Jack Marsh, who was clearly looking to impress the only Wisconsin fan at CCC, his dad. Yes, that’s right, I said it. Jack Marsh, yeah you jealous? I bet your school could pick up these big name transfers too; yeah, you wish. But seriously the J-Fo-to-Harvard-combo is absolutely unstoppable already. And then, you know what really turned the tide in favor of the baby blue, Dan Heijmen. This guy is the truth. Give this man the biggest burden and he will carry us through the pain. Dan was marking up fantasy points left and right dropping deep bombs. And then Heijmen got into this shouting and flexing contest with these Indiana punks who were trying to call this catch a goal but the dude was OB, but they were just trying to walk off like a goal. I think Dan ripped his shirt he flexed so hard, and after that, Indiana yielded and finally had to double score it to count. We crushed some more and quickly finished 13-4 final.

So after a full warm-up game, we were finding our rhythm and especially our deep game. The best throwers began to look to jack the disc deep with some regularity and the D line was garnering confidence. This set up William and Mary coming off a close game on another field. It’s never good for the other team to show up to find Wisconsin scrimmaging or competing against itself, because that means people are getting serious. The team’s stifling defensive pressure (including super sick Drew Mahowald poach layout D in the lane) set the tone for the game. Wisconsin scored fast and efficiently, ridiculously rolling. W&M had some nice break throws but just couldn’t complete more than 3 in a row before giving it back. They timed their deep shots well, but failed recognize the poachers as Wisconsin began eating the disc on every possession and then scoring as if it was nothing. Somebody must have hooked up the game-genie and despite W&M having more talent and overall skill than some of the teams we already played, they just could not score and we yielded no mercy. I would recommend relying on the dominators and speaking of dominators, Jim Foster is ridiculous at ultimate. With every component of the game in his arsenal and at his disposal he is an unstoppable force. This one time, I think he might have even skied Heijmen… but we rarely speak of such for Dan’s wrath would be terrible. Jon Gaynor was also dominating this round, getting 3 D’s, one a super sick over the shoulder layout D (injuring his foot in the process for the weekend, unfortunately). Also playing some defense, the Bucket of K-Fed gets a mack layout D out of bounds to save a goal when W&M almost scores, but in the end we successfully crushed in a 13-0 slaughter.

A fast victory set up a large gap giving us plenty of time to cruise around and check out some of the other top teams. I mean right? Wouldn’t you be curious as to whom Colorado showed up with and just how bad Florida is? It was also pretty funny to see a sweet Richmond layout D on a Minnesota player and then snap his fingers just like Ali G, Booyakasha Respec!

When we again changed fields and re-warmed up after the long delay, the intensity just wasn’t there. Players were already feeling the affects of stiff legs and easy wins, not as focused on the game as earlier when Madison was building steam. But then we realized it was just Davidson and decided to punish. I guess they only have like one thrower. It’s the FOTY or something and apparently he is the shiznit, like the bombast throws in all the AC. So naturally, all we needed to do was stop that guy and let the rest of the players prove to be the difference. But really, the Wisconsin playmakers still showed up. With Bobby Lau’s Callahan, Jack’s dropped Callahan, and Q-Tips straddle Callahan, we almost had 3 in the game and a 7-4 lead. Dan Heijmen was rocketing deep shots upwind and the offense played well when the defense wasn’t dominating as much, with Rebholz keeping the disc chill. I think Davidson got some lucky crap and good deep match ups to score. The conquistadors of defense were still contributing with Heijmen and “ass clown” Gaynor finding their hands on the disc for turns, and helping Wisco roll in a game not as close as the score indicates 13-7.

Our last game on Saturday to finish undefeated was against National qualifier Pittsburgh, who we actually played at Nationals in pool play last spring. You know that really tall handler. Yeah him, with the goggles. He can throw the disc pretty far and was hitting receivers left and right, putting the game at 2-2. With some actual competition and a good game brewing, Wisconsin freaked out and cracked in two breaks for a 4-2 lead. It was probably the Red Bull Girls because they supplied the caffeine and sideline intensity to promptly get Wisco fanatical about defense. At 6-5, guess who? Jim Foster gets a ridic layout D to set up the score for the double break before half 7-5. Pitt stuck with their strategy of hucking early and finding good match-ups like unknowing freshman to keep the game close at 9-7. However, the end of the day was within sight and food was calling so the anger spewed forth as the lines tightened and we proceeded to roll to a 13-7 victory. So 5-0 in pool play and a top seed in the quarterfinals put as exactly where we expected to be. However, Florida somehow lost to NCST, so since they took the #2 seed in their pool, we were set to play Florida in quarterfinals first thing on Sunday. Ridiculous!

