Monday, June 23, 2008

Ultimate Showcase Series

The Ultimate Showcase just completed its third year in the Boston area. It's a series of games featuring the club players in the Boston area against each other, competing in Open and Mixed.

There were three preliminary games at area schools (Concord, Bedford, BB&N in Cambridge, Charlestown) prior to the finals at a nice new soccer stadium in Somerville.

My team (Cambridge) won the Open final (hurray!) but gave up the final four points to lose the Mixed final by 1 (doh!). Even though I didn't care too much, I still hated losing that final in that way. I thought we had clinched the game after I caught a long pass in the crowd (flat-footed; I lead the league in flat-footed contested catches) and dished off a lefty backhand for the goal to put us up 14-11 with about 6 minutes left in a running clock (we had the field only until 3 pm). But boom, boom, and it's 14-13, pull with less than a minute. With about 20 seconds left, we decide to throw it deep, turn, and then they launch their own deep pass with about 8 seconds left for the goal. (It wasn't really clear, though, what the cap rule was, whether the game would have ended right there or if the point would have been finished.) The soccer guys who had the field next and were watching were nice and allowed us to play another point. But long throw, non-catch, and they moved it upwind 70 yards for the game.

Our Open team barely made it to the finals. We lost our first game 15-11, and because of point differential needed to win our next game by at least 4. We took half 8-6, then stretched it out to 14-9, but once again, we faltered. Gave up one again, then another, then another turn, got it back, another turn, got it back, and then punched it in to make it on the margin (our opponent had already clinched their spot by scoring at least 9).

It was good playing with the Boston Ultimate guys, but I wish more of them had participated. I don't think that any of the ones who played in the finals were teammates of mine ever (other than Alex) (ok, there were two, on further review). Hmm, interesting also, I just looked at their 2007 roster and only counted 11 guys who I had played with just the year before.

Kudos and thanks to the crew who ran these events, Erik Sebesta primarily. It would be good to get more fans for these events. We seemed to be plagued by bad weather this year. The finals had looked like storms, but instead just brought high winds, at least until about 30 minutes after the game, when lightning and heavy rains did hit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blogging the Huddle- #4

It's a great time to be a young player. There is so much information available on strategies, teams travel much more than they used to, the knowledge about training is miles ahead of what it was.

The most recent addition to this list is The Huddle. This is unique in that it has many different opinions on a common topic.

This bi-week's issue is "The 'Up!' Call" on what to do when you're beat deep and it's thrown.

Responses on what to do immediately were split between "find the disc" and "sprint all-out and react to the receiver finding the disc". (Of course, there was a lot of "It depends..." in there.)

But the purpose of this blog entry is to provide a forum for comments. The editors decided not to allow comments for good reason, but I figure the quality of commentary here is often quite high (better than the posts in some instances!), so have at it. What did you think?

PS. They have 100 000 hits already! It took me a year and a half and 150 posts to get that. Congrats, and well done!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Masters Easterns

For a day, it looked like this tournament was destined to join an elite group that included Turkey Swamp 1997, Tuneup 1998, ECC 2001, and Nationals 2004 as contenders for Worst DoG Tournament Ever. Nothing went well, and there wasn't even a glimmer of hope that things were going to go well. Since it was the first time that some had played since Nationals, and none of us had a whole lot of PT since then, it wasn't quite desperate, but neither was it looking like just a little blip on the road to success.

But then we did well on Sunday, so we can return to our slumber.

To save you all from having to read Alex's recap, I'll mention our scores: 15-6, 9-15, 15-12, 8-15; 15-8, 15-8. We had about 14 on Saturday, about 11 on Sunday. The turnaround was largely due to improved play on our part but also worse play by our opponents, who seemed to have some fundamental problems with catching on Sunday.

My own play mirrored that of the team's (or perhaps the team's mirrored mine; my ego is large enough to believe that the complete difference between Saturday and Sunday was me). I was on travel for work and so ate too much and slept not enough and was feeling a little worse for wear by Saturday. I never was able to feel like I could get to top speed. I couldn't chase down a huck from John Bar in the Philly game, a point that started our downfall (it had been 4-4 without a turnover prior to that). I got winded a little too easily, even accounting for the 90+ degree temperature, and I was just jogging a little too much on D.

But Sunday was a lot better. Again, there are still areas for improvement, but everything seemed to go easier and provide fewer reasons for anguish.

The low numbers for our team was disappointing. It's a local tournament for us, we have a roster of somewhere between 25 and 35 (depending on how you count all the guys who have standing invites but didn't play at Nationals and the out-of-towners), and we have a smaller team than a squad from Nova Scotia. Worlds is coming up in less than 2 months, and although people are married with families, etc., it's still not good that we have so few. Philly is hosting a six-team Masters tournament in July that would be a perfect tuneup for us, but if we have such bad turnouts so close to home, I can't imagine we'd have more than four show up in another Region. But I'm sure everyone will be there for Worlds.

Not a whole lot else to report. I called two fouls and a strip, don't think I had anything called on me. The strip was worth retelling. It was the 2nd half of Saturday's game against Philly, we just got a turnover, and Alex threw me a short pass, which I pancaked. Paul Bonfatti came diving by and swatted it away at about the same time that I grasped it. I'm quite certain that no one else but us two had a good enough perspective to know for sure. The flight of the disc afterwards was probably more typical of a clean block, but I'm also reasonably confident that I had both hands firmly against the disc before he touched it. I called it, Paul protested, I thought about it a little, remembered back to 1994 in the semis of Easterns against Philly when I called a similar strip, and decided that there was probably about 1.0-1.2 total strips between the two plays and so therefore the fair thing to do would be to take back the call. They put it into play right away and scored while some of us were still standing around wondering what happened, so I insisted that there be a check, and then some of them were upset that we were making up rules (as Alex mentioned, the game was a bit chippy, as was our game against them in the quarters of Nationals last year), so I briefly considered and threatened to stick with the original call, which I still felt would have been defensible, but we all settled on a check, their disc. And they scored in two passes.

Both fouls were on the same stall count. Oddly, the fact that they completely prevented me from releasing a throw made them less bad in my mind, since that indicates those were probably legitimate attempts to block a throw rather than deliberate or semi-deliberate muggings to prevent a break. That is, the contacts were hand-to-hand (or nearly so) rather than involving the arm, shoulders, or body.

While I'm here, the recent Huddle article asked about how to stop a handler who suddenly is going deep. My immediate thought was that someone would suggest "mug him" (or the other guys who are throwing to him), but I was surprised that none of the guys and only one of the women came up with that idea (and she attributed the idea to other teams, not hers). I guess none of us have ever played WITH someone like that, only AGAINST. It's like Lake Wobegon, we're all cleaner and more honest than average. I guess I plead guilty to that, too.