Monday, March 19, 2007
The third tournament of 2007 was unusual. Most tournaments following the Hodags are filled with domination, confidence, and continuous blowouts. This weekend consisted of hardships, setbacks, and an all-time high of injured players – sometimes with only 16 players healthy enough to step on the field. This unexpected formality led to fatigue, doubt, and exhausting contests – far from the usual Saturday afternoon. However, 8 games later it was the grittiest performance of sheer guts I have ever been a part of.
Wisconsin played Colorado State first, who the Hodags had already seen at Vegas this year (took half 7-0) and were worried for how pumped up they would be to have another shot to bring it against Madtown. Down in Georgia it was perfect: clear, no wind, chilly but going to get pretty warm. No doubt it turned hot as the defensive line came out sizzling, scoring 3 breaks as Bobby Lau hit Animal for a 4-1 lead. Heijmen scores two of the next three and racks up a couple of sky D’s for a 7-3 halftime lead. Even Hohenstein was making a difference, catching two goals and getting a sweet D. Jack Darsh scores out of half from Dan Miller as Wisconsin trades to 10-5. However, the "Red Headed Mexican" was still adjusting to his brand new SuperGrip 2000 pair of hands, which was steering the Zip-Loke all across the field, putting up a some momentous numbers with 4 D’s… well 2 might have been on O, but it’s all the same to the King of Sparta himself, Lokkmaster. Kevin Riley makes quick work of his mark has he throws 3 of his 4 assists in the second half as Wisconsin rolls 13-6.
It was really just our second game against Pittsburgh that everything got screwed up. It was Pitt’s first game of the day and we were all set to take advantage of the first-game-of-the-day-blues. And things were going well, with Dan Heijmen cashing in our first two breaks of the game as Shane continues to get pretty cool deep D’s, as we build a 4-2 lead after starting on D and going down 0-1. However, Pitt responded and for the first time since the existence of the universe, a Metro East ultimate Frisbee team actually looked pretty good. With those shiny white jerseys and plethora of kids who can seriously break the mark, they got fired up. Pitt scored two in a row to tie the game at 4-4 with wide clearing sets and purposeful in-cuts. The O responds after the breaks and take the 5-4 lead as Jack Darsh and Miller hook up for another connection. When the game was still close and half was nearing, Pitt got sneaky and schemed up the idea to go Zone in the windless conditions. Only a coastie would think of an idea that stupid, but it kinda worked. The Offense began struggling with their execution, dropping discs and hitting poaches in their own red zone. Pitt, as they caught the disc or quickly transitioned it into play, threw break mark goals of 10 yards of less in 1 throw or less for 2 straight breaks for a 7-5 halftime lead. Wisconsin was surely horrified to realize that El Supra Nobjob was starting on O. Pitt scored out of half on a 3rd throw huck and jumped to an 8-5 lead. The pulse rose after that one, but the O converted as Riley worked it the Albino #6 for a goal, cutting the lead to 8-6. It was no use, as Pitt continued to score their O’s quickly and deeply 9-6. After another short field turn Pitt was punching in the break for at least the third double unhappiness. And wha-laa, that’s how an Offense can really ruin a great Saturday afternoon. At this point, Wisconsin found itself down 6-10 it was clear we were now just playing our best line every time. It was at 7-11 that the timeout was called. The Hodags looked shocked as the situation we had put ourselves in. However, the Captain Matt Rebholz stepped to the forefront and announced it was the first gut check of the weekend. Do we have what it takes to respond, down 4 breaks and the other team only points from victory? Even as Heijmen tried to tell is in a calm voice that it was okay, he cracked when he realized just how much he wanted to win and turned on the team almost to level Tripoli. Calm went to excited, control went to frenzy, and in one distinct moment, every single Hodag on that field decided it was time to get crazy. And that was all it took, as the O got on the line and on the backs of Riley and Rebholz punched in that first goal 8-11. Right then I think most Hodags anticipated or even knew that we were obviously just going to literally will ourselves to victory through pure desire and hatred of losing. The Hodags rushed the field and anyone who was anyone could sense something absolutely ridiculous was going to happen. All the Hodags screaming on the sideline knew it, every Hodag