Being Observed at Presidents Day – Stars and Stripes and Flying discs part 3.

Last weekend we had tiring 3 day tournament in San Diego called Presidents Day. It was a 10 hour drive down, not that far from the Mexican border. The weather was warm, not too hot, around 20 degrees and the wind had a few gusts but mostly perfect playing conditions. We were staying in a really nice house thanks to a team-mate that lives there and so we could start each day reasonably fresh. His parents also cooked us so much food which we were very grateful for.

On the Saturday we had an early start against Brown University. We were pretty shocked when we got to the fields because our pool had been kicked off the main playing fields and we had to play on these really uneven dusty fields. We warmed up carefully and did our best to prevent ourselves against getting any injuries. The game went well and we controlled most of it, my friend Sean got a point block on their 3rd pass of the game and we didn’t really look back from there. The later games against Colorado College and Long Beach went similar ways. We were tested at points but more often than not our big players produced some magic.  We were set up for the final game of the day which was supposed to decide the winner of the pool since it was against Santa Barbara. Davis has a good rivalry with them and that was who they had battled for a spot to Nationals last year with. We also lost to them a few weeks ago on their home turf which we were disappointed with.

As it turned out they had lost one of the games already, meaning they had to win to stay in the championship bracket. The game was very close and I think we went a couple of breaks up after half time. They had a good comeback but we punched in the winning point on Universe (Sudden Death). The game was unfortunately marred by one of the worst injuries I’ve seen in ultimate, and it reminded me of what tragically happened to Robbie. My friend Kramer put in a big vertical bid but somehow landed with a straight left leg that crumpled beneath him. Later on we found out he had broken 3 bones around his ankle, including snapping a fan of ligaments. He’s uncertain if he’ll make it back to play any part of the season and he will be missed by all of us. It was a scary reminder of how fragile your ultimate season can be.

So, Sunday we had progressed to the power pools and had to play Berkeley and Cincinnati. Berkeley have not shown any of their normal prowess that makes them one of the best in our region but we ground out a hard performance to beat them. Cincinnati were also tough but we had found our rhythm and got the win. This meant we set up the quarter-final for the last game of the day vs University of Washington. We knew the game would be tough as they had done better than us at the last tournament and they also had some star players returning from international trials. But the main exciting point about this game was it was going to be observed. 80% of the team were used to this from playing at college nationals but for me and 4 freshmen it was a new experience.  After a briefing from our coach Cissna we took the field and it turned out to be a fiery encounter.

We were matched neck and neck and break for break the entire game. There were some great highlight plays from both sides and there was nothing really to separate us. The observers were getting involved, and I don’t feel like they had a negative impact on the game at all. The biggest difference I found was that it sped things up. Not every call that is made has to go to them, but if you think you are right (which you should if you made the call) then it makes sense. We got caught offside from the pull twice which meant they started with that point with the disc on the half way line, a small penalty but enough to make u stay behind the thrower. The observers were good for calling in or out calls and important endzone toe-ins etc allowing the players to focus on the disc and not have to watch their feet. It could have been my untrained eye, but I was a little worried that in some circumstances the observers would just guess on foul calls and then try to even the decisions out. We only had 2 observers, at opposing corners when some games have one on each corner. Later on there was a play on a disc in a crowded end-zone, and a foul was called and contested. The crowd of players had obstructed the observer and he declined to rule either way meaning the disc went back. Quite a few people got annoyed by this no decision.

It was great when calls were made and the observer almost instantly confirms or overrules it, and the players get back to playing without a lengthy discussion. But I was still glad that the observer didn’t feel pressured to give a decision when he didn’t know. Instead of guessing, he was honest and did not rule on the play. I think that is a really important point with observers, they are not there to rule on every throw or catch, but should be used to avoid tensions escalating between players and improve the accuracy of calls. In other words it’s not the perfect solution but I enjoyed playing with them.

This game also went down to universe point which we started on D. After 2 or 3 passes they fumbled a pass right in in the chest. We then converted with a simple cut for the win and putting us into Semis.

Monday morning we were playing Minnesota Grey Duck, a regular at nationals and so an important test for us. We started well and forced them into some turns, almost breaking them on their first O-point but the huck floated out the back, only to be greatest back in with the flattest greatest throw I’ve ever seen, but it was sadly D’d at the front of the endzone. They were extremely clinical when they turned us and controlled the game because of this. It finished 10-15 to them. We ended the weekend with a similar game for 3rd place vs Colorado Mamabird. They are a really strong team and we went on a run of 3 points at the end to bring it to a 12-15  loss and leaving us 4th place. Aside from the injury, this was a really good tournament for the progression of our season, we are not at the national level we want to be at in May, but we are improving and had bright glimpses of what we can achieve. The next big tournament is 3 weeks away at Stanford invite where we will meet even tougher teams. I will also hopefully be visited by Fetu by then 🙂

Joe

“Once a dog, always a Mohawk”


joebutler

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