Olive Garden for a team feast and free beer at the tournament party (for those with energy) made for the good end to Saturday. However, as Sunday came into view, it became clear that our road to the title would be more difficult than in past years. Soon, the surprise turned into excitement and anticipation to have an incredible Sunday. Actually, we had the hardest road possible to a victory. Florida (National Champion) in quarters, Georgia (National Semifinalist) in semis, and Colorado (National Quarterfinalist) in Finals. It seemed like a daunting task really. However, all returners who were part of the team last spring came out with more focus and determination to play well than I have ever seen. We would not accept bad play and the importance of beating Florida was at the forefront of our minds. The stud power-players would be asked to make plays on some of the best players in the nation. Namely Stud Space Cadet who would be guarding the top 3 Callahan frontrunners in order: Rook, Dylan, Beau. The defense responded to the challenge and while being inconsistent they were certainly incredibly clutch throughout the day.

So UFUCT. Yeah, I agree, ha. Florida has lost 2 players from last year and most of their team had played in Club Nationals the previous weekend. The game started in controversy with Cycle going deep from Rook and calling a foul on a Heijmen poach deep D. The call could not be rationalized and eventually sent back again on a morally questionable call. Their tactics worked as they punched in the end zone set for the first point for a 1-0 lead. The Hodag O gets on the field and scores efficiently sending an early message 1-1 with Tim Pearce finding gainers all over the place. With Gibson continually jacking flicks, Wisconsin was getting the disc often, not with turns but with 13 actual D’s. With the disc in our hands and poaches all over, we punched in two breaks with Mahowald (4 D’s) finding Heijmen (2 D’s) twice in a row for a 4-2 lead. It was awesome to see Madison players actually getting D’s rather than just turfs or turnovers. By this time Kurt was playing both every point and Cyle was counting his calories. After some trading, the Wisconsin D cracks down on Kurt’s touches and finds high stall counts for another turn and Wisconsin break for a 6-3. At this point King Rook and evil Rasputin Cycle are the only handlers in the game staring at unflinching vertical stack and just screaming at kids to cut and make plays, just barking out orders. It might have worked actually, but someone hit the relax button? Who did it? Florida scores their O and capitalizes on deep Hodag turn to get back into the game at 6-5. The freaking O almost gets it together and scores to go up 7-5. However, after Florida gets a foul on the goal line to score the O 7-6, a quick Wisconsin in-cut drop by Miller gives Florida the opportunity to cash in and tie the game at 7-7. The O finally converts when it matters with Heijmen throwing his big flick to Jack for the score 8-7 Hodags.

The game is going late with long points so the cap is inevitable. Wisconsin tightens the lines but it doesn’t matter as the O gets broken again for the 8-8 tie. The defense meanwhile is getting pissed. All those breaks we cashed in earlier… I mean really? The O holds and the D goes out and brutalizes for 2 straight breaks 11-8 with Drew sniping a foot block on another of Kurt’s forced deep looks. Florida holds as the cap sounds for 11-9, game to 13. Once again, the D breaks Florida at their convenience to win 13-9, ending on defense. That was awesome and all the veterans absolutely loved the feeling of beating Florida, a team that had haunted our dreams for months over the summer. It was a feeling of accomplishment and relief to win that first game on Sunday with a new team.

In semifinals, we met the home team Georgia who appears to be a serious contender for the Championship this year. We started on D and were still really pumped from beating Florida. However, Georgia came out strong, throwing deep to Dylan every single time he cut there. And well, Dylan played like a stud and pulled down just about every bladed disc coming his way in the first half. Jojah clearly relies on him as a receiver and on several possessions it was first pass huck turnover from Georgia against a first pass huck turnover from Wisconsin, back and forth in the deep game. With the game tied as 2-2, Wisconsin broke the tension with the first break of the game, a deep shot from Heijmen to Ben Feldman. However, Georgia immediately responds scoring their O with more hucks to Dylan and cashing in a break on the Wisco O 3-4 GA. It was a game of runs and breaks and with Muffin playing 5 points in a row (including 2 hammer goals), Wisconsin scores 4 of them to lead 7-5, ready for the O to take half. And then I remember why I hate the Offense so much, ah yes, they are constantly getting broken. Georgia steals back one break before half 8-6 Hodags. Wisconsin was in control of the game, but we weren’t generating as many D’s and this made us nervous when we really needed breaks. As the second half began our O was broken again for only an 8-7 advantage. The O finally takes care of business on the next point, with Rebholz and Animal getting the up-line at will; Wisco up, 9-7. The D line was faced with the decision to save the day and with Heijmen making perhaps the shadiest decision of the weekend throws a stall 9 ¾ hammer blade straight to Chris Doede’s defender, right? Wrong. Chris takes an aggressive angle at the high hammer and goes up with one hand to stick an amazing catch, firing up the sulking Wisconsin sideline. But Georgia was determined to stick around, scoring another break to bring the game to 11-10 Wisco. The game was coming down to the wire and the Hodags needed some big time production. We scored 4 of the last 5, breaking twice for the 15-11 victory. We even earned the Badger theme song from Mr. Marsh on the guitar for our efforts and leapt into finals.