defender on the field knew, and it was just a race to who could prove it on the field first with that extra effort to do something nasty with their body. The hat tips to GoP Hall of Famer Seth Meyer who catches up to a deep huck and D’s the kid right over the shoulder. Miller's Twin Brother then catches the double happiness goal from Rebholz to bring the game to 9-11. The dam had broken, the wall was smashed, and the army was invading the city. When Wisconsin needs big plays, we look to our playmakers – mainly Q-Tip. As Pitt works the disc to their center handler, they see an in-cutter coming to the open side, just about in the break IO lane. The moment the throw is being released for the 12 yard in-cut Mister Milly Miller gets completely horizontal about 4 feet to the open side of the defender. Miller seriously floats in air about 10 seconds as he completely D’s the shit out of the disc as the in-cutter does not even see him. The cutter runs into the finally falling Miller who minutes earlier had D’d the disc, and calls a foul. It was a miracle the man lived in those first 3 seconds, but the foul was taken back after discussion and play resumed. Matt Rebholz could not be stopped as he throws his third straight goal in three points to Dan Heijmen to bring the game to 10-11. As Wisconsin still needs plays, we get a deep huck turn. A Muffin
bomb to the Lokkness brings the game all knotted at 11-11. Just for good measure, Wisconsin punches in one more break for the 12-11 lead with a Jack Darsh D in the air. Pitt who was about up to here with Wisconsin’s run, got their heads together and scored an O to tie the game 12-12, cap game to 14. The Offense looks deep and Will Lokke is in hot pursuit of a scorching disc. However, his defender is in decent position as they both simultaneous layout into the end zone, the disc bounces off Lokke’s outstretched hands and macks straight up into the air. The Zip-Loke had this shit on Lokk because his eyes never left the disc as the moment he landed pushup position on the ground, Will literally “wormed” his body into the air a second time, apparently bracing with his forearm on the Pitt player’s face and generates enough swiggle to get his body off the ground and totally stick the disc with one hand while falling back down – landing very awkwardly, half on the defender and half on his butt. Nobody was actually sure if Will had actually snatched that floating disc out of the air, but the immediate spike between the legs from the sitting position let half of the tournament know just how clutch of a play that was as the sideline exploded. The crowd cheered and all the Lokemaster could say was, “I love my SuperGrip 2000 pair of hands.” However, Pitt tied the game at 13-13, but with Wisconsin receiving, El Subra Nada never had the disc with a chance to win as the Hodags close out 14-13 for the universe point win. It was a super gutsy performance and after that game, despite how relieved and happy we were to pull that one out, the team got a wake up call for not coming to play every single game of every single tournament as we had twice in two years been taken to universe point on Saturday of Terminus. Wisconsin’s 1 fan for the moment, Mr. Marsh celebrated as the Hodags pulled out a miracle moment better than Pulp Fiction. As we took our much needed bye round and our legs tightened, we had a chance to realize just how special of a team we were. Wisconsin joked about just how dangerous we thought we were if we could at any moment flip the switch and play out of our minds.
We took our bye round and lost like 4 kids to injury - cleats off, now spectators. We had Minnesota who is in our region and who was already 3-0 on the day trying to win the pool outright. Ben Feldman who was clearly anxious to prove that he was better than all those other Hopkins alum and scored 2 breaks as Jon Gaynor scored the other 2 as the Hodags jumped to a 5-1 lead. Grey Duck was so tired that after the Hodags started out so strong they totally caved and broke down. Muffin was even running around and on a single point got a deep poach catch D, then he went deep and caught the would be goal except that it was called back because Animal traveled and then Muffin even saved the disc from sailing out of bounds with a completed greatest. The only thing left on the list was to jump over a defender, but by then, Minnesota went ahead and scored the goal 5-2. Bobby hooked up with Shane just before half for the 7-2 lead. Freshman Cullen Geppert gets a nice in-cut layout D, finally gaining that last inch on the defender for a sick D. Tim Pearce randomly throws not one, not two, but three goals as the Hodags took a 10-4 lead and traded to a 13-6 win.
The fast and open third game gave Wisconsin some valuable rest before NCST the #2 seed in the pool. By the fourth game of the day, anyone who was not already injured attempted to hurt themselves while anybody who was still healthy, decided to sit this one out. With 9 guys good-to-go, Wisconsin started well and took a 3-1 and 6-2 lead. Since Madtown had already lost 2 of our most sick nasty love-haters, Wisconsin was forced to shuffle some kids around – landing one cocky-ass freshman a little bit of time on the O line. The fresh legs helped as self-proclaimed Junior Worlds MVP Ben Feldman scored 5 goals on his 10 points played. It was such a FFA that even Muffin was launching his backhand deep. Seth and Shane continued the “Bash Brothers” Theme as they both had a D left in the system. One moment and 4 Heijmen deep hucks to Feldman later, it was a 13-8 win to take the power pool title 4-0.
Wisconsin was also lucky enough to stay at Sharpie CEO’s house by some awesome coincidence of Mr. Lau and we totally dominated the hot tub and awesome food before passing out in front of a trifecta of widescreens, dart boards, and comfy couches.
On Sunday, the Hodags were late to the fields and did not even have time to run a single team drill before our game began - probably because we lost those two hours of sleep. However, Wisconsin struck first as Scallet found Gaynor for the 1-0 break. Iowa State had been throwing and drilling for a super long warm-up and took advantage as their best players did not leave the field, getting a break back for a 1-2 lead. Dan Heijmen would not stand for this as he lifted up the team and put them squarely on his back. First he went deep from Air Jordan Marsh and then found Jeremiah for a goal as he pushed the lead back to Wisconsin 4-3. Feldman found Gaynor for the halftime lead as the Hodags led 7-3. The " Biggest Crybaby" himself scored 7 of 8 times he stepped on the field for once stretch and vaulted Wisconsin to a 10-4 lead. Seth Meyer got a super nasty sky D and continued to punish cutters going deep. At this point the momentum lulled and Wisconsin traded to a 15-9 win as Marsh sticks in 3 of the last four goals. It was no wonder we lost focus and traded out because on the field next to us in pre-quarters - #2 seed Georgia was struggling against Indiana losing half 8-7. It came all the way down to universe point with Indiana receiving, but Georgia held it down and won on double game point – a very exciting ending as Indiana caught 2 or 3 goals on a deep shot where the defender and the poach defender misread the disc, only for a streaking cutter to clean up the trash.
Next up in quarterfinals was Illinois. Wisconsin had not played this team in the last couple of years and was not quite sure what to expect. Apparently, Illinois has a pretty good deep game and a kid #13 who is really fast. Kevin Riley was holding down the handling core as he found Blue Steel himself Heijmen for the 1-1 lead, but Wisconsin fell down 2-1 early. "Matt Damon" continued his hot play as he found Gaynor deep for the 3-2 lead and then hit Pearce deep for the 4-3 lead. Moments before half, Shane gets a nice D and catches the goal from Evan Klane for a 7-5 halftime lead. Illinois responds and ties the game at 8-8. Muffin decides that anything Illinois can do, Muffonuts can do better, as he sends two straight hucks deep to Seth and Gaynor for the double break to 11-8 Wisconsin. Matt Scallet gets his hands on a D before Kevin Riley cashes in the last two goals for a 15-11 win. For the first time on Sunday, after being challenged by the opposing team, Wisconsin responded and went on runs to gain back control of the game. The veterans were showing a relatively young team how to win games and finish teams when they are reeling. It was awesome that players like Shane and Heijmen were leading the way, getting sick D’s on a continuous basis and freaking out in order to win games.
In semifinals were we playing Pitt again, who gave us a scare on Saturday, and also played us hard at CCC earlier this year and who we had previously murdered at Nationals last year 15-4. The Hodags were glad to play Pittsburgh again because we wanted to prove to Pitt that even though we had a close game, that they would never get that close again. The reason for the confidence is that Wisconsin is not like most ultimate teams. We had weapons coming out of nowhere and if we play hard as a team, our sheer depth of crazy athletic fast kids ends up overpowering the other team with only 4-5 good players. However, Pitt was playing well as they took a 3-2 lead and had us on our heels. Both offenses continue to hold as neither D can get a turnover as they take it to us 7-6. Pitt was keeping good spacing and isolating one cutter at a time well with good deep shots. The Hodgas score on O and then stack the 7-7 line to get a break (which counts for double at half) because we change sides and possession for the 8-7 lead. We take care of business and get up 10-9. At this point Wisconsin wanted to bury Pitt and needed some excitement to put together the run. This brings us to: the absolute sickest moment of the weekend. A Pitt cutter was reading an outside in forehand and had no idea that Feldman was eyeing him up from the power side with the deep poach help. About 2 seconds before the Pitt player is ready to jump, Feldman explodes into the air and puts his ball sack on the kids shoulder as he D’s the fuck out of the disc at about 10 feet. The cutter cry’s foul, but is overruled due to the sick nature of the D. Sick plays pump up Wisconsin and riding the wave of emotion, the Hodags for real decide to slay Pittsburgh with defensive intensity and various defensive strategies to get turns and run off 4 straight breaks to a 15-9 win.
Finals proved to be a rollercoaster. Wisconsin was playing hometown favorite national semifinalist Georgia in their backyard and who had just won the prestigious Stanford Invite the previous weekend, beating other semifinalist of nationals Stanford. Wisconsin might have been a little nervous, but after all, this was the reason the Hodags even came to Terminus, to play Georgia in finals (and not pay the free tournament bid). The wind had picked up and even throwing full field became difficult. Since it was finals, there was definitely a huge crowd now. We still had our 1 fan - Jack's Dad and that was sweet. With the stiff upwind-downwind game it was very difficult to pull even 70 yards upwind and very hard to huck upwind. That is, hard to everyone without a cannon for an arm. However, the Wisconsin defense struck first getting a break right from the get-go 1-0 Wisconsin. Georgia responded right back and took the 2-1 with a break for themselves. Wisconsin, not to be upstaged, scores the O point and grabs two definitive breaks for a 4-2 lead and clear momentum. The upwind-downwind game led to defenders being fronted brutally going upwind and handlers taking much of the workload upwind. It helped that Georgia dropped a pull near their upwind end zone, which gave the Hodags the lead. However, the rollercoaster continued as Georgia took advantage of some opportunities to take a 6-5 lead on 2 breaks. With the score tied 7-7 and Wisconsin going upwind, a quick turnover in the goal line led to Jojah taking the 8-7 halftime lead. The battle raged on as Wisconsin took the 9-8 lead and 11-9 lead before the game is tied at 11-11. The Wisconsin D line continues to grind out the points, getting up 13-11 and trading to 15-13 win. Other sick plays include Dylan snatching a Callahan in the upwind end zone of an Animal mack and Rebholz getting an awesome layout D when Georgia was moving the disc upwind at a crucial juncture. Kevin Riley faked out a defender so badly that he dislocated his shoulder. Will Lokke continued to dominate the skies – pulling down hucks and even throwing a huge backhand upwind to Shane who skied some kid pretty bad for the upwind goal. Jim Foster got 2 pretty sick D’s and Seth Meyer got a nice D in the air. During one exchange, Muffin got a help poach deep D, walked it to the line and jacked a full field goal just for good measure. It was a very exciting game and hopefully the footage will appear somewhere.
Wisconsin celebrated, snapped some pictures, took our free discs, cheered on the women's team to a tournament victory as well and showered back at the mansion before driving back to start another school week. It was sweet that the Hodags won, saved our record to 24-1 and will help secure a top seed for Centex. For sure the team’s legs are sore from the short numbers and overall it was a very gratifying weekend all said and done to have played well with many key players not ready to roll.