In finals, (a familiar place for CCC) we met Colorado, a team we didn’t see at all last year and a team we had lost to quarterfinals of nationals in both 2004 and 2005. The majority of the current Hodags had never beaten Colorado, much less never played them. Mamabird does have 3 of the most dominant cutters in the nation with Beau, Jolian and Martin all being over 6’2 and very very fast. This game had a huge crowd, and I love playing in front of crowds (probably because I get heckled often). However, CO came out with the intent to win, playing their best lines over and over again.

They broke us first and were up 6-4 with major momentum (with Mamabird starting on O). They were making our O line play marathon points with 5 turns by both teams before anyone scored. On one of those marathoners Wisconsin turns the disc deep in the end zone and Colorado takes an injury. Dan Miller then demands that a Wisconsin player leave the field as a sacrifice for fresh legs to match. Insert Rabbit, insert Heijmen. Rabbit was clearly the strength of Colorado’s handlers, getting very involved until that point. But Heijmen had his own idea, getting 3 D’s, two of which were point blocks (one upheld through observers), leaving hecklers calling out for the hand-block hat trick. However, they still clearly had the advantage and were making our offense work incredibly hard to score. Our D line was getting antsy and nervous. However, after noticing that they had limited throwers and great receivers we started playing zone, trying to slow down the game. Colorado doesn’t ever really slow it down, still looking to "Zone-Break" the Z with a huge huck to one of their big time receivers for the 1-on-1 match-up. Wisconsin was having some success with the zone (Drew Ding Beau in the air!?!), but with Colorado up 7-6 and posed to break the Hodags again for the halftime lead, we have a Pontiac Game Changing Performance. In the end zone set it was Beau on the goal line being guarded a little too closely on the break side by one Q-Tip Miller with the forehand force on the short side of the field. Rabbit was eyeing up the easy toss to a clearly open Kittridge. But then, a certain Kevin Riley catches his eye, “breaks him”, and reads his mind. As the flick is about to be released, Bucket is already 3 and ½ steps in and accelerating from his defender in the back right corner of the end zone. With Sir Longshanks already contemplating his spike, K-Fed explodes and gets a layout in-D on Beau, saving the would-be break and half. Wisconsin praises the Gods and immediately jacks the disc deep for a goal. The D, finally getting on the field and again being super clutch, break for half with a Heijmen bomb to GOP future Hall-of-Famer Seth, who showed some hustle making a nice, diving catch; 8-7 Wisconsin! In stealing those last two points to take half we were freaking out and gaining confidence and energy back, Heijmen played 9 straight points and scored 6 times. The second half can only be described as an explosion of pain given out by the Hodags. First, the Hodag O had to hold and Rebholz came out bombing to Heijmen for the 9-7 lead. At this point, Muffin was told not to leave the game, playing 5 points and scoring 4. Freshman Ryan Ingersoll even got into the action, throwing a low release air bounce backhand about 2 yards, just hovering above the grass. With Colorado faltering and players pushing to injury, Mamabird relented – giving up pick calls for scores and playing the lines more open near the end. Madison was all set to cruise to a 15-8 whomping with 9 of 10 straight scores but then there was this beautiful backhand huck down the line by Animal and Adam Drews had beaten his man by like 35 yards and was all set to clap this guy in and quick think of a game winning spike, but in the confusion, Drews clap spiked for the drop. Colorado scored for the second time in the half and instead 14-9 setting up the finale. On game point, the handlers are working and Rebholz finds Riley going “oven” and with an open field Jack goes deep. Kevin throws this brand new high release 6 finger inside-anvert-out forehand that just goes forever. Jack gets on his horse and runs to position, but the disc hangs a little (still anverting), and he makes a great sky while at the same time being sandwiched between two swooping Mambirds. What happens when you can make plays that sick? You can spike it however you want. In Jack’s case, this includes a sick round-off back-flip, and the fan (1) promptly stormed the field. It should be noted that Colorado was very spirited down the stretch, allowing a final unrelated injury call to go unnoticed. So BOOM 8-0 and CCC Champions for the second straight year and third straight year in finals. We collected our victory cups, breathed a collective sigh of relief, and *snap snap* took that winning team picture! Now that was an incredibly hard day of ultimate and getting to see all the teams that we wanted was awesome. It was great to win, but this lion is starving.

For the next 7 months – not until the final game – The desire to win means nothing without the desire to prepare.

PS: News on the street is that the Bella Donna are wrecking some havoc on the women’s competition, getting their much desired revenge on Stanford from the National Semifinals in Columbus last spring. They will only be stronger this spring with the key pick-up Junior World’s dominator Georgia Bosscher. Coupled with superstars Holly G and Claire M, not to mention the-up-and-coming stars in Steph Knell and Courtney K, Wisconsin will have some strong leaders. Watch out ICUltimate, Bellas back.